Tag Archives: Westminster Abbey

8 February. The Christian Church Against Slavery: Livingstone and Lavigerie

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For the Feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the saint saved from slavery, here is a reflection on slavery by a African bishop.

Livingstone proposed that in order to uproot slavery and slave trade from Africa there was need for “3Cs”: ChristianisationCivilisation (education and good governance) and Commerce (legal and ethical). This vision was taken up by Lavigerie who … in some of his Instructions to the Missionaries sent to Equatorial Africa,  made reference to the writings of Livingstone on slave trade.

In his Anti-Slavery conferences in Paris, London and Brussels, Lavigerie quoted Livingstone on the atrocities and gravity of slave trade in Black Africa. And, while in London, before his conference at Prince’s Hall on 31st July 1888, Lavigerie made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Livingstone in the Abbey of Westminster.


At the head of those who declared this new war was the intrepid, the noble Livingstone. As an old African myself, I wanted to visit the tomb of the great explorer, under the vaults of Westminster. You have buried him in the midst of your greatest men. You were right, for Livingstone, by his courage, by his high intelligence, by the abnegation of his life, is the glory of this century and of your country. But if you are the heirs of his glory, you must be the executors of his last wishes. So, it is with an emotion that brought tears to my eyes that I read the final words he wrote and that England has had officially engraved on his tomb, by order of the Government: “I cannot do anything more,” he wrote in the neglected environment where he was going to die, “than to wish that the most abundant heavenly blessings descend on those, whoever they may be, English, American or Turks, who contribute to making the frightful plague of slavery disappear from the world.

In both Lavigerie and Livingstone, we have two men who loved Africa and the Africans and who, each in his own way, tried his best to fight against the African Slave Trade. Lavigerie’s constant reference to Livingstone inspires us to ecumenical collaboration in the struggle against modern day slavery especially in Africa. The “3Cs” of Livingstone embraced by Lavigerie are still very valid instrument to fight against today’s slaveries.

Taken from a speech by Bishop Richard Baawobr of Wa, Ghana, when Superior General of the Missionaries of Africa in 2013. Follow this link. 

Images in the public domain via Wikipedia.

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23 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries XVI, An Inland Foray.

 

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Near Margate there was a small picturesque village called Minton and at its heart was a very old monastery occupied by Benedictine nuns. ‘T’ thought it might be a good idea to pay a visit in order to both soak up some of the local history and also gain some perspective on what the residents of the place got up to all day long. Plans were made and early one blustery morning what appeared to be two Chihuahuas and a middle-aged man boarded the fast train for St. Pancras at Margate, changed at Ramsgate, and detrained near their destination just a little while later.

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As the trio trekked through the quiet streets of the village, each was impressed by the autumnal beauty. ‘I just love the smell of falling leaves!’ Alfie, ever the romantic, exclaimed. ‘T’ gave the Chihuahua a strange look and cocked a half-smile. ‘You know, you’re right, Alfie, but in my human persona I would never have thought to put it that way. People might notice the sweetly musty smell…but it’s the colour, texture, and sight of exuberant movement as the bright leaves swirl in the wind that thrills the eye rather than the nose.’ Both Chihuahuas snorted good-natured derision, marvelling- not for the first (or last) time- at the amazing eccentricities of the human race.

The gate opening to the wonderland of garden that fronted the ancient monastery was invitingly unlocked and the visitors slowly made their way up a narrow tarmacked path heading for a stone chapel where, inside, they could hear faint strains of lyrical chanting. ‘Look!!!’ Alfie’s tone was filled with wonder, ‘a parakeet…and we’re not even on safari!’ It was true. Not one but a pair of iridescent green feathered missiles tipped with ruby red streaked across the wide space above the dewy landscape as the awe-struck travellers looked on until, with a chatter of dismissive squawks, they were gone; most likely to gorge on sunflower seeds in a nearby field.

‘Will they, you know…’ Ajax gulped, remembering the keen sense of rejection felt when the Chihuahuas were denied entrance to Westminster Abbey, ‘allow dogs inside?’ ‘Well, we can only try,’ the Director murmured; attempting to sound soothing, he also had some doubts. As the inter-planetary fact-finders, disguised as a tall man and two very diminutive dogs, tiptoed through the great oak door of the chapel there was no one present to hinder them and soon they were reverently seated and awash in the strange, achingly beautiful harmonies of voices, both plaintive and exultant, raised in chanted prayer. Among the dozen or so nuns situated in their stalls in the sanctuary of the small building one or two did notice the rapt canine presence and a few feminine eye-brows were raised…yet, when all was said and done, and since it was patently obvious that the Chihuahuas were well-behaved, their presence was permitted (if not acknowledged) and the makings of a great convocation of creatures, those with two feet and those with four, was discreetly accomplished without any fuss at all.

To be continued

 

 

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June 3rd: The Uganda Martyrs – Saints for Today II

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Modern Martyrs Commemorated at Westminster Abbey: L-R: the Polish Franciscan, Maximilian Kolbe, killed in the concentration camps; Manche Masemola, a South African teenager, murdered by her parents, ‘baptised in her own blood’, for converting to Christianity; and Janani Luwum, Anglican Archbishop of Kampala, Uganda, assassinated by order of President Amin, a modern Uganda martyr. Jean-Christophe Benoist, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WestminsterAbbey-Martyrs.jpg

How did the Uganda Martyrs come to be Christians? Young men from France and Britain, overflowing with the same love that springs out of the Triune God, had gone there to bring them the Good News about Jesus. Sadly, the two camps did not always see eye to eye and imported to Africa the divisions that the Church in Europe had long taken for granted. Now Pope Francis speaks of the Ecumenism of Blood, in the light of the thousands of modern martyrs of all denominations. This new Unity had been recognised by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster who commissioned the statues of modern martyrs for the facade of the Abbey in 1998.

Both Anglican and Catholic Christians died for the Faith, and as St John Paul II said in Uganda in 1993,

the Uganda Martyrs became light in the Lord! Their sacrifice hastened the rebirth of the Church in Africa. In our own days, all Africa is being called to the light of Christ!  All that is truly African, all that is true and good and noble in Africa’s traditions and cultures, is meant to find its fulfilment in Christ.

Your Martyrs joyfully shared with others the good news about the One who is “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn. 14: 6). They understood that “faith is strengthened when it is given to others” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 2).The effects of Christ’s light must clearly be seen in the goodness of your lives! 

How best can we share the Good News in a very different world to that of Nineteenth Century Uganda? For most of us, most of the time, there are small steps we can take. Doing whatever we can as Churches Together, praying together for unity within and between Churches; looking happy, as though we believe the Gospel is Good News, a friendly word with whoever we meet.

You can find the text of Redemptoris Missio here:  http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_07121990_redemptoris-missio.html

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