Faith, Religion and Slavery


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Paul Harvey

According to Pastor Byun, "Slavery is not just a legal or economic issue - it's also a spiritual issue. For example, in the world of sex trafficking, the industry is driven by the lust of the "Johns" and the greed of the traffickers. At their core, these are spiritual issues. We can put everyone involved in jail, but it won't change the desires that drove them their in the first place.

You are what you eat — and how you cook it

Incarceration may modify behavior, but it can't change a person's heart. That is why the spiritual community of faith needs to be involved to bring change. Nannette Ricaforte , a photographer and volunteer with My Refuge House , a Christian anti-slavery group based in the Philippines, doesn't think faith is required to fight human trafficking, but she's firm in her belief that faith-based organizations could run into problems if they aren't willing to be flexible, "What do they do when a survivor is Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic? That was the first question I posed to the directors before I even thought of volunteering for them.

In fact, she wouldn't work for them if they didn't. Faith has the potential to dramatically help survivors who have hit rock bottom, but for Nannette Ricaforte, it's also what helps her group continue on:.

It gives us strength to continue fighting another day. For collaboration to be possible, many groups with different beliefs must work together. This seems to make it particularly hard for those working within faith-based groups to speak out about the problems they've watched religion create. In fact, many interviewees simply wouldn't answer questions on this topic until they were guaranteed anonymity.

One respected leader of an NGO in Southeast Asia said that although faith-based groups have spread awareness, they've also lead the movement astray by conveying a complex problem in overly simplistic and often erroneous ways. But for much of Christian history, many saw no conflict between keeping the faith and keeping or trading slaves.

Faith and Slavery in the Presbyterian Diaspora

From the first century until the Civil War, the Bible itself was often used to justify slavery. The texts analyze the debate during that period among Christian theologians, authors, and adherents who either justified slavery or stood against it. On view through March 15, the exhibit includes pamphlets, sermons, abolitionist speeches, poems, and personal religious narratives of enslaved men and women.

The works are laid out by theme in four cases, with the writings of black Christian authors at the center. That case gives voice to former slaves such as Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, and Phillis Wheatley , a slave in Boston who became the first published African-American female poet and was emancipated shortly after her first book appeared.

In the other cases are works by authors who used biblical passages to support their positions on slavery and works by supporters of the antislavery and abolitionist movements, including an anonymous pamphlet assuring readers that good Christians could own slaves.

To create the exhibit, the students discussed and researched texts assigned by Catherine Brekus, the Charles Warren Professor of the History of Religion in America at Harvard Divinity School, to decide which to feature and in which theme they fell. Each student also selected a work to research individually. Grimke, who grew up in the South as part of a wealthy, slaveholding family, rejected her upbringing and moved to Philadelphia with her sister, where they joined the Anti-Slavery Society and published pamphlets defending the equality of women and slaves.

It is this slave trade that now demands us to take a moral and religious stand. Defeating human trafficking is a great moral calling of our time.


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It is a criminal enterprise involving both local scoundrels and sophisticated international syndicates… [which] respects no borders…'. The simple but stark slogan of the Not for Sale campaign alerts us to the horrific reality that some 27 million slaves exist today in the world. By slaves, we do not mean slaves sold in irons at slave markets.

We mean human beings who are forced into terrible situations, and kept enslaved there by indenture, false imprisonment, economic dependency, and under conditions of violence.

Slavery in "Christian" America - Centre for Public Christianity

One million children are forced to sell their bodies every day, in the global sex industry. This is a global humanitarian and moral crisis; appalling, horrifying and tragic for the individuals and families who are impacted by it—and also a terrible indictment of humankind in our apparently civilised times. Anti-Slavery International campaigns for ordinary people to become abolitionists to eradicate modern slavery. Their website www.


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  • ASI urge people to join the campaign, sign their Fight for Freedom campaign petition, raise awareness, to educate themselves and others, and to become abolitionists. They write: 'The International Labour Organization ILO estimates that around million children work in the worst forms of child labour. Edmund Burke, the 18th-century Irish orator, philosopher and politician, famously said: 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'.

    The following is a proposed seven-point action list for becoming an abolitionist:. At this time of the year, many of us will be celebrating a religious festival—Christmas, Eid, Diwali, Chanukah—all festivals of light and hope, celebrating the triumph of good over evil. This year, as we come to the end of a year of commemorating the abolishment of the transatlantic slave trade, let us turn hearts, minds and commitment to the abolishment of the new slave trade. The Real Histories Directory has a number of resources that can help with teaching and learning about the relationship between religion and the trade in slaves.

    Slavery in “Christian” America

    Anti-Slavery International's Recovered Histories has a section on religion. It also highlights how the Church was part of an apparatus that used various socio-economic and religious ideas to exploit Africans for the financial benefit of Europe.

    Christianity: A History - Slave to the Religion - Channel 4

    From the London Schools of Economics' website, you can download a copy of the article ' Religions and the abolition of slavery - a comparative approach ' by William G. Black Britain 's website has a report on The Cross Community Forum for which met to engage in dialogue about how religion was both villain and hero during the Transatlantic slave trade and what its role should be today in dealing with its legacies.

    How the Directory can help you with the topic of Religion and Slavery

    On the Diocese of Liverpool's website, you can read the ' Thought for the Day ' by the Bishop of Liverpool first broadcast on 30 August , where he reflects on the endurance of faith throughout the period of the Transatlantic slave trade. It also explores the religions that grew out of slavery, as well as the reasons why slavery persists in the modern day.

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