Last weekend our group traveled to Elmina, Ghana for a weekend excursion. We visited the Kakum national forest with its famous ‘canopy walkway’ and spent most of Saturday on the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. We also visited and toured the St. George’s castle in Elmina. This castle has been used for many things over the years. But by far the most galvanizing is its use as a port for the trans-Atlantic slave trade during the seventeenth century. Upon thinking of a word to describe the experience a few came to mind, ‘sobering’ seemed to top the list. The reality of the atrocity of the trans-Atlantic slave trade was visible and palpable. I spent most of the time in the castle feeling emotionally numb. The absurdity of slave trade is obvious simply by reflecting on the loss of humanity. I feel most everyone who visits the slave castle in Elmina prays the same prayer as the plaque in the middle of the castle longs for, “May human kind never again perpetuate this type of wickedness”.
The sad reality is human kind has indeed repeated atrocities of this magnitude. I think of twentieth century Germany where people were again treated as sub-human, shipped away, and stored in conditions suitable only for cargo or goods. I think of places all over the world, where people are being sold daily into the commercial sex industry. The all too true fact is that we as humans have not learned from our dehumanizing actions in the past. We have not grown up, developed, or evolved. The only thing that has happened is our wickedness and wrongdoings are now more sophisticated than ever. No longer are humans being bought and sold in elaborate castles on our coasts for all to see. Today humans are bought or sold behind closed doors in back rooms in a Cambodian brothel, on dark side streets in North American cities, and virtually on the Internet.
Perhaps the most moving moment in the tour for me was seeing a quote etched into a wall. It read, “Until the lion has a historian, the hunter will always be the hero”. The wisdom and brilliance in this idea struck me. It shows me how easily we fail to listen to the perspective of the marginalized. The lion’s story does not go unheard because the lion is voiceless it is because we only listen to the hunter and do not care to listen to the lion. It is not until we are willing to listen to the lion when we understand the absurdity of our actions as humans.
Visiting the slave castle was a memorable experience for me. An experience I will continue to reflect on for at least a few more weeks. I remember learning about the trans-Atlantic slave trade in elementary school. But back then it seemed so far away and so distant. This past weekend the trans-Atlantic slave trade did not seem far away or distant at all.