2020-08-23 GENERAL HOUSE

August 23 – International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

On August 23 each year, the world remembers the reality of slavery. Some might think it no longer necessary to commemorate, that there are no more slaves. We all have a very cinematic idea of slavery, taken from the many films and documentaries that have focussed on this reality in history. We especially  think of the transfer of people between continents, to work as slaves in the service of Lords eager to increase their wealth, even at the cost of exploiting the lives of other human beings whom they considered inferior.

As citizens, as Christians, as Marists of Champagnat, we are called to be attentive to the condition of our brothers and sisters most in need. Fortunately, positive steps have been taken in many parts of the world. The abolition of slavery, at least in the most conspicuous forms, seems to be a reality. But we cannot slacken, there is still a long way to go.

These days we can find several situations that remind us of the presence of slavery: women forced into prostitution, boys and girls who spend their childhood in work, people deprived of their freedom because of their opinions and beliefs …

How is it possible that, in many of our countries, women and children continue to be forced into prostitution in exchange for money? Women and young people who are misled and transported to other countries to engage in prostitution.

How is it possible that, in our “educated” world, thousands of boys and girls are still forced to work from an early age? Why do countries seem to be doing nothing? We all know cases of children who do not go to school because they cannot, because they have to work.

How is it possible that, in a world where freedom of opinion is proclaimed, hundreds of people are deprived of their freedom because of their beliefs, because of their race, because of their religion, because of their sexual orientation…? Yes, we know that this is also a reality.

Perhaps some of us are tempted to excuse our inaction by saying that slavery does not exist in our immediate environment. We know that it is not easy to help solve these situations but that does not mean that we cannot do anything.

And yes, even in this 21st century, there are Marists who continue working to eliminate all forms of slavery. Many do it through their daily, direct and concrete work in the field. Others of us devote our efforts to persuading countries to take real steps towards the abolition of slavery through advocacy with governments and the United Nations.

The XXII General Chapter reminds us that we must be a “prophetic reminder of dignity and equality”. We know this well, we work and struggle to make this a reality in our societies. We are also invited to find creative answers to the needs of so many people who, even today, continue to suffer some form of slavery.

We are privileged to be able to dedicate our lives to the education of children and young people. It is thus that we can address and transform the injustices of our world. Yes, we can.


Br Angel Diego, Director of the Solidarity Secretariat


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