The Atlantic Ocean’s Winding Roads

atlantic.1Sister Germaine Price, representing the Company of the Daughters of Charity at the United Nations, shares the news below from the UN in New York: 

[UN-NGO] Year after year the road wound in a triangular pattern from Europe to Africa to the Americas and back again, transporting more than 15 million men, women and children over a period of some 400 years.  This was the largest forced migration in history and undeniably one of the most inhumane.

This triangular slave trade connected the economies of three continents and proceeded in three steps. The ships left Western Europe for Africa loaded with goods which were to be exchanged for slaves. On their arrival in Africa the captains traded their merchandise for captive slaves. Weapons and gun powder were the most important commodities but textiles, pearls and other manufactured goods, as well as rum, were also in high demand. The exchange could last from one week to several months. The second step was the crossing of the Atlantic. Africans were transported to America to be sold throughout the continent. The third step connected America to Europe. The slave traders brought back mostly agricultural products, produced by the slaves. The main product was sugar, followed by cotton, coffee, tobacco and rice.

One entire circuit lasted approximately eighteen months. In order to be able to transport the maximum number of slaves, the ship’s steerage was frequently removed resulting in overcrowding and innumerable deaths.   In the early nineteenth century it was becoming clear to the international community that the trade of enslaved people was no longer tolerable and was therefore abolished in most countries by the 1870s. In 1948 The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”.

However in 2013 the world is witnessing the plague of a new form of slavery which involves  some 27 million people – human trafficking,  defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”

What, if any, is the difference from the trans-Atlantic version of slavery? One big difference is that the pattern of movement is no longer simply triangular.  It is now worldwide and covers the entire globe in winding roads. This must also be abolished – NOW!

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