Four hundred years ago, on Aug. 20, 1619, the first African slave was brought to Virginia. Along with him came the curse of slavery.
The slave trade is as old as humanity, with African slaves being sold to Arab slavers long before Europeans appeared. The Europeans, however, took slave trading to a whole new level as they used Africans in the New World to replace the Native American populations who had been decimated by European diseases. By the time African slave trade had been brought to an end, almost 10 million Africans had been brought to the New World. Millions more died in the passage.
The curse of slavery fell hardest on Africa. The work of catching and selling slaves was done by local African kings and traders. In exchange they received European goods and weapons, enabling them to expand their power to catch more slaves. However, the incessant warfare depopulated and destabilized both victors and victims. Ultimately the African kings were subdued by the Europeans. Even today, much of the poverty in Africa can be traced back to the slave trade and its aftermath.
European slavers also suffered greatly from the slave trade. Since they had no immunity to African diseases, over half died in their first year in Africa, and only 10% made it back alive. The slave ships took yellow fever and other African diseases to the New World, creating deadly disease zones in the jungles of Central and South America. Areas like the Amazon River Basin, which had supported large Native American populations, became virtually uninhabitable. Only in modern times has science rolled back the areas dominated by the deadly African diseases.
The Americans also fell prey to the curse of slavery as the institution undermined American values and then divided the country. The American Civil War was fought to end slavery, and one American died for each person left in slavery after the revolution who was denied the benefit of the Declaration of Independence that all men were created equal. Even today, race relations remain strained because of the curse of slavery. Every so often we get a reminder of our past, as we have with the racial riots in Ferguson, and Baltimore and white supremacist violence in Charleston.
Some have tried to use the Bible to support slavery, but they twist the Scriptures to do so. Slavery was a fact of life in the ancient world, but God established Israel with laws that forgave debts and gave liberty to slaves every seven years. Our modern bankruptcy laws come from God's debt forgiveness laws.
Slavery, like its modern cousins socialism and communism, is a manifestation of the spirit of money, or mammon, which steals the labor of its victims. Make no mistake; God wants to see people set free from bondage.
Let us pray that the curse of slavery will be banished from our world. We must ask and give forgiveness so that God's blessings can bring healing, and reverse the curse, so it may one day be said of us that "an undeserved curse does not come to rest" (Prov. 26:2b, NLT).
Ron Allen is a Christian businessman, CPA and author who serves in local, national and international ministries, spreading a message of reconciliation to God, to men and between believers. He is founder of the International Star Bible Society, telling how the heavens declare the glory of God; the Emancipation Network, which helps people escape from financial bondage; and co-founder with his wife, Pat, of Corporate Prayer Resources, dedicated to helping intercessors.
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