THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY IN MAURITIUS AND THE CHALLENGES OF MODERN SLAVERY
A spiritual perspective to the fight against modern slavery
On this 1st of February 2018, we will once again commemorate the Abolition of slavery in Mauritius. May this commemoration of the Abolition of slavery be a day to reflect on our origins, and an opportunity for the younger generation to develop an objective understanding of the foundations on which our Mauritian society has been built!
Mauritius has been shaped by the slavery and post-slavery period. From the settlement of the Dutch in 1638 till the end of slavery on 1st of February 1835, under British governance, it is estimated that a total of some 160,000 slaves reached Mauritius and Réunion between 1670 and 1810, of which 87% came from various regions in Africa and 13% from India. Le Morne cultural landscape has been inscribed on the World Heritage list by UNESCO since 6 July 2008, recognising the historical site in memory of slavery in Mauritius.
It has been acknowledged that slavery, unfortunately, did not end with its abolition in the 19th century but still continues and harms people in every country of the world in a new form of modern slavery.
The 1956 UN supplementary convention said: "Debt bondage, serfdom, forced marriage and the delivery of a child for exploitation, are all slavery-like practices and require criminalisation and abolishment"
Today, various forms of human trafficking exist around the world including forced labour, sex trafficking, child labour, commercial sexual exploitation of children and child soldiers. Entire families are forced to work for nothing to pay off generational debts and girls forced to marry much older men.
According to the 2014 Global Slavery Index, almost 36 million people are currently caught up in some form of modern slavery and the International Labour Organization estimates that organized crime networks reap about 150 billion dollars a year from trafficking in persons, about 80 percent of that from prostitution.
POVERTY AND MODERN SLAVERY
It has been observed that people who live in poverty and have limited opportunities for decent work are more vulnerable to accepting deceptive job offers that can turn exploitative. People who are discriminated against on the basis of race, caste, or gender are also more likely to be enslaved. Slavery is also more likely to occur where the rule of law is weaker and corruption is rife.
PLEDGE TO WORK TOGETHER TO END MODERN SLAVERY BY 2020
Pope Francis and leaders of other churches and religions signed a declaration pledging to work together to help end modern slavery in the world by 2020 and they urged governments, businesses and all people of good will to join forces against this "crime against humanity."
Said the pope at the ceremony Dec. 2, the U.N. Day for the Abolition of Slavery: Every human person is born with the same dignity and freedom, and any form of discrimination that does not respect this truth "is a crime and very often an abhorrent crime,"
THE FIGHT AGAINST MODERN SLAVERY IN MAURITIUS AND WORLDWIDE
There is no doubt that spiritual people as well as those of faith should play an important role in the fight against modern slavery and all forms of human trafficking in Mauritius and worldwide.
To achieve this human and moral imperative, an awakening of the human conscience is needed. It is said: “As is our vision, so is our world!”
A slave was not considered to be a human being but a resource, just like a horse; his value was mainly based on his usefulness to the slave master and his business. If we look into this definition, we can notice that both ancient and modern slavery is based on the same principle.
As long as our outlook towards a human person remains physical, we will continue to treat them as horses or as profit making machines. The souls that inhabit the human bodies have spiritual needs of dignity, respect, freedom, love and understanding. We are all born with these and are all equal. The limited vision of seeing only the body and the failure in recognising that we are all souls, equal, with the same right to live in dignity and freedom, becomes the basis of all types of evils such as lust, greed, attachment, anger and ego.
In a way, we are all slaves! Slavery can never be completely abolished until we free ourselves from these evils. Spiritual awakening and the spiritual practice of Raja Yoga (the mastery over all sense organs and all negative tendencies) can eventually empower humanity to fight slavery of the mind and pave the way to abolishing slavery in all its forms.