One of my great heroes of faith is William Wilberforce. As I’m sure many of you know, Wilberforce was largely responsible for abolishing the slave trade in Britain. He wasn’t perfect (in fact he suffered from an opium addiction most of his life!) but he was a radical God-centred Christian who believed God had called him to a task.
He was actually an orphan, who was brought up by his Aunt. Being from a rich family he brought his seat in parliament (which you could do in the 1700’s) at the age of 21 and took no active role at all – not even bothering to turn up to the commons. However, at the age of 25 he was converted to Christianity by his old school master, Isaac Milner.
Wilberforce, at first, found his new beliefs difficult to reconcile with being a politician, and under the cover of dark, embarrassed that he might be seen, he went to see an old friend, the ordained clergyman John Newton (best known for writing the hymn Amazing Grace and being a former slave ship captain). Newton persuaded Wilberforce to stay in government and fight to stop the evil that was slavery.
And so, in 1787 the fight began. Wilberforce dedicated his life to stopping slavery. It took 20 years, numerous defeats and much of his health, but in 1807 the bill passed through parliament – and the commons rose to applaud the efforts of a man who refused to quit until the right thing was done. As this happen Wilberforce himself turned to his friend, Henry Thornton and said, “Well, Henry, what shall we abolish next!”
In actual fact Wilberforce knew the fight was far from over. And he began the fight to free the slaves which already existed. As his health failed he recruited Thomas Buxton, in 1821, to continue the fight – while remaining as active as his health allowed. Finally, on 26th July 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act was voted through parliament, making it illegal to own a slave throughout the British empire. William Wilberforce died 3 days later.
I share this story for a very important reason – THE FIGHT IS NOT OVER!
There are an estimated 30 million people still in slavery today. If you made them lie down head to toe they would circle the world over 15 times! Approximately 10,000 of these slaves live in our country – hided from sight and suffering a living hell. But don’t think that means the other slaves aren’t our concern. They make our clothes, build our phones and harvest our food.
Just over a year ago the Rana Plaza disaster took place. A clothing factory in Bangladesh collapsed killing over 1000 modern day slaves – who were making clothes which come to our shops, on our high streets.
If Wilberforce was alive today I have no doubt that he would be continuing to fight this evil. Just recently the Modern Slavery Bill has been introduced to parliament. However, despite the recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee, there is no requirement for businesses to check the integrity of their supply chain. This would mean that it is still legal to sell goods made by slaves in this country – I for one believe this is wrong.
In short, I believe it should be illegal, in this country, to sell goods made by slaves.
If you agree with me, and you are eligible to vote in this country, please write to our MP, Lisa Nandy, (or if you live elsewhere, your own MP) and let her know. You will be able to access a draft letter, written by STOP THE TRAFFIK, explaining exactly what is being requested by clicking here: http://bit.ly/1xlg92F
These slaves are people, made in the image of God and precious in his sight. Please, take 10 minutes and let our government know that we, as the church, stand alongside the voiceless.
There are 30 million reasons why you should.
God bless you all,