Peter Claver was born in Spain at the beginning of the African slave trade to the Spanish colonies. When he became an adult, traders were bringing large numbers of people across the Atlantic from Western Africa to work in those territories. Claver, a Jesuit priest, would meet the ships at the port. He would board the slave ships and go directly to the hold where the people were kept in squalor during the journey. (One-third of those who boarded the ships in Africa died on the way.) Claver would do what he could to relieve their suffering. In the market, where the people were kept in pens before being sold into slavery, Claver would regularly sit with them and try to offer comfort as they waited for the decisions of the buyers. As he ministered directly to African people in Spanish colonies, Peter Claver worked to end the slave trade, always against the orders of the legal establishment and often against the wishes of his religious superiors. Peter Claver died in 1654.
As we pause to think of women and men like Peter Claver we get clues as to our proper positions in the world as Christian women and men, and as a congregation. Last week I read some lines by Bonhoeffer about seeing the world through the eyes of those who suffer. From that perspective, and in those places, we will find Christ our Lord. He leads us there.
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