Missionaries of Africa
Dick Kinlen                                                                                                                   Cardinal Lavigerie


The work of the Cardinal’s Anti-Slavery Campaign
is far from finished

125th Anniversary of Cardinal Lavigerie’s Anti-Slavery campaign.

As the sound of the liturgy marking the end of this anniversary fades away, and the exhibition is taken down for the last time, let us reflect on what it has accomplished, but also on its on-going legacy.

Within the Province of Europe, we were able to revisit some of the places where our Founder spoke; but those were the days before films and television, when people attended public meetings and crowds flocked to pulpits to hear a good preacher.

Today, the message that as members of the human race we should be concerned about others is more likely to be seen or heard by someone waiting for a bus or checking their e-mails on the way to work.

This is where we can evaluate the success or otherwise of this year; and this is where every Sector in Europe, and not just those who staged some great event, were able to take the message to the furthest reaches of the continent and indeed to the ends of the Earth.

Through the printed word, and through radio, television, and especially through the internet they were able to translate the message into a language that people can understand and bring the Anti-Slavery Campaign to the attention of millions, in ways unimaginable fifty or even twenty-five years ago.

This commemoration of our Founder’s effort to combat slavery in Africa has certainly reminded us of just how important this particular question was to him, but it has also reminded us that the campaign against slavery in all its forms must continue for many a year to come.

In Rome
In Europe, the 125th Anniversary of the Anti-Slavery Campaign began at the Church of the Gesù in Rome, where the Cardinal had given his now-famous “I am a man” speech. On the evening of the 9th November 2012, Bishop Claude Rault M.Afr officialy opened the photographic exhibition that ran for ten days in the hall adjoining the Gesu. Afterwards, Raffaele Masto, a journalist, gave a conference and suggested that slavery is an age-old problem, facilitated in our time by in advances in trade, travel and communication. Next day, J.-C. Ceillier spoke about the Cardinal’s personal commitment to human dignity and Maggie Kennedy, about “The Silent Epidemic”, the trafficking of human beings.

At the Church of the Gesù, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald invited people to think about the victims of slavery in our world today.Then at 11 o’clock on the 11th November, as the world reflected on the carnage of War in the past hundred years, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald invited people to stop and think about the victims of another scar on the body of the Human Race, as he began the celebration of the Holy Eucharist: “Let us break the Bread! Let’s break the chains!
“Let’s break the chains!” is also the title of the photographic exhibition put together by the magazine Africa, missione e cultura. A collection of 40 photographs, the simple images in stark black and white or beautiful colour tell the sad story of slavery in modern times, of different situations such as the civil war in Liberia where 20,000 child soldiers fought and the lives of African women, the victims of sexual exploitation.

A few words of text in Italian, French and English describe each picture and place it within the story of slavery. After Rome, the Exhibition was seen throughout Italy and a Dutch text was added when the Exhibition was taken to Brussels at the end of September 2013.

In Spain
In January 2013, a one day conference took place at the King Juan Carlos University in Madrid, a collaborative venture between the Africanum in Madrid and the University. Several of our confreres took part. The conference opened with the history of slavery in Africa. Lazaro Bustince and Bartolomé Burgos described the way things are at the moment and suggested some measures that might be taken to remedy the situation.

At the Gesù, in Rome, Sr Maggie Kennedy, msola, spoke about “The Silent Epidemic”, the trafficking of human beings.In the Netherlands and Germany
These are the same topics that had already been treated by newsletter and on the web site in the Netherlands and in the magazine in Germany. Sister Anne Katrien, who sadly has since passed away, devoted her final days to writing some powerful articles and working to publicise modern forms of slavery, such as people trafficking, abuse of migrants and prostitution. The confreres of the Dutch Sector met in May of this year to listen to various speakers talking about modern forms of slavery and especially to reflect on what can be done about it.


In Great-Britain
“The Scourge of Slavery - Yesterday and Today”, was the theme of a day of reflection organised in London. Aylward Shorter provided the historical background, and talked about the Cardinal’s efforts to bring the Slave Trade in Africa to the attention of the World. Other fathers and sisters spoke about various aspects of modern day slavery.

The whole of Europe profited from the slave trade; although not everyone realises it. One city that does is Liverpool and some of the British confreres visited the Museum of Slavery there. They also invited Cecilia Taylor-Camara, originally from Sierra Leone, who is working to tackle the problem of people trafficking, to come and talk to them during their annual reunion.

In Belgium and France
In Brussels, where Cardinal Lavigerie came in August 1888 to suggest measures to tackle the problem of slavery, a special Mass was celebrated. The Archbishop celebrated and the Provincial of Europe preached.

Statue of Cardinal Lavigerie in Bayonne, France. Together with others interested in working to eradicate all forms of slavery in the world, a symposium is being organised, in Paris, turning the spotlight on many of the aspects of slavery that plague our modern world today, including Land Expropriation, People Trafficking, Child Soldiers, and the Exploitation of Migrants. An ecumenical prayer vigil will also be held in the church of St. Sulpice, where Cardinal Lavigerie first launched his Anti-Slavery Campaign on the 1st July 1888.

On that occasion, as he shared horrific stories, from the letters of his missionaries and other accounts he had read, the Cardinal reminded his listeners of the words of the Macedonian in St. Paul’s dream: “Come over and help us!” The same rings true for us today: The anniversary year may be over now, but the work of the Cardinal’s Anti-Slavery Campaign is far from finished.

Dick Kinlen

From Petit Echo n° 1045 2013/9