Patrick was born a Britain in the late 4th century. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped and enslaved in Ireland. During his enslavement, his Christian faith took a remarkable turn through prayer and visions, calling him to share the gospel with the pagans of Ireland. After six years, he escaped from slavery, and went on to study and begin his ministry in France. In all that time, he never lost sight of his calling to the Irish. Eventually, he was consecrated as Bishop to Ireland. In the remainder of his lifetime, he founded monasteries and created councils and organized dioceses all over Ireland. He performed countless baptisms and supported the work of other clergy. He recognized the need to translate Christianity into the pagan belief system of the Irish and thus devised the Celtic cross, which incorporates the symbol of solar worship.
In the 5th century, slavery was an accepted fact of human life. Slavery was considered to be a necessary construct of society, and it was justified through scriptural interpretation and logic. The papacy did not officially condemn slavery until the 19th century, but Patrick spoke out against it virulently centuries before.
In that spirit, then, we turn our gaze to the persistent plague of slavery, which continues to affect every society on the planet. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) around 21 million men, women and children around the world are in a form of slavery. Modern day slavery takes many forms, including forced labor, sex trafficking, child labor, domestic servitude, bonded labor, and forced marriage. A variety of social, economic, and political forces contribute to modern day slavery, and activists work on all these levels to help eradicate slavery, prosecute perpetrators, and care for victims. You can learn more about what modern day slavery looks like, the factors contributing to it, and how we can work to stop it here: http://www.endslaverynow.org/.
As we consider slavery as people of Christian faith, we also have to wrestle with our tradition’s history and scriptures. Why did it take almost two centuries for Christianity to condemn slavery? How do we interpret scriptures referencing slavery in the Bible? How do Christians (including all of us) continue to perpetuate slavery today?
We’ll discuss all this and more at the next Untapped Questions, March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day), at 7pm at Bagger Dave’s on Maple and Telegraph.