All Born Equal and Free!
A story is told that one day, David had visited his friend Stephen and they both went to the cemetery because David wanted to pay his respects to the parents of Stephen whom he knew very well and who were now resting in that cemetery. Upon arrival in the cemetery, David was struck by one thing. Only the name on the cross distinguished one grave from the other. All had the same shape and style. When he marvelled and asked his friend Stephen why, the answer he got was the following: “In our town we took the decision to offer the same type of grave to all our citizens because we are born equal and at the end, before God, we are equal. We are all God’s children in need of love and understanding. The same row as my parents are a policeman, a mayor, a priest, etc. You would not know if you were not told.” Approvingly David said “born equal and free, that is our challenge!”
Our Founder, Fr. Lavigerie was not eavesdropping on this story but his ardent commitment to participate in the anti-slavery campaign in the nineteenth century certainly helped many to attain the dream that we are born equal before God and that we should be free not enslaved by anybody. However, what could one person do? Not much we might be tempted to say. But let us recall that one voice less in an election can mean the loss of an opportunity to serve others with a certain vision! Each voice counts and every eye, mouth and brain all the more so! If you think your contribution is not important look one day at how a team of ants work together to gather food into their granary. None is strong enough to carry anything but through working together they are able to roll enough food into their granary for the lean season!
The commitment to invest in fighting against Slavery went beyond our Founder and stimulated others to participate in the way the Spirit was moving in the Church and in the world. Pastoral agents, beginning with Pope Leo XIII down to the common person in the distant villages in Africa, decried the injustice of forcefully removing thousands of Africans from their home and sending them elsewhere.
As we celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Lavigerie’s participation in the anti-Slavery campaign, we are spurred to action too against the different forms of slavery and discriminations that deprive people of their equality before God and each other and of their freedom.
This present dossier is intended to raise our awareness about the past but especially open our ears, hearts and eyes to the situations of slavery around us today so that we can courageously announce that as Missionaries we have a different message for God’s people who are all born equal and free! May we, like the Biblical Prophets and our Founder be able to denounce today’s forms of slavery and commit ourselves eradicating them!
“United we stand, divided we fall”. If our actions during this year are to bear lasting fruit, we need to network with other Societies, Congregations and groups engaged in fighting for the rights of the slaves of today who are counted more in terms of economic and other gain than for their equality in dignity and freedom as children of God and as our brothers and sisters.
We hereby, express our two Societies’ heartfelt gratitude to our brothers and sisters who took their precious time to write the articles included in this dossier. May we use it with joy and purpose!
Richard Baawobr, M. Afr. Carmen Sammut, MSOLA
Superior General Superior General