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Our readers asked:

Who was St Peter Claver?

Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:

Born in Spain in 1580, Peter Claver, a bright student, entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and spent most of his life serving the slaves in Cartagena. From 1610 until his death he reached out to those captured by slave traders and brought to the new world. A third of the imprisoned Africans died in transit, the dreaded middle passage. Claver made his life’s mission outreach to these people caught up in the horrors of the slave trade. For over 40 years he brought small gifts (medicine, fruit, brandy, bread, etc.) to those held in cargo holds and shipside slave pens. He catechized and baptized over 300,000 slaves. When invited by the slave traders to lodge in better quarters, Claver chose to stay with the slaves. He reached out to all on the waterfront from sailors to traders to those who worked or were sick in hospitals.

The last four years of his life he suffered illness and was largely forgotten and ignored. It was only on the event of his death that the true scope of his efforts was recognized. During his lifetime he was not much admired and even criticized by his fellow Jesuits and others for wasting his efforts on behalf of the slaves.

Human trafficking is a growing problem worldwide today. “There are more than 30 million slaves in the world today. More than at the height of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade” (http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/about/slavery ). On Dec 2, 2010 CNN’s AC360 aired a special report “American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight.” The example of Peter Claver should make us all work at getting educated about the issue and active in eradicating the grave injustice slavery is.

For more information check out this link: http://www.humantrafficking.org

The Author : Richard G. Malloy, SJ
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
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