Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A talk about slavery

Went to a rather disturbing talk about the attitude of missionaries to domestic slavery in West Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Almost a century after the abolition of the slave trade, missionaries and the missionary societies tolerated, to a greater or less extent, the widespread practice of domestic slavery. Pragmatically, they probably had little choice if they were to be effective in their evangelism; and of course they argued that it was better to be a cared-for slave than to be abandoned with no means of sustenance. It's hard to defend this now. Yet I find myself much more prepared to acknowledge the nuances of the situation than I would have been a few years ago, when I was much less tolerant of hypocrisy. How strange it is to grow old, and see how life makes us compromise our strongest principles.


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