Saturday, September 28, 2013

History: Slave Raiders

MariaElena at Fountain of Elias reminds us that Sept 24 is the (pre Vatican II) feast of Our Lady of Ransom. This feast was one of the church's way of reminding folks of the many captured by various pirates and to raise money to ransom them.

The origins of the Feast can be found in the little known Mercedarian Order. This was founded in the early thirteenth century by St Peter Nolasco and St Raymond of Penafort (who can both be seen at Our Lady's feet in the picture above) to ransom Christian slaves taken by the Muslims during their frequent raids on Europe. 

True, the slave traders were all over the place, including the Lydian pirates who kidnapped Julius Caesar to the Irish ones who kidnapped St. Patrick, or the Vikings who made a lot of money selling Irish captives to the now whitewashed land of Muslim Andalucia, or the Slavs to the Muslims in Bagdad.

The church feast was mainly about trying to ransom those captured by the North African slavers: and they didn't just prey on ship and villages along the Mediterranean either.

While googling about Icelandic literature, I ran into this story of the Icelandic poet Halgrim Peturson and the story of how he helped those ransomed after a raid on Iceland:

Between three and four hundred persons were
taken captives chiefly by the Algerians, and sold
as slaves in the market at Algiers. Many suffered
great cruelty, largely in the form of persecution
for their faith. They were " chained in in
supportable positions, beaten on the hands and
faces, exposed naked in public places, and again
beaten until they lost the power of speech." At
length, however, an Icelander was allowed to
carry a petition to the King of Denmark, asking
for 1,200 rix-dollars as a ransom price for the
surviving captives. A subscription was raised
in Iceland, to which the King of Denmark him
self largely contributed. This was paid over in
due course, and in 1637, ten years after the raid,
thirty-four survivors out of the hundreds taken
were set at liberty.

If this sounds familiar, it's because the pirates of Somali are doing the same to the merchant seamen who they capture, and of course, various terror groups and criminals have made a fortune on kidnapping civilians all over the world...(even here, Lolo worries and won't let me travel alone on the street, even though they caught the local kidnap gang last year).

It's no longer correct to remember the good old days when Muslim states allowed the slave trade to flourish, so the slave trade from Europe is pretty well ignored today, although as StrategyPage Points out, it still exists today and is one of the back stories not usually mentioned when you read about the wars of Africa: Mali, Ethiopia and even the recent mall attack in Kenya was by a Somalian terrorist group (funded by ransom money for the seamen they captured) all  have their roots in the Arab slave trade against their black neighbors.

So although the history books prefer to forget any perfidy if done by politically correct groups, the tragedies of history are still remembered, at least by those of us old enough to remember the pre Vatican II days, when we still were allowed to celebrate feasts such as Our Lady of Ransom and Our Lady of Victories (which celebrated the battle of Lepanto that saved much of Europe from falling to the Ottoman empire).

And here in the Philippines, not only do we have our Lady of Peace Shrine on the EDSA (to commemorate the People power revolution against Marcos) but Our Lady of La Naval de Manila, which commemorates the Spanish victory that kept the British from conquering the Philippines.

Finally, although the opponants of the American takeover of the Philippines (including my relatives) would prefer to forget it, the bloody war by the Americans against the Moros of the south is how those slave traders were finally stopped.
The American zeal to gradually abolish slavery, and its refusal to make a distinction between criminal debt bondage and chattel slavery, was the first strike against the traditional “pyramidal power structure” that provided for the existence of the ruling datu class. Imperialism was the only means of eliminating slavery – to give the Moros complete autonomy was to tolerate its continuation. The American military officers and civilians genuinely sought to abolish slavery and recognized that this required coercive force.

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