Chapter 23 » 23.28

Social justice


Quakers gradually led the way in the great reform which has now been largely achieved. A legal judgment of 1772 declared that if slaves arrived in England they became free. These pioneers against slavery were heretics, outside the normal confines of our great religious institutions, but what a debt we and the churches owe to these heretics who, nevertheless, liberated the spiritual wind which sent them forward to explore territories beyond the limited horizon of their age.

We are involved in an intense perpetual struggle within the mind of man. If wars begin in the mind of men, so does slavery. When I was in the Yemen some four or five years ago, before the present [1962–67] civil war began and before Egypt sent some 70,000 troops into that country, I talked at some length with the late Imam, the Crown Prince and others about the slavery I knew existed there, and I myself saw in the early morning the old women sweeping the streets and was told that they were slaves. I glanced up at the edifice at the top of the hill wherein there were scores of boys kept as hostages by the Imam. Again, a form of slavery.

When I was some years ago in Northern Nigeria I knew that those who could do so maintained harems, which surely is another form of slavery. When I read letters from time to time from a friend in South Africa who now finds every excuse for the permanent subjugation of black South Africans, I know that her mind is essentially still subscribing to slavery. When in South Carolina I talked to a Baptist deacon and he stated that all would be peaceful in his part of America were it not for ‘darned agitators’, I knew again that he was virtually, although a Christian, endorsing a form of slavery. Further, when we all remember the repression of human liberty in certain European states, then we know that the Anti-Slavery Society and its purpose, which is defined as the protection of human rights, has only partially fulfilled its mission…

[There] are indications of real advances. Let us take courage and inspiration from them, but let us also appreciate how much still has to be done.

Reginald Sorensen, 1966

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