Contemporary slavery: a modern scourge

P1090116In 1888 Cardinal Lavigerie the founder of the White Fathers joined the worldwide campaign for the abolition of the slave trade. Tirelessly he travelled to many European cities, raising awareness to wipe out all types of slavery. While commemorating this event, his missionaries, together with all people of good will, now have to fight all new forms of servitude and bondage imposed on human beings
By Felix Phiri M.Afr.
Published in the Saturday Post, Saturday 13 July 2013
The Missionaries of Africa (popularly known as the White Fathers) first set foot on Zambian soil, at Mponda in Northern Zambia, in 1889, the first Catholic missionaries to do so.
They were founded in 1868 by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie while he was Archbishop of Algiers (1868 – 1892) to spread the Gospel on the African continent and to enter in dialogue with Islam.
Although Lavigerie never travelled South of the Sahara himself, he was well informed about the realities encountered there by his missionaries. They covered matters of evangelization and the dehumanizing scourge of slavery, ravaging many parts of Africa.
In tune with the wave of anti-slavery campaigns around the world at that time, Lavigerie made a singular contribution to raising awareness about the detrimental effects of slavery through eloquent and powerful speeches made in the main European capitals like, Rome, London, Paris and Brussels, On 23rd December 1888, in Chiesa del Gesù (a Catholic Church run by the Jesuits, in central Rome), he made the following two poignant declarations:
“Slavery, as it is practiced in Africa, is not only, indeed, contrary to the Gospel, it is contrary to natural law. Natural laws do not concern Christians only, they involve all humanity. That is why I am appealing to everyone, without distinction of nationality, party or religious creed. I do not address myself simply to faith, but to reason, to justice, to respect, to love of liberty.”
Lavigerie added: “I am a man, and nothing human is foreign to me. I am a man, and injustice towards others revolts my heart. I am a man, and oppression offends my nature. I am a man and what I would like people to do is to restore to me, freedom, honour and the sacred bonds of family, I want to restore to the sons and daughters of this unhappy race, family, honour and freedom.”
 More than a century has passed since the time when Lavigerie undertook his crusade against the most abominable form of slavery of his time. At the occasion of the 125th anniversary of his anti-slavery campaign, members of the missionary congregation he founded, the White Fathers, are, not only commemorating his ant-slavery campaign initiative world-over but also want to rekindle the fire he ignited, in order to highlight and combat modern forms of slavery which continue to deny and deprive people of their dignity and their right to self-determination even today
Through their long presence in Zambia, the White Fathers have always been attentive to the spiritual and social welfare not only of the Catholic communities but also of all Zambians.
Joining the initiatives of their fellow missionaries inside and outside the African continent on this occasion and in their continue pastoral concern for justice and the promotion of human dignity, they would like to engage in a debate with the Zambian society, highlighting issues that border on modern forms of slavery, some of which are manifest and others which tend to escape the uncritical public eye. That is one of the main purposes of a series of articles which will be published weekly in these columns.
Next week’s article will take a look at the situation encountered by the Missionaries of Africa upon their arrival in Northern Zambia in 1891.
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Many people think of slavery and enslavement only as something of the past, it isn’t. Not only are we still living with the legacies of historical slavery, but millions of women, children and men around the world are trapped in slavery, TODAY. Zambia is both a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and forced prostitution. Most trafficking in Zambia occurs within the country’s borders and primarily involves women and children from rural areas exploited in cities in domestic servitude or other types of forced labour.
Zambia is also a destination for migrants from Malawi, DCR, Zimbabwe and Mozambique who are exploited in forced labour or forced prostitution.
If you witness or suspect human trafficking, the first step is to report it to the police. However, if you are unable to contact the police you can call the free 990 Counter Trafficking Talkline, which is a free, a free, confidential service operated by trained counsellors.

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