Friday 24th May 2024,
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Ex-Slave Masters Return as Anti-Slave Campaigners in India

Ex-Slave Masters Return as Anti-Slave Campaigners in India

Three of the world‘s top religious leaders – Pope Francis of the Vatican, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr Mahmoud Azab have joined hands in the biggest ever push to eradicate modern day slavery and human trafficking in India by 2020.

On the surface this may look laudable. But it is actually something worse than an unhealthy joke, because historically speaking these very monotheistic cults have been responsible for the very social crimes they claim to combat.

Slavery, human trafficking and colonialism took place in the name of the one true jealous male god under the blessing of his holy church. Once again this pathetic display of hand-wringing and shedding of crocodile tears for those most unfortunate in society was accompanied by pointedly not inviting Hindu religious figures to the meeting which issued edicts on the problems faced by India. Is this mere coincidence?

Sadly not because it is an unhealthy tendency for such expansionist creeds to deliberately exclude Hindus because make no mistake about it, these empty denunciations of ‘slavery’ and ‘trafficking’ are mere euphemisms that barely camouflage a more hidden agenda: that of assaulting the deep-rooted culture, beliefs and traditions of India and its indigenous people as the last surviving significant mass of ‘pagans’ who need to be spiritually conquered, and even at times physically eliminated, for the one true faith of the jealous, selfish and angry male deity to reign supreme over the ‘false gods’ of the Hindus.

Slavery from the Pulpit

Since the time of the Fatimids in the tenth century, Al-Azhar has enjoyed being the premier centre of Islamic learning and edicts. This is very interesting, not least because in his book, “You Ask and Islam Answers”, Dr. ‘Abdul-Latif Mushtahari, the general supervisor and director of homiletics and guidance at the Azhar University, says (pp. 51,52) :

“Islam does not prohibit slavery but retains it for two reasons. The first reason is war (whether it is a civil war or a foreign war in which the captive is either killed or enslaved) provided that the war is not between Muslims against each other – it is not acceptable to enslave the violators, or the offenders, if they are Muslims. Only non-Muslim captives may be enslaved or killed. The second reason is the sexual propagation of slaves which would generate more slaves for their owner.”

Slave numbers in the Islamic empire grew rapidly due to the Arab conquests. Gang slaves were used in the mines and on plantations. But slaves were employed in a variety of roles. Females were recruited for the harems while males could become slave soldiers, business agents, or eunuchs. Slaves were captured in war or born as the children of slaves. Razzias from Muslim Spain captured Christians for the slave market.

Thousands were sold to other parts of the Islamic world. Conversion to Islam did not mean manumission. Indeed there was no mass freeing of slaves under Islam. Poverty led to slave revolts by black slaves in mines and plantations in 770, and again in Lower Mesopotamia in 883, joined by disaffected peasants. Disturbances were so serious, that even Baghdad was threatened. Known as Zanj, these slaves were led by Ali ibn Muhammad who became known as Sahib-az-Zanj, or Master of the Zanj. He aimed at restoring the purity of Islam not at abolition. Indeed he promised slaves and other property to his followers.

Gold and slaves were the main export items from the Sahara and beyond to the Mediterranean. Slaves came from the Sahel and even as far as Madagascar and India. This remained unabated while the trans-Atlantic slave trade grew in volume. Conditions across the Sahara were every bit as horrific as the Middle Passage.

Slaves suffered from dehydration, sand storms, extremes of heat and cold, and having to carry other goods. Europe itself was a prime source of slaves. From the seventeenth century the Maghreb was the source of slave raiding pirates, the notorious corsairs of Barbary who raided as far as Iceland, Ireland, England and at one point the English colonies in America. Large areas of Spain’s coast became depleted of their population as a result.

In 1816 the British dispatched a huge fleet to end the corsair menace with an attack on Algiers which reduced large parts of the slave trading city to oblivion. The slave trade in white Christians from Europe and America by the Barbary corsairs was finally at an end. The main revenue now came from the trans-Saharan slave trade. It was not ended in Benghazi until 1911 with the Italian conquest and continued in the Kufra region of Libya as late as 1930. Slavery in fact continued in much of the Islamic world well into the twentieth century.

In 1932 Ibn Saud reiterated the Quran’s support for slavery and insisted that all slaves in the kingdom had to be registered. It was only abolished in Saudi Arabia in 1962, in the Emirates in 1963 and in Oman in 1970. Yet the treatment of labourers, maids, child camel jockeys,  and menial workers from South Asia and the Philippines who flock to the Gulf remains akin to slavery. Passports and wages are withheld and it is illegal to break the employment contract. Behind the glitzy façade of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi lies the rarely discussed issue of modern slavery. Yet al-Azhar has the audacity to join forces with its historic monotheistic rivals who launched the Crusades and attack India for its social ills.

Church as Slave Master

But then the Church itself has played an important historic role in slavery, human trafficking and ripping people from not just their indigenous cultures but their native lands. Christianity preached spiritual not earthly equality. Augustine saw slavery as a product of the Fall of Man. It was the curse of Ham. John Chrysostom advised the slave to accept the security of captivity to the uncertainties of freedom.

Augustine felt that it ensured social stability. Hence the trade in human flesh became widespread in Christian Medieval Europe. Bede writes of how Pope Gregory I himself visited the slave market in Rome and saw slaves imported from Britain. Defenders of slavery also claimed that it made slaves into good Christians.

Monastaries in particular were major slaveholders. In 572 Domnole, bishop of Le Mans, granted several properties to the Abbey of Saint-Vincent. On the estate of Tresson, all peasants were declared mancipia, a form of slave. On Villa Fraxnetum (La Frênaire), ten mancipia came with the grant. In the seventh century no large estate in western Europe was without some form of slaves.

St Paul the ApostleThe opening of the Americas allowed the Church to further embroil itself in slavery. When in 1578 Bartolomé de Albornoz attacked slavery itself, and if Africans were better off as slaves because they were then baptised into Christ, his book was condemned by the Vatican as an attack on Christianity itself. Albornoz had his book banned, placed on the Index of condemned literature, and suppressed further abolitionist sentiments.

In Angola the Church made much of its income from instructing and baptising the enslaved to such an extent that when the slave trade finally ended it caused financial crisis for the Luanda see. Catholic debates about slavery focused not on its inherent evils but concerns over baptised slaves being sold to heretics.

Slavery was seen as harmonious with the laws of god and nature. It was therefore in accordance with the tenets of Christianity. In France, Bousset regarded condemnation of slavery as condemnation of the Holy Ghost. Had not St. Paul ordered slaves to accept their status? In 1685 the Council of the Indies in Spain reinforced slavery being consistent with Catholic theology.

Sanctified Human Trafficking

During the reign of Elizabeth I in the sixteenth century, John Hawkins pioneered England’s role in the slave trade. He not only claimed that slavery would help to Christianise the Africans, but he sanctified his first slave carrier with the holiest of holy names. Hawkins’ first slave ship was christened the Jesus. Franciscan, Dominican and Jesuit orders owned vast slave plantations in Latin America. Apologists claim that Roman Catholic teachings emphasised humane treatment. But in reality, humane treatment of African slaves, even by Catholic clergy, was the exception rather than the rule. Slaves were also owned by the various nonconformist sects who were otherwise at odds with the established church.

In 1808, Dr Thomas Coke, who brought Methodism to the West Indies, wrote that converting the slaves would render them more subservient. He did not set out to destroy slavery, but to make slaves conform to their condition without much demur. Many Quakers owned slaves, especially in Maryland. In fact this peaceful Christian sect had been such eager slavers that there were eighty-four Quaker members of the original slaving company and even a slave ship named the Willing Quaker.

The founder of the sect, George Fox, had only urged slaves to be treated with kindness, not to free them. As early as 1668 William Penn had indeed denounced slavery as “unchristian”. Yet this did not prevent him from purchasing and owning black slaves or defending slavery as necessary. In 1705 seventy per cent of Quakers in the American colonies owned slaves and in 1756 there were eighty-four Quaker members of the slave-trading Royal African Company, including the Barclay and Baring families. The much vaunted Quaker support for abolition actually originated in the small rural communities of Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York where there was negligible dependence on slave labour because cotton and sugar cane were not the main crops.

The Christian faith therefore posed no problem for those involved in the slave trade, nor did the faith outlaw this vile use of human beings as commodities. Born in 1725, John Newton became rich through his involvement in the enslavement of Africans, and did not hesitate to take sexual advantage of hapless females crammed into the slave quarters below deck, while working himself up the mercantile career ladder to becoming ship’s captain. This did not avert him from religious matters as he spent up to two hours each morning praying and reading the Bible, and praying again at noon. During this period, his god never spoke to him about the evil of slavery.

Nor did this deity speak to him against slavery when in 1764, Newton had left the slave trade and become ordained as a minister in the Church of England. He built up an impressive following as an evangelical preacher, and wrote the now famous hymn, Amazing Grace, which contrary to popular belief, was not written by a former slave trader who had turned against the sale of human cargo.

In fact at the time, Newton uttered not one word against slavery, and continued to socialise with his former fellow slave ship captains at the Jamaica Coffee House. In fact he owed his position as curate of Olney to a supporter of the slave trade, the Earl of Dartmouth. In 1781, Newton preached a sermon against all of Britain’s sins, which the loss of American colonies and catastrophic hurricanes in the slave colonies of the West Indies, were divine punishment. These sins included adultery, blasphemy and the national debt. Slavery was not mentioned.


The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, an arm of the Church of England, was a massive slave owner in the West Indies, and did nothing to alleviate the high mortality rate of black slaves. Instead it ran planations in Barbados and piously branded the word “Society” on each new slave. Biblical justification for slavery abounded. In April 1710 the SPL inherited the Codrington estates in Barbados which they ran with absentee management of feudal landlords, more interested in squeezing profits from slavery than propagating Christianity.

In the major slave trading port of Liverpool in 1788, Rev. Raymond Harris said that god backed the slave trade and as a result received a reward of £100 from sympathetic admirers and believers. A leading patron of Methodists was Countess Huntingdon, who herself owned a slave plantation. Influential evangelical minister, George Whitefield, owned over fifty slaves in Georgia, believing that black slaves were integral in order to cultivate crops in tropical colonies.

 That great advocate of abolition William Wilberforce has been idolised and extolled as the abolitionist and devout Christian par excellence. He was against expanding the franchise to more than a just as tiny number of people, felt women should be submissive to their husbands, and that the lower classes should accept their place in the social order. Wilberforce himself kept silent on the circumvention of the Slave Trade Abolition Act.

He was also guilty of something more sinister. On 18 March 1807 Lord Percy, Duke of Northumberland, tried to bring about the gradual abolition of slavery so that children born after a certain time should be considered free.

He was swamped by protestors including Wilberforce who said that emancipation would be injurious to the slaves and would also ruin the colonies. Still in abolishing slavery in 1933 Britain was ahead of its former colonies in America which only got rid of the institution after the Civil War. The pro-slavery South not only justified slavery on solid Christian grounds, but remains today the fundamentalist Bible Belt. Staunchly Catholic Brazil and Cuba did not get rid of slavery until 1888 and 1890, respectively.

Christianity’s White Slave Trade

When abolition did eventually come compensation was not paid to the former slaves but the slave owners. In any case, slavery was actually reinvented with chained Africans replaced by indentured labour from India, which continued right up until 1920; something which the Christian churches keep silent about. They also keep silent about their own heavy involvement in people trafficking until quite recently. Up to 300,000 Spanish babies were stolen from their parents and sold for adoption over a period of five decades under the dictatorship of Franco in Spain, and with the active connivance of the established Catholic Church.

Just as scandalous  was how in Ireland and Great Britain, Catholic nuns found a profitable business in making unwed mothers feel like sinners for getting pregnant out of wedlock and forced them to give up their babies unto adoption for a so-called “better life” or for “forgiveness”.

They would give them shelter and even hide them during the length of their pregnancy because in this manner, they would receive money from the government per woman, also some corporations donated money to these houses, and in cases they even went after the father of the child and asked them to pay for the woman’s stay. In other cases, if the woman did not give up their baby, the catholic nuns would simply drug them and steal the baby, and tell the mother that the baby had been stillborn. The Sisters of Mercy – who were responsible for torturing over 30,000 women in Ireland in Magdalene Laundries – are being exposed further, this time in Australia.

Over 150,000 women were drugged, and nuns either forced into giving up their babies for adoptions or the babies were stolen. This same baby trafficking scheme and evil adoption scheme was put in place by the Sisters of Mercy and other Catholic Nun orders across the world, including Ireland, USA, Canada, Spain and more. On 4 February 2013, who had their childhoods ‘stolen away’, locked up in Catholic-run workhouses received a qualified apology from the Irish government.

An estimated 10,000 were sent to the ‘Magdalene laundries’ to carry out unpaid manual labour under the supervision of nuns. Some were sent because they were the children of unmarried mothers, others for crimes as minor as not paying a train ticket. Incredibly the last of the ten laundries,  which washed clothes and linen for major hotel groups, the Irish armed forces and even the brewer Guinness, was in operation until 1996.

Orphans with nowhere else to go, single girls who found themselves pregnant and hence abandoned in a morally repressive state, children whose parents could no longer afford to keep them and those judged by priests or the religious to be in ‘moral danger’ because they were too pretty or flirtatious found themselves incarcerated as slaves of the Holy Mother Church whose Pope now has the audacity to lecture India on human rights. They have been described as ‘Ireland’s disappeared’ and were subject to horrific physical and sexual abuse by the

In Australia the churches openly helped in the creation of a racially pure ‘Aryan’ nation. His Grace the Archbishop of Perth, welcoming British child migrants shipped to Australia, August 1938:

At a time when empty cradles are contributing woefully to empty spaces, it is necessary to look for external sources of supply. And if we do not supply from our own stock we are leaving ourselves all the more exposed to the menace of the teeming millions of our neighbouring Asiatic races.”

In the post-war era, approximately 3,300 children were shipped to Australia while New Zealand, Rhodesia and Canada received a combined total of about 1,000 children. Governments have not been able to provide precise statistics concerning the numbers of children received from the United Kingdom.

Many child migrants, British boys and girls, were sent overseas by specialist agencies such as the Fairbridge Society, established specifically for the purpose of migrating young children to populate the empire with “good, white British stock”. Well known national charities such as Barnardos, which provided a wider range of child care services, along with the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the Salvation Army and the Catholic Church, played major roles.

In New Zealand, children were often placed with foster parents, while those in Canada were entrusted to the care of farmers often without sufficient preparation or supervision. Some Canadian farmers were even charged with manslaughter, such was the extent of their cruelty. Very few children were legally adopted overseas and the vast majority spent their entire childhoods in large, impersonal institutions or farm schools which accommodated up to three hundred and fifty children.

After being told fanciful tales of travel to the “Land of Milk and Honey,” where children ride to school on horseback and pick up fruit on the side of the road, child migrants were sent abroad without passports, social histories or even the most basic documents such as a full birth certificate.

Brothers and sisters were frequently separated on the docks and sent to institutions in different parts of the country; some were finger-printed and then loaded onto the backs of trucks for long journeys to institutions in remote regions, only to be put to work as labourers the next day.

Many felt an extreme sense of rejection by their family and country of origin or both. More than 1,000 British and 310 Maltese children were sent to Australian Catholic schools between the late 1930s and 1960s, resulted in “suffering and dislocation”. Many children were raped, whipped, stripped of their names and forced to scramble for food thrown on the floor. Some children were also made to do hard labour, including construction work, at some schools. Although classified as orphans, most children did in fact have parents, who were often unaware their children were sent away. Australia’s Roman Catholic Church publicly apologised on 22 March 2001 to British and Maltese child migrants who suffered abuse including rape, whippings and slave labour in religious institutions run by the Church.

The Irrelevance of Monotheism

So to have this monotheistic axis lecture India on its problems of trafficking and human rights, is analogous to a drug cartel running a rehab programme for addicts. It is hypocritical and insulting , and in the fact the last desperate cry of outdated creeds to be relevant to the modern world which is losing interest in being the slaves of some cosmic dictator.

Rather laughably, he Church of England now attracts fewer than 800,000 worshippers to its churches on a typical Sunday, according to new estimates in march 201 from that most conservative of newspapers, the Daily Mail ( ). They indicate that repeated efforts by the Church to modernise its services and its image – through a series of modern language rewrites of its prayer book, attempts by its leaders to appeal to supposed public concern with poverty, and efforts to make its government more efficient – have not succeeded in drawing young people.

According to the 2011 national census, the number of Christians fell by 4.1 million over 10 years to 33.2 million – of whom only a third go to church except for wedding, baptisms or funerals. The census found a 45 per cent rise over the same 10 years in numbers who say they have no religion, to 14.1 million in 2001, with 32 per cent, of those under 25 said on their census forms that they had no religious belief. In Britain the boost to those attending Catholic services has been artificially inflated by the influx of Poles.

Just like the Irish who preceded them, this is generational phenomenon which does not have far to run. Overall the trend is downwards, except in Third World countries where churches provide a support network in the face of war, famine, ruling kleptocracies, the vampire state, corruption and imploding civil societies. In India even the existence of these negative social forces have not been enough to wean the masses from their ancient beliefs. Hence the desperation as the established churches in advanced nations go into terminal decline while ‘Eastern’ beliefs are becoming increasingly relevant to people’s lives in these very same countries.


About The Author

Ranbir Singh : Writer and lecturer, HHR chairman : BA (Honours) History, MA History from School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London : , Have lectured previously at De Montfort University, London School of Economics, Contributor to various political and human rights discussion outfits.

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