Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 26 September |
Saint of the Day: Sts Cosmas and Damian
home iconNews
line break icon

Modern Bondage: Slavery is Very Much Alive Today

JOSE CENDON /AFP

Mark Gordon - published on 08/27/14 - updated on 06/08/17


In terms of absolute numbers, ten countries account for 76% of today’s slaves: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh.  This is a list of nations that stretches across geographic, cultural and religious boundaries, suggesting that the problem of slavery isn’t confined to any one region or faith. The United States scored well on the Index – 134 of 162 – but there are still an estimated 60,000 slaves toiling here. According to a Justice Department profile of human trafficking cases between 2008 and 2010, 82% of trafficked persons were in the sex trade, while the remainder was pressed into other forms of labor bondage.

For its part, the Catholic Church today is unambiguous in its denunciation of slavery, forced labor and every form of human trafficking as a grave evil. “Human trafficking is a crime against humanity,” said Pope Francis in an address to Vatican ambassadors last December. “We must unite our efforts to free victims and stop this crime that’s become ever more aggressive, that threatens not just individuals, but the foundational values of society.”

The Holy Father weighed in again on the topic last April at a Vatican-sponsored conference titled “Combating Human Trafficking,” which he described as “an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity." Then, during his recent visit to South Korea, the Pope met with seven former “comfort women,” dragooned into sexual servitude during World War II.

Of course, the Church’s view of slavery has evolved in the two millennia since her founding, which took place in the midst of an age and civilization where slavery was ubiquitous. Nevertheless, from very early on the Christian community exhibited a fundamental unease with slavery, at least as it was practiced in the Roman world. St. Paul may have instructed slaves to obey their masters, but he also instructed masters to treat their slaves with kindness. Many early Christians held slaves, but many others freed them upon conversion. Over the centuries, slavery reappeared in Christian civilization, but eventually it was Christian teaching that overwhelmed the practice, rendering it largely non-existent in the West, except as a hidden crime.

Finally, the Vatican recently announced that Pope Francis selected slavery as the theme of the next World Day of Peace, to be celebrated on Jan. 1, 2015. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace announced that “Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters” will be the title of the Message for the 48th World Day of Peace.

“Many people think that slavery is a thing of the past,” said a note from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. “In fact, this social plague remains all too real in today’s world. Last year’s Message for 1 January 2014 was dedicated to brotherhood…. Slavery deals a murderous blow to this fundamental fraternity, and so to peace as well. Peace can only exist when each human being recognizes every other person as a brother or sister with the same dignity.

Mark Gordon is a partner at PathTree, a consulting firm focused on organizational resilience and strategy. He also serves as president of both the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Diocese of Providence, and a local homeless shelter and soup kitchen. Mark is the author of Forty Days, Forty Graces: Essays By a Grateful Pilgrim. He and his wife Camila have been married for 30 years and they have two adult children.

  • 1
  • 2
Tags:
Boko HaramChristians in the Middle EastIslamist Militants
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
VATICAN LEGOS
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
2
SLEEPING
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
3
Tolkien
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
4
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
5
PADRE PIO
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
6
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
7
peace
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.