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From the Editor's desk 28 Jul

The War Cry comments on slavery

This issue of the War Cry highlights slavery

STUDENTS’ decision to cover up a display of Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ in a students’ union building shows that history is still a present topic, as does the criticism of their action. News reports quoted a statement that the poem was painted over because Kipling had written the ‘racist’ poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ and other works that ‘sought to … dehumanise people of colour’.

Similar debates have been taking place about whether other figures should loom large in towns and cities.

Campaigners have been protesting about the presence in Bristol of commemorations – through place names and monuments – of Edward Colston. The Countering Colston group are uncomfortable because, although he gave money to good causes, he made his wealth as a slave trader.

One commentator has even wondered whether Nelson’s Column should be removed from Trafalgar Square, partly because of the naval officer’s opposition to those who were seeking the abolition of the slave trade.

This issue of the War Cry highlights slavery in two other eras.

Paula Gooder speaks about writing a work of fiction set in ancient Rome, a story in which she evokes the life of a freed slave.

Slavery in the Roman Empire may have been different from the transatlantic trade that abolitionists would later fight against, but the ugly fact of history is that both forms played a part in creating wealth for a powerful society.

This week we also interview The Salvation Army’s Estelle Blake, who talks about slavery in another era – our own.

In some ways, it is unlike the systems of the past, but ‘modern slavery’, through practices such as forced labour, is taking place in the economies and societies of which we are a part.

Estelle says: ‘What price are we putting on our chocolate, our coffee, our clothes and mobile phones, our sexual appetites?’ She suggests that people can start to fight modern slavery by using their money wisely.

For good and ill, we are all shaped by history. But we can also help shape history.

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