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Faith Matters

Why slavery is making a comeback

Human trafficking is one of the grim products of society's rejection of Christian values, says the Rev Andrew Watson.
Andrew Watson

THE great English politician William Wilberforce devoted much of his life to ending the slave trade, writes Andrew Watson.

His tireless campaigning eventually led to the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and of slavery altogether throughout the British Empire by the time of his death in 1833.

Wilberforce was a committed Christian. For him, following Jesus made it morally repugnant to buy, sell or use another human being as one might a lifeless object or a piece of property.

His spiritual insight and devotion nourished in him a social conscience founded on respect and compassion.

It is sad but probably no surprise, therefore, that as Ireland, the UK and other western nations hurry down the secular highway, rejecting many of the Christian values on which our freedoms have been built, we see a grim return to the cruel trafficking of people for profit.

Countless young people are being tricked or kidnapped and sold like meat in a market to feed the lust of a society that has cast off all sexual restraint.

Ironically this is history repeating, or actually reversing itself.

The Apostle Paul's words in Romans 1:18ff make strangely familiar reading, describing a 1st century Graeco-Roman culture that sounds remarkably like our own, where the truth God reveals about Himself is rejected, along with His ethical standards; image is everything; people idealise and idolise every created thing but refuse to worship or obey the Creator.

This distorted worldview quickly makes way for wide deviation from the positive sexual blueprint given with the first human marriage in Genesis 2:22-25.

It is no surprise that as Ireland, the UK and other western nations hurry down the secular highway, we see a grim return to the cruel trafficking of people for profit 

With reverence for God a thing of the past and technological achievements feeding human pride, moral order collapses and all kinds of abuse follows rapidly. And - lo and behold - slavery makes a comeback.

So what is to be done?

People could merely keep their heads down, watch their own backs and euphemistically hope selfish human indulgence somehow burns itself out, but that doesn't appear likely anytime soon.

Better instead that we keep alive the spirit of conscience, justice and compassion, campaigning through every means available to us for freedom and respect protected by law, prosecuting traffickers and caring for victims.

Organisations such as the A21 Campaign are leading the way in this struggle; it was founded by Christine Caine who is, not surprisingly, a committed Christian.

More, we have to challenge the self-indulgent interpretation of freedom our culture has developed that suggests we can simply do whatever we want or feel like.

Elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians 6:12ff, the Apostle Paul writes that while many things may be "permitted", not everything is "beneficial".

This passage specifically focuses on our sexual desire and the benefit of an old-fashioned thing called 'self-control'.

Which brings us back to the need for solid foundations and daily help.

These have been found by William Wilberforce and countless others through the ages in the person and teaching of Jesus Christ, and the presence and guidance of His Holy Spirit.

Having brought about many great and good things in centuries past, Christian faith is surely worth a second look in this 21st century.

A return to source reveals a man who practised what He preached, who loved men, women and children deeply but with respect and absolute purity.

Christ sacrificed His own comfort, pleasure and eventually life that people might learn the advantages of a freedom that is both reverent and considerate of others.

His example remains the inspiration for many of us still today.

  • Rev Andrew Watson is minister of the Presbyterian congregations in Dunfanaghy and Carrigart in Donegal.
  • He is the author of Finding Our Way Home: Prayers and Reflections for Our Journey in Christ, published by Veritas. Rev Watson will be talking about the book and signing copies in the Veritas Bookstore in Shipquay Street in Derry at midday on Thursday August 17.

Finding Our Way Home: Prayers and Reflections for Our Journey in Christ, by Andrew Watson, published by Veritas

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