Jamaica leads Caribbean nations in suing for slavery reparations
Despite merits of case, plantiffs are unlikely to win money.
Jamaica is leading the call for the British government to pay reparations for slavery. The island country is just one of several Caribbean nations asking that the government of Great Britain do more to alleviate the long-term, chronic ills of an institution that has now been outlawed for nearly 200 years.
There can be little question that the descendants of slaves living in the Caribbean are still, by and large, suffering from the long-lasting effects of slavery. Born into the western world, many live impoverished lives, unable to enjoy many western amenities. Even basic social services are inaccessible to many.
Feeling stuck in abject poverty, entire island nations have banded together to demand Great Britain take responsibility for the sins of its past and pay reparations to those who must live with the after-effects of slavery.
By contrast, many in Great Britain, particularly amongst the elite, continue to benefit in some small way from the after-effects of slavery. Prime Minister David Cameron is among those who have been identified as benefiting from slavery. His ancestors owned slaves and profited by their labor.
It is difficult to say where responsibility should end, particularly if benefit to one group persists. However, it is also difficult to say that people, nearly two centuries removed from the offense, should be the ones to pay.
Both parties are right. More must be done to alleviate the plight of the poor, particularly those suffering from the ills of injustice, yet the innocent should not be forced to pay for the sins of their forefathers, many generations removed.
Complicating the issue, the problem is emotionally and racially charged.
Other questions abound. How much benefit does Great Britain enjoy today from slavery? Is it even possible to disentangle the strands of wealth accrued by slave labor and that accrued by legitimate means? How much money is enough? What responsibility for their own condition to the descendants of slavery have today? Have they lacked the opportunity to improve themselves, their government and their nations?
Perhaps most perplexing, is what precedent would this set for other people of other nations? More people than not can easily claim their ancestors were injured in some way and that injury has a lingering impact on the lives of those who live today. If we allow reparations now, when does it stop?
Jamaica and other countries have taken heart that a recent ruling ordered the British government to pay reparations to survivors of British repression in Kenya from 60 years past. However, in that case several of the victims are still alive. The same law firm that represented the victims in that case, Leigh Day.
Also, it should be pointed out that slavery persists today, and there are now more slaves in the world today than there have been at any time in history. Such slavery gets less attention because it is underground, and it is not typically based on race.
What should be done will be proposed by the litigants, who will be presenting a list of 10 demands for Great Britain. What those demands are will be revealed when the case is presented and they will likely include a demand for reparations.
Whatever happens, we must pray for justice for all people. For some offenses, only God can make proper amends.
Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action'...
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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