Become an abolitionist
January 19 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Become an abolitionist | Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

Become an abolitionist

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor It sounds old fashioned, doesn't it? The idea of being an abolitionist, of speaking out against the evils of slavery. There was a time when such voices were desperately needed in our own country because there was a time when our forefathers bought, sold and used men, women and children as if they were cattle. People with hearts and souls just like ours were stripped of their dignity, ripped from their families, often forced to live and work in brutal conditions. Even those who had kind "masters" and decent living conditions had no freedom to decide their own fate.

Courageous people who believed in basic human rights risked their reputations, their fortunes and even their lives to bring an end to organized slavery in the United States. I, for one, am thankful for their vision and their sacrifice.

There is still a time when voices are needed to speak out against slavery - and the time is now. The London-based Anti-Slavery International organization estimates that as many as 27 million people in our world still live in slavery.

Charles Jacobs, who is president of the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG), says, "Most people believe slavery no longer exists, but it is still very much alive. From Khartoum to Calcutta, from Brazil to Bangladesh, men, women and children live and work as slaves or in slavelike conditions. Indeed, there may be more slaves in the world than ever before."

The continued existence of slavery is not widely known. One reason is that it rarely fits our image of people being captured, shackled and brought to a new world in the crowded holds of slavers' ships.

But that does not mean free people are no longer being captured and sold into slavery.

In the Sudan, Muslim raiders from the northern part of the country regularly attack Christian and animist strongholds of the south, capturing entire villages and trucking them north for sale as slaves. Sudan and the nearby country of Mauritania are countries where slavery is both accepted and protected.

In a Dec. 5 article carried by Baptist Press, Patrick Goodenough reported that Susan Rice, then U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, recently visited the rebel-held southern part of the Sudan and met with former slaves. She expressed outrage after hearing testimonials of women and children who had been "captured, enslaved, held, beaten, tortured and raped" by Arab militiamen.

Goodenough, who is the London bureau chief for, reported that Rice said her mission was to show the world that slavery exists, even though the Sudanese government and some partners of the European Union might pretend otherwise.

The same pretense can be found among U.S. politicians, according to Jacobs, who was quoted by CNSnews as saying, "International politics are stifling America's natural response."

Neither the United States nor the United Nations wants to make the oil-rich Arab world angry, so any public outcry against atrocities in the Sudan and Mauritania are muted at best.

But these are not the only places where slavery flourishes. In Southeast Asia, an entire sex-tourism industry (fed mostly by western and Japanese travelers) has emerged. Governments look the other way as seedy brothels fill their rooms with girls and boys as young as 8 years old. Many of the children are collected by brokers who offer "loans" to poor families in return for "work" to be performed by their children. The children are then shipped to the brothels, where their debt is never paid until they are no longer useful.

In India, unscrupulous "employers" use similar tactics to force children as young as 5 into working 18-hour days in damp pits where they operate the looms that manufacture Oriental carpets. This problem is so endemic that a consortium of European and Asian rights groups began the RugMark Campaign in 1993, licensing humane exporters and manufacturers to affix a "RugMark" label certifying that their carpets are made without the use of child labor.

In Bangladesh, deceptive labor contractors regularly promise poor parents that they can get good jobs for their children in the Persian Gulf region, where their wages will be sufficient to help support their families back home. The children end up in bondage in the Gulf states, forced to work as camel jockeys or sex slaves for no income at all. Often, they are never heard from again.

Slavery is a worldwide evil, and Christians have a responsibility to God and to humanity to speak out against it. A good place to begin is the AASG Web site (, where visitors can sign a U.N.-bound petition and find practical suggestions for combating slavery.

We cannot ignore the injustice of slavery just because it was also widespread in Bible times. Jesus taught us better than that.

Let us pray, let us speak out and let us work to end this ongoing crime against all that is right and good.

There is still a need for abolitionists.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/19/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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