This blog is inspired on the “exceptional missionary commitment” of Charles Lavigerie as he took a crucial role in the beginning of the Catholic Church’s involvement in the movement for the abolition of the Slave Trade. We also honored the courage and compassion of the first missionaries who faced the cruel reality of slavery in Eastern and Western Africa. Lavigerie was the founder of two institutes dedicated to the African Mission: the Society of the Missionaries of Africa and the Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Africa (MSOLA). In 2013 they celebrated the 125th anniversary of his Anti-slavery Campaign. The invitation letter to that celebration encouraged us all to live the Campaign "with the members of our local churches, with other Christian Churches as well as with people from all cultures and religions.” That celebration was an opportunity to “raise awareness of today’s forms of slavery.” We were encouraged “to be creative in holding celebrations and reflections and to decide on some concrete action in order to fight today’s unjust systems.” The final goal of the Anti-slavery Campaign was to take action through advocacy and concrete “involvement in daily life to abolish slavery and suffering of all kind.”

"Freedom" (Zenos Frudakis)
This blog takes its roots in Charles Lavigerie prophetic call: “Few people, too few people have the ultimate vocation: Humanity”. It is the disconnection from our humanity what gives birth to a world where we treat our inner self, one another, the animal world, and creation as a whole like an object. According to the statistics there are about 27 million people being “officially” enslaved nowadays. Here we are talking about human trafficking, forced labour, mass consumerism, unjust prison and military industrial complexes… After many years journeying in the African continent, this looks to me like the tip of an iceberg. It seems to me that today’s slavery affects hundreds of millions of human beings struggling to have their basic needs met. Also, according to my perception, there exists a huge unnamed subconscious reality that supports this unjust and inhuman system of enslavement. 

In this blog we want to explore the connection between identity, trauma and the enslavement of the mind. It seems to me that it is in our minds where we construct our identities; it is in our minds that we can become imprisoned and disconnected from the world. I identify anthropocentrism and patriarchy as two collective symptoms of today's humanity mind imprisonment. This devastating reality is calling for our urgent attention.

CJP logo
In this blog we attempt to reconnect with our true self, with our humanity. It is for that reason that we are creating a forum where different peacebuilding practitioners from different cultures, Christian denominations and religions share their unique expertise on dealing with the giant wound of modern slavery and its root causes. The interviews became an ecumenical and inter-religious endeavour in the co-creation of a just and peaceful world. Many of the interviews are taking place in a unique environment: the  Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at Eastern Mennonite University.

This blog explores today’s slavery from a liminal space where we are invited to expand our consciousness so to have a better understanding of the root causes of inhuman behaviour at the collective and individual level. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “Freedom and slavery are mental states”. Martin Luther King also said that “as long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.” 

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

This blog is based on the belief that, deep within reality, all things in the universe are infinitely interconnected; that when we live from the core of our being, there is no “out there.” This applies also to the inclusion of the giant wound of slavery as part of who we are. As Maggi Kennedy says, referring to human trafficking: "It contaminates us all and is in need of a radical conversion (...) Our whole way of life and ways of relating are being challenged. Human Trafficking is around us and in us… that insistent silent scream…." 
It is an invitation to vulnerability, to powerlessness, to name, to own, to deconstruct and to embrace humanity’s collective pain in the here and now as we breathe forgiveness. Walter Brueggemann says that embracing is the culmination of a process which involves “confrontation with the numbness of death, recognizing and naming that which has outlived its usefulness, grieving its loss, ritualizing the letting go, and eventually laying the death to rest.” In other words “to criticize in order to energize.” And this was Jesus’ strategic wisdom on Justice and Peacebuilding. As Diarmuid O’Murchu says: “My concern is the Jesus who embraced deconstruction as a central strategy of his life and mission.” 

In order to fight today’s unjust systems, we must know what we are up against. We are dealing with a force that wields its basic strength from its invisibility. The main concern of this blog is to raise our awareness and bring our creativity to different ways today’s energies of enslavement are being fought against. In the different interviews we shall welcome insights from identity theories, organizational awareness, restorative justice, personal and collective trauma awareness, new biology, neurobiology, agency, choice, resiliency, body awareness, process work, attachment theory, art, new physics, new cosmology, ecology, media/internet…

Richard Rohr’s inspiring and articulated principles on contemplation and action will guide us in the challenging journey to embrace the giant wound. The second of his principles highlights the beliefs that we need a contemplative mind in order to engage in compassionate action. This goes together with Thomas Merton’s words to Thich Nhat Hanh when saying that: “a new mentality is needed, and this implies above all a recovery of ancient and original wisdom; and a real contact with what is right under our noses.”

As we fight against slavery, our strategies are challenged again and again. We are constantly encouraged to imagine and envision new creative alternatives; to engage in new knowledge creation.  I believe that the ultimate abolition of slavery will happen once we are courageous enough to be transformed and healed out of the very energy trapped in enslavement. In the end we are invited to a paradoxical journey where breathing forgiveness will recreate us becoming fully alive.

Yago Abeledo, M.Afr.
Email contact: yagoafrica@gmail.com