Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The slave trees

The transatlantic slave trade has been occupying my working hours during the past few days. I'm in the process of making a four programme series for Vatican Radio and it really has been very interesting and enjoyable, even though the subject itself is pretty grim.

Looking back to my days in Zambia, I will never forget driving towards the town of Kashikishi, up in the north of the country. The town is on the banks of the magnificent Lake Mweru, so big that one could be forgiven for mistaking it for the sea.

As we approached Kashikishi, the ancestral home of my passenger, he pointed out a long, single line of palm trees that stretched from some point in the east towards the shores of Lake Mweru. There were no other palms in the area, so they were easily seen against the deep blue sky. The trees marked the routes taken by the slavers and their sad company of slaves. During their journey towards the Congo on the far side of the lake, the slaves had been made to sit down and eat. The line of palm trees was the result of the discarded seeds after the fruit had been eaten. Tragic!

Yet slavery continues today. I remember sitting on the bus beside a Sudanese bishop who told me of his dilemma. Slavery abounds in Sudan. If he pays a ransom for the slaves, they are freed, but their captors simply go out to find replacements. If the bishop doesn't pay the ransom demanded, the people in front of him remain in slavery.

Some people face decisions and conditions that are unknown to the rest of us. I thank God that I don't have the difficult decisions of that bishop. I thank God that I was born, and that I live, in freedom. I pray for those who are enslaved by their greed or by physical servitude.

God bless,

Sr. Janet