Just 200 years ago (August 1815), the British Empire paid Portugal a whopping £750,000 to cease their slave trading north of the Equator in the shameful transatlantic slave trade that went on for over four centuries (longer than the time between 1815 and 2015). Three-quarters of a million pounds was quite a huge payoff two centuries ago. so, why would the British pay another country some good money to cease the ungodly and depraved merchandise of men who were not even their own citizens? Did the British government’s conscience suddenly experience a sudden awakening that made them realize that slavery was evil and that all men were created equal? Did they suddenly realize that injustice to human beings in Africa and indeed anywhere is injustice to people everywhere? I don’t think so, at least, not without a catalyst.
The British played a key role on the global scale to see the dismantling of this evil commerce that saw about 11-20 million Africans transported in shackles from the natural homeland to a foreign land, mostly America and West Indies, where they worked as slaves for the rest of their lives. However, this vigorous pursuit of the Antislavery mandate by the British did not just start on its own. A group of Quakers decided to go beyond religion and do something about the slave trade of their fellow humans. They did not just pray about it or even just fast, they ACTED! They were strategic about it and together with some more politically inclined and influential Christians with similar convictions, the group of 12 men formed the The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade that eventually catalyzed strong reactions in Britain leading to abolition of Slavery across several nations in its wake.
One of the most vocal and effective figures for the Abolition of Slavery was the young William Wilberforce who had inherited a large estate as a teenager, won a seat as a Member of Parliament at only 21 years of age while still a student at Cambridge. He had a comfortable life and a successful career ahead of him. There was no reason as it were, to take up the uphill, unprofitable task of campaigning for the unpopular notion as at then of abolishing slavery, yet he took up this cause in the Parliament and indeed to any audience who would listen, driven on by his inward convictions and a sense of purpose, with a resolve that was unbreakable and a fervency that endured even to his death bed, Wilberforce, alongside other Abolitionists pursued the Antislavery agenda for the rest of his life.
Since I read of the story of Wilberforce as a 7 years old boy, I have never ceased to admire his courage and I often remind myself of some truths. These same truths I hereby share with you;
1) Major changes never just happens until we change.
2)No matter how long evil has been perpetrated, it must never be seen as acceptable and as a norm.
3) Your religion is worthless until it changes someone’s life or impacts the society you live
4) Your wealth and education will be forgotten as soon as you are gone. However, the impact you make lives on even after you are gone
5) Sometimes you need to be the troublemaker. Leadership is not a popularity contest!
Sometimes we are tempted to ignore the plight of our fellow men believing it not to be our business. Many a times, we find ourselves in positions where we are supposed to voice out and condemn the evil maltreatment of a weaker person or group of people, yet very often, we bypass such opportunities to lighten the load of our fellow beings for fear that we might loose our position or favor, even contracts and jobs, or maybe social status and respect. Each time we keep silent in such cases, each time we say nothing just to save our necks, despite the promptings of our conscience, part of us dies. I like the way Rev Martin Luther-King Jnr. of blessed memory puts it;
“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
When next you see injustice or corruption, will you keep silent?
Keep Hope Alive|!