Slavery, that national sin of the early United States for which hundreds of thousands died during the Civil War, still thrives in other parts of the world, experts confirm, and estimates are about 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across national borders yearly as owned property.
Now a new book, “The Amazing Grace of Freedom,” at
While his success in Great Britain, and eventually the United States through England’s trickle-down influence, is evident in those societies, the modern era of fighting slavery is not over. It’s just about what Wilberforce, who also is profiled in a new “Amazing Grace” movie scheduled for release soon, faced during his battles in the early 1800s.
According to Christian Solidarity International, more than 100 blacks from Africa were liberated from Arab masters and returned to their southern Sudanese homeland through CSI efforts just days ago.
“The overwhelming majority of the liberated slaves had been subjected to beatings, racial and religious insults, forced labor and denial of the freedom to practice any region other than Islam. Most of the girls and women had been subjected to sexual abuse,” according to the group’s report.
The American Anti-Slavery Group reports that such slavery exists, too, in the North African nation of Mauritania, where blacks serve lighter-skinned Arab-Berber masters, and other parts of the world.
Even the United States government is concerned, with Ambassador John Miller, the state department’s top-anti-human trafficking official, spending the past few years working on the “scourge.”
“In the 19th century there was an abolitionist movement to end state-sanctioned slavery based on race,” Miller said in a government report, and the great abolitionists – William Wilberforce of England and Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe of the United States – spent decades of their lives working toward that goal.
But he warns even today after hundreds of years of work, what’s left in the effort to end the modern era of slavery will be a long battle.
“There is no magic fix,” said Miller. “But we’re starting to gain momentum.”
He pointed to the fact that just a few years ago, there were just a handful of nations where anti-trafficking laws were in force. In the last two or three years, 80 countries have taken that step.
Which puts the modern era of slave-fighting in the Sudan and other places just about where Wilberforce was in the early 1800s in England, when he worked first to oppose human trafficking, and then eventually slavery itself.
Ted Baehr of MOVIEGUIDE? has teamed with acclaimed filmmaker Ken Wales and author Susan Wales to create the unique book about the enduring legacy and powerful faith of Wilberforce, probably the key individual in banning slavery in Great Britain, which led the United States in that effort by nearly a century.
The book also represents an influential and growing presence of faith-honoring entertainment professionals in Hollywood, and is an important and educational extension of the Wilberforce story.
It describes how Wilberforce was a man of principles who battled for 30 years until his life concluded for Great Britain to recognize the humanity of all people.
- A comprehensive collection of essays and commentary from ministry leaders and scholars such as Chuck Colson, D. James Kennedy, John Piper, Alveda King, and many more.
- An exclusive interview with “Amazing Grace” film producer Ken Wales on his six-year journey of faith to see the movie come to life.
- Historic paintings, engravings, and documents are highlighted on every page.
- And a feature that allows the reader to go on location in historic England with movie photos and backstage info from the exciting production of “Amazing Grace.”
Wilberforce was born in 1759 and when he was 8 years old, his father died and he was dispatched to live with an aunt, in whose home he first met the great evangelist George Whitefield, and John Newton. Newton had converted to Christianity and left a lucrative life as a slave trader, and wrote the words of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
Wilberforce went to St. John’s College in Cambridge and became a close friend to William Pitt, who later would be prime minister. He took a continental holiday and began a course of reading that led him to a new commitment to the Bible and its principles of justice.
Newton advised him to move into the political arena and he was elected to Parliament at age 21, introducing his first House of Commons plan to ban human trafficking in 1791, when it was defeated by a 2-1 margin. Nearly two decades later, he witnessed the success of that same plan, and three days before he died in 1833 the House of Commons passed a law emancipating all slaves in Britain and its colonies.
Miller said there is progress continuing today in the war on human enslavement, against which Wilberforce dedicated so much of his life.
“Most of the programs are going to relate to prosecution or law enforcement or victim protection, or prevention, which to a large extent is education. But as to specific kinds of programs, we’re still learning,” he said. “We’re further ahead there than we are in some other areas – for example, reintegration of survivors and victims.”
He said while the U.S. government spends millions on prosecution, prevention and protection around the world, “we still have much to learn about best practices.”
A broad coalition including faith-based groups and others that has been assembled in the United States is a step forward. And an increase in media coverage also is helping.
“With public awareness, the coalition grows,” Miller said. “Citizens talk to their governments, churches, civic groups, police chiefs and sensitize them.”
The movie “Amazing Grace” is directed by Michael Apted (Coal Miner’s Daughter) from an original screenplay by Academy Award nominee Steven Knight. It stars Ioan Gruffudd (Black Hawk Down), Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich), Romola Garai (Vanity Fair) Michael Gambon (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), Benedict Cumberbatch (Hawking), Rufus Sewell (Legend of Zorro), Ciaran Hinds (Rome) and introduces Youssou N’Dour.
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