Living in the Western world, in our modern era, one might think that chattel slavery (the buying and selling of human beings as property) is a thing of the past. They would be mistaken.
Just yesterday, it was reported that widespread human smuggling operations are still ongoing inside Libya, with migrants arriving from West Africa being openly traded in “public slave markets” where they are bought and sold:
One survivor from Senegal spoke of how he was brought by smugglers across Niger in a bus to the southern Libyan city of Sabha, where he was due to risk a boat trip to Europe. When the middleman did not get his fee, the survivor was put up for sale along with other passengers.
He was taken to a prison where he worked without pay while the captors demanded 300,000 West African francs (about £380) before selling him on to a larger jail. Livia Manante, an IOM officer based in Niger, said migrants would be brought to a square where they were put up for sale.
. . .
Those who did not get their ransom paid were often taken away and killed while others would die of hunger and disease in unsanitary conditions.
“If the number of migrants goes down, because of death or someone is ransomed, the kidnappers just go to the market and buy one,” Manente said.
The going rate for a migrant was between $200 (£160) and $500 (£400) each, with many forced into captivity for months before they are freed or sold on. So far this year more than 170 bodies have washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean while the Libyan Coast Guard has also rescued thousands more.
This is horrific.
Unfortunately, it is also the inevitable consequence of abandoning the idea that all human beings have been created in the image of God, and that they have inherent dignity for this reason.
What else does this show us? That worldview matters; that one’s view of God and of fellow human beings matters. What we believe about the dignity of the human race matters. If we believe that God created us in his own image, we will understand that we are accountable to God for how we treat fellow human beings.
Indeed, the whole idea of human rights flows from this notion. Because we have dignity as image-bearers of God, no government may transgress this dignity. From this truth flow certain rights which no government may override—these are called human rights. Among these are the freedom to exercise the religion of one's choice—and the freedom to not be bought and sold as property!
If we ever forget this truth—may God help us!