I have been thinking of people, current or historical, who have made a real impact and helped to make the world a better place. The first one to spring to mind is William Wilberforce who guided the anti-slavery legislation through the British Parliament.
Not that he did it all alone. Many campaigners worked tirelessly to change the mind of the British people to the point when they said with a loud voice, “This is no longer acceptable, the law must be changed”.
The Slave Trade
The first step was to abolish the iniquitous slave trade. A “golden triangle” of trade existed between Europe, Africa and The Americas. Ships would set sail with cheap trinkets that would be bartered for slaves in Africa. They would then be shipped in appalling conditions across the Atlantic to America. These would then be auctioned off and the ships loaded with goods bound for Europe. This was a lucrative trade and vast fortunes were made.
The first attempt to bring the matter before parliament was a dismal failure. The vested interests against Wilberforce were powerful. “If we were to stop the trade the French would fill the gap”, people said. (Sounds familiar? The same argument has been used about arms trade!)
Leaflets were produced with diagrams showing the layout of the slaves on the ships. Gradually a great ground swell of public opinion influenced the politicians and Wilberforce was able to able to bring the matter again before parliament with the result that the slave trade was abolished.
Freedom for slaves throughout the British Empire.
The first battle was won. Now Wilberforce and his fellow abolitionists set their sites on the nothing short of full abolition of slavery. It was a long battle, but finally parliament passed a law making slavery illegal throughout the British Empire and setting free many thousands of slaves.
The final battle was won in the last 3 days of Wilberforce’s life. He finally saw the fulfillment of his dream and his life-time’s work. We can only imagine the emotion and joy he felt and he was able to die at peace.
Wilberforce is one of my heroes because he was not afraid to put his Christian faith into action and take on insuperable vested interests to right an enormous wrong. He was a man of enormous vision who was able to see a different future in spite of thousands of years of history.
Are we able to see a better world in our generation and take action to see the injustices in our world overthrown just as Wilberforce did in his day?