I just finished reading Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the heroic campaign to end slavery, by Eric Metaxes. I’ve always loved history. Stories of our past lend understanding to our present. This story left me pondering, thinking, and praying. I wasn’t ready to leave Wilberforce and the band of brave English abolitionists behind. So I spent an hour, ok a few hours probably, on Google and the British Royal website following up on people portrayed in the book. I can get obsessed like that. Then, I rented the movie and watched it the same day I finished the book. Like I said, obsessed. (Plus, the movie featured Benedict Cumberbatch as Prime Minister William Pitt, and I heart all things Cumberbatch right now –BBC’s Sherlock, the Hobbit, Star Trek into Darkness.)
As I continue to ponder the book and the life of Wilberforce, these three thoughts stand out:
1. He gave his life to this cause. He spent his youth, his health, and his best years fighting what surely looked like a lost cause. Year after year, for decades, he brought up his bill in Parliament to abolish the slave trade. Year after year, he was mocked and defeated. But he believed so firmly in this cause, in the justness of it and that it was God’s will, that he refused to give up.
2. Wilberforce was part of a community. He may have been the voice in Parliament, but writers, poets, politicians, preachers – all banded together to spread the message across England. Most of the country was unaware of the horrors taking place on the slave ships and on the plantations in the West Indies. They sought to raise awareness by any means possible and gather the support of the people.
3. They used art to communicate the message. Poets, writers, artists, musicians – they all used their gifts and talents to help spread the word. Books, brochures, pamphlets, buttons, paintings – by any means possible they got the word out.
I can’t help but wonder what Wilberforce would say to us. How would he urge us, as people who live in a world with an estimated 27 million brothers and sisters enslaved across the globe? How would he encourage us to fight to end this darkness that still holds so many in bondage in hidden places? When it feels like there is no hope, what might he say?
I think he would urge us that the cause is just, to never give up, join a community, and get the message out however possible. Whatever your gift is, whatever your talent is, use it. The battle in England wasn’t won by just one man speaking in government, or even by just the core team behind him. It was won by hundreds of thousands who spoke up year after year, signed petitions, and talked about it in their homes, communities, churches.
I think he would say educate yourselves. Find what resources are in your community. Wilberforce started a long list of “societies” for justice causes in his day. I think he’d be happy to hear of places like The Exodus Road, International Justice Mission, and the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Have you read this book or seen the movie? I highly recommend reading the book. Are any of you involved with anti-trafficking organizations?