I have been keen to join in with that spirit of celebration, for the 200th anniversary today of the British abolition of the slave trade. I started this journey with a particular interest in William Wilberforce, and activities organised by CMS such as Free For All. I have been fascinated by the varied responses of African and Afro-Caribbean people in our society, and by the near obsession with who should be apologising for what. I have been pleased to see a growing interest in the even greater amount of slavery today.
Slavery, with its particular examples today of bonded labour and the violence of the trafficking of people to feed the sex trade, is a particular example of one human being abusing power over another. Surely most human beings have at some time suffered abuse from someone more powerful than themselves – whether physical, financial, or institutional. And who, with any power, can honestly say that he has never abused someone else?
It must be sensible to target, one at a time, the worst kind of abuses of power, and so we celebrate the passing of that Act of Parliament in 1807. Yet we are told that there are more people in slavery today than there were then! Presumably this is because our collective heart has still not changed.
The journey that we are on is one of recognsing and coming to terms with the underlying desire to abuse power. Those of us who have not been slaves are likely to have experienced abuse of power. We will have experienced it in some of those areas of life where we spend our time. Much of my time has been spent as an employee, and some as a school pupil, and I have experienced abuses of power in these places.
It is as we recognise in ourselves the temptation to abuse power that we may realise that where slavery must end is in the heart of the one with power.