Just think what this means: “Despairingly credible comparisons of scale and suffering may be drawn with the trans-Atlantic trade in Africans in the Americas in which more than 12 million people were forcibly transported over the ocean in 400 years. It is to our great shame that if today’s statistics are correct, and 700, 000 people are now being trafficked across borders into slavery annually, we will have equaled that total in a mere 20 years.” (Statement by the International Organization of Migration on the occassion of the First annual International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery & Transatlantic Slave Trade, 25 March 2009)
Some more ashonishing facts. Did you know that:
1) It is estimated that more than 250,000 children are currently being exploited as child soldiers in as many as 30 areas of conflict around the world. Many of the kidnapped girls who are made into child soldiers are also forced into sexual slavery.
2) The International Organization for Migration estimates that annually 700,000 women, girls, men and boys are being traficked across borders away from their homes and families and into slavery.
3) An estimated 5.7 million children are victims of forced and bonded labour, also known as debt bondage, and 1.2 million children are victims of child trafficking.
4) Linked to trafficking is the commercial sexual exploitation of children of whom 1 million, mainly girls, are forced into prostitution every year. These girls are sold for sex or used in child pornography in both the developed and the developing world.
Below are some of the comments from the Secretary General of the UN on today’s occassion. You can read his full speech here:
“The question of how to atone for this crime is difficult to answer. We must acknowledge the great lapse in moral judgment that allowed it to happen. We must urge present and future generations to avoid repeating history. We must acknowledge the contributions that enslaved Africans made to civilization. And countries that prospered from the slave trade must examine the origins of present-day social inequality and work to unravel mistrust between communities.
Above all, even as we mourn the atrocities committed against the countless victims, we take heart from the courage of slaves who rose up to overcome the system which oppressed them. These brave individuals, and the abolitionist movements they inspired, should serve as an example to us all as we continue to battle the contemporary forms of slavery that stain our world today.
In our time, forced labour, sexual exploitation and human trafficking afflict millions of people worldwide, including children toiling under unspeakably abusive conditions. Racism and racial discrimination still take a serious and sometimes deadly toll. We are all shamed by these repugnant crimes. And we are all challenged to respond.
How fitting, therefore, that this historic first International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade falls in the year of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article four of the Declaration tells us: ‘No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.’ Let us give life to those words. Let us honour the victims of the slave trade by remembering their struggle. Let us carry it forward until no person is deprived of liberty, dignity and human rights.”
So, of course his statement makes me think of the Baha’is in Iranian prisons, deprived of their liberty, dignity & human rights.
And here are some more thoughts (all found on Ocean):
Mirza Abu’l-Fadl in ‘The Brilliant Proof’ mentions on p. 28:
Among the specific laws clearly laid down in the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh is the law “prohibiting slavery.” No mention of this is made in other religions. As none of the former Heavenly Books has forbidden this traffic all the humanitarian instincts which actuated the Great Powers to abolish and destroy it could not withhold the common people from this abominable practice, which has cost the governments and nations great trouble and expense.
The Baha’i International Community said about slavery in their 1990 statement on the Protection of Minorities:
In dealing with the protection of minorities and human rights, many useful insights may be gained by considering the historical evolution of humankind. Slavery was once generally accepted in many parts of the world. Today, it is widely viewed as an abhorrent practice which cannot be countenanced under any pretext. It is evident that as civilization advances, our standards of justice also evolve. Nevertheless, old patterns of behaviour are not easily forgotten. The world is presently engaged in a struggle to emancipate itself from the practice of discrimination against ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities. Such a dramatic shift in the structure of social relations requires more than a minor adjustment in attitudes; it requires a whole new perspective about humankind.
Adib Taherzadeh in the ‘Revelation of Baha’u’llah volume 3’ (p. 369) says:
One of Bahá’u’lláh’s prohibitions in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is slave trading. For thousands of years people took slaves. With the coming of Bahá’u’lláh, however, God released in the world the forces of unity, and proclaimed the equality of human rights. These have now become the spirit of the age and humanity has come a long way during the last hundred years, abandoning the age-long practice of slavery. In forbidding slavery, Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas simply states that it is not proper for a man to buy another man. For all are the servants of the one true God and are equal in His sight.
In ‘Baha’u’llah and the New Era’, J. E. Esslemont writes:
Abdu’l-Bahá has explained that not only chattel slavery, but also industrial slavery, is contrary to the law of God. When in the USA in 1912, He said to the American people: “Between 1860 and 1865 you did a wonderful thing; you abolished chattel slavery; but today you must do a much more wonderful thing: you must abolish industrial slavery. … The solution of economic questions will not be brought about by array of capital against labor, and labor against capital, in strife and conflict, but by the voluntary attitude of goodwill on both sides. Then a real and lasting justness of conditions will be secured.”