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Long journey towards the light

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Today the world celebrates the 200th anniversary of the slave trade ban. It was due to the foresight and moral conviction of individuals like William Wilberforce that the world started to take cognisance of slavery’s inhumanity. This led to the emancipation of slaves. It was the radicals, the militant minority of their time that guided us away from darkness to the light.

Yesterday, people from all walks of life marched in London in commemoration of the slave trade’s abolition. Our collective “moral conscience” was there as well: the church. The procession was blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Just a bit ironic, I would say.

As Williams is marching for justice, he is preparing to deny justice to the world’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people and sanction their persecution in Nigeria. Why? Because the Bible says so.

Let us not forget the Bible’s position on slavery, as we celebrate this momentous landmark. Let us not forget the church’s role in the slave trade – the Church of England had slaves on its plantations in the Caribbean. Let us not forget that the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in an effort to preserve the Christian basis for slavery before the American Civil War. Let us not forget that the Bible does not condemn the practice of slavery.

Indeed, in 1856 Reverend Thomas Stringfellow, a Baptist minister, wrote A Scriptural View of Slavery, in which he claimed: “… Jesus Christ recognized this institution as one that was lawful among men, and regulated its relative duties… I affirm then, first (and no man denies) that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command; and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction…”

Of course, today Christians will view Stringfellow’s arguments with bemused indignation. The Bible, pro-slavery? Surely not. Through a process of cultural conditioning and a slow progress in human consciousness, even Bible-inspired, parochial religiosity has to yield to our arduous, quiet, impalpable march towards the light.

The church claims moral conscience to be its province, guiding humanity to the light. Oftentimes the church has been caught at the back of this march, not lighting the way, but pulling humanity backwards towards the shadows of indifference, intolerance and prejudice. A person like Rowan Williams does not inspire us on this journey. He merely panders to prejudice and prolongs our sojourn in the dark. The true hero does not claim the moral high ground after 200 years by confessing a cheap grace.

The true hero can be found in every generation. They are people called to witness against injustice, humanity’s propensity for cruelty, and the shadows lurking in the human heart. These people show us the way to our own moral conscience. Some of them are leaders like Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi. More often, they are a neighbour, someone working tirelessly in the community against prejudice and injustice, proclaiming grace and charity.

Today we celebrate heroes like William Wilberforce, people once ostracised and vilified for the ray of light they expectantly offered to their neighbour. They are the ones that would not subject their moral conscience to any book, tradition or superstition.

Walk on. To a brighter tomorrow.

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Written by George Maru

25 Maart 2007 at 8:51

Posted in godsdiens, human rights, nuus, spiritualiteit

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  1. […] like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to extend his notion of justice for slavery to gay, lesbian, and transgendered people: Yesterday, people from all walks of life marched in London in commemoration of the slave […]

  2. […] like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to extend his notion of justice for slavery to gay, lesbian, and transgendered people: Yesterday, people from all walks of life marched in London in commemoration of the slave […]

    MediaChannel.org

    29 Maart 2007 at 19:48


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