I REFER to the article “Regret over slave trade” in the World News section of The Catholic Leader on January 28.
The article refers to a report of a Catholic bishop signing a statement of regret over the trans-Atlantic slave trade, marking the 200th anniversary of the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the first step in totally abolishing slavery.
Had there not been but for a passing comment in the article about the signatories looking forward to a time when “slavery of every kind is abolished”, readers could have been forgiven for accepting that we can celebrate the end of slavery in the world.
Of course many readers will know that slavery still exists throughout the world.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the worst form of slavery affects an estimated 126 million children around the world in work that is harmful to their health and welfare.
Other forms of slavery that exist, even in countries where slavery is banned, according to the Anti Slavery Society, the world’s oldest human rights organisation, include bonded labour, early and forced marriage, forced labour, slavery by decent and trafficking of women, children and men.
Slavery is very much alive in the world today, even in Australia, where for example we occasionally catch a glimpse of slavery with the uncovering of trafficking in women for prostitution.
The definition of forced labour, according to the Anti Slavery Society, is “people who are illegally recruited by individuals, governments or political parties and forced to work – usually under threat of violence or other penalties”.
From another perspective, entirely and without excusing such illegal behaviour, it could be argued that some of our youth who are in jail abroad for drug trafficking offences are victims of forced labour – slavery.
As a Catholic I look to Church leaders to translate the meaning of the scriptures into a message for the world today.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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