As you’ll be well aware this is the 200th anniversary of the ending of the transatlantic slave trade. Amazing Grace has hit the cinema screens, Peter Hain has even been apologising on behalf of Ireland (check out the slugger thread here) for its part (once again not ingratiating himself by not having been too up on his history, and Ireland’s part in resisting the trade…). Stephen Tomkins in the Guardian reminds us
“The history of Christianity boasts no greater achievement than the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Crusaders, conquistadors and inquisitors have given the church plenty to atone for. The abolition goes some way towards balancing the books.“
Today is freedom day so I thought it appropriate to finally voice some thoughts on the ending of slavery and the slavery still continuing today. As regards apologies, I feel it is important that we acknowledge our part in a cruel trade, but at the same time it is difficult to with any integrity apologise for something in which we have no personal involvement. Perhaps more appropriate for the British Governemnt would be a real commitment and investment in ending the slavery that continues today. It’s easy to think as slavery as something horrific from the past but as this BBC article shows its alive in the UK today.
Most people would say it is wrong, but once again Christians should continue to be at the forefront of this fight, not just because its a good thing to do, but because the God we serve is on who frees slaves. Its most obvious in the Old Testament – parting of the Red Sea and all that as Yahweh freed his people. Interestingly the Ten Commandments are given in the context of God having freed his people, and the law involved reminding the people that just as God set them free they weren’t to enslave others – that’s a big part of the whole Sabbath commandment – everyone was to get a day off – slaves, servants, animals, land. Following on from that Jesus quoting Isaiah 61 declares his mandate:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
It is easy for some people to claim that this is just spiritual freedom – and yes that’s what the death and resurrection is about – setting us free and giving us new life, but as we look at the life of Jesus his was a holistic approach, not a partial one. As people set free, following Jesus who had a ministry of liberation, and his Father – the liberator surely we should be at the forefront of the fight against slavery, since Jesus sends us as his Father sent him…