Monday, February 12, 2007

A Tribute to Two Great Men: Abraham Lincoln & William Wilberforce

I am old enough to remember when we actually honored President Abraham Lincoln by commemorating his birthday, before Americans fell into the ugly trend of taking most holidays on Monday and treating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln' and of George Washington (February 22) as one generic holiday called "Presidents' Day," which no one actually celebrates, except car dealers and certain other businesses by holding big sales.

On this day, February 12, it is fitting and proper that we should honor two men who shared a portion the same century, the nineteenth, but were separated by an ocean, accomplis
hed the extraordinary feat of ending slavery in their respective nations: William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833) and Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). Due principally to the indefatigable efforts of Wilberforce, slavery was outlawed in the British Empire on March 25, 1807, just under two years before Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12.

The story of William Wilberforce's labors to bring slavery to an end in the British Empire is told in the movie to be released this month (Feb 23, 2007), Amazing Grace, the account of the influence Jo
hn Newton, former slave ship captain had upon Wilberforce. This is the bicentenary of John Newton's death. Dying on December 21, 1807, the former slave ship captain lived long enough to see slavery ended in his beloved homeland and throughout the British Empire.

William Wilberforce is one of many favorite sons and graduates of St. John's College, Cambridge University. Suitably, St. John's College Chapel narthex features a marble statue of William Wilberforce seated.

For an account of factors that played roles in Wilberforce's conversion to follow Christ Jesus, look here.

Thanks to the labors, courage, and sacrifice of William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln, our world is quite different from what it once was. Slavery is no more in Britain and America. Most regrettably, slavery persists in altogether too many places in the world, most notably in Africa, where Muslims continue to enslave non-Muslim Africans. For further details, read
The Unknown Slavery: In the Muslim world, that is -- and it's not over.