Slavery, a state of life closely akin to and intertwined with dhimmitude, is alive and well in the Islamic world. This report comes from Sandro Magister in Chiesa:
"Sudan's first saint, Iosephina Bakhita, was canonized by John Paul II in the year 2000. From an early age she was made a slave, sold and resold at the El Obeid and Khartoum markets. She was fortunate to have ended up in Italy. It was in 1890 that she was finally freed and baptized.
"Yet today, more than a century later, there are still slaves found between the Sahara and the Nile. What's more, it is slavery having its basis in Islam, inheritor of the trade which for centuries has forcibly sent 11-14 million Africans from the sub-Sahara region to Arab and Muslim countries.
"Little is studied or said about the trade, the opposite being true of slave trade directed toward the Americas. The last general assembly of the African Catholic bishops conferences took place in Dakar in October 2003, where a session was dedicated to the issue, being introduced by statements such as the following:
"'Analyses of this issue have been prohibited at length. One cause of the paralysis of this historical conscience has been the attitude of many intellectuals and Muslim rulers regarding the trans-Saharan trade. For reasons of religious sensitivity they don't want to properly admit to Arab and Islamic responsibility in this drama, whose evil effects still continue. Today in the Arab world the word 'black' simply means 'slave.' The tracks of the trans-Saharan trade have formed geographic roads leading to Maghreb and the Middle East.'
"The past is like the present. On one of these roads - currently used by numerous Africans from Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, and Camerun - black emigrants converge to Niger and from there, from Agadez, they face the hard desert until reaching the Libyan coastline. From there they set off for Italy and Europe. In Italy's largest daily, 'Corriere della Sera', one of its correspondents, Fabrizio Gatti, recounted cases of 21st century slavery which he ran across as part of a five-part special report published this past Dec. 24-Jan. 2.
"Along the emigrants' current trans-Saharan route is the Dirkou oasis in Niger, the epicenter of slavery found upon crossing the Téneré desert. Illegal emigrants arrive there broke, having been robbed of everything by soldiers placed at numerous road blocks. Thus, Fabrizio Gatti writes:
"'In order not to die of hunger they work for free in the homes of merchants or in palm groves. They wash pans, do gardening and yard work, gather dates and make bricks. All in exchange for a bowl of millet, noodles, coffee and some cigarettes. Their desire was to reach Italy, but became slaves instead. It is only after months of hard work that the owner lets them go, paying them finally a ticket to Libya: 25,000 African francs or 38.50 euro. Their fear is ending up like those who have been held prisoners for more than a year, who have gone mad and live in the bush.'
"And what is the thinking behind this new slave trade? An infantry corporal with 'Arab looks and surname' explained to the 'Corriere' correspondent, pointing to blacks kneeling in the sand:
"'We already prayed to Allah that they continue playing their drums and eat among themselves like animals. Those over there are not like us. If they can pay their passage to Italy, it means they are rich. They are right in leaving something behind in Niger, something for us who haven't the money to leave.'
"The reporter commented:
"'It's an old story. Arabs and black living along the Niger consider inhabitants of Africa's coasts to be simply inferior. Once they used to cross the Ténéré and Sahara along the same route to buy and resell them as slaves. Today, worse than animals, they pile them into trucks. In comparison, goats and camels ride first class, having room to lay down, hay to eat and water to drink.'
"'East of Niger lays Chad. And after crossing the Nile, one comes to Sudan, a country with a long history of civil war between the Arab and Muslim north (the power holders) and the black, non-Islamicized south. In Sudan slavery continues to be not only practiced by dominant Arabs, but also theorized on the basis of the Koran.'
"A book published in London in June 2003 by the British institute, Civitas, reports that in black populated areas of Sudan, like Bahr El-Ghazal, the Nuba mountains, South Kordofan and Darfur, there are reoccurring raids conducted by armed Arab groups 'to kill most of the men and to abduct women and children into slavery.'
"The book contains testimony by women and children who escaped from slavery and evidences that in the 1990s the practice was encouraged by the National Islamic Front, the leading party in Khartoum headed by Hassan Al-Turabi, an important leader in the Islamic world:
"'Leading NIF figures mobilized the local Arab tribesmen; encouraged them to participate in the jihad; promised them the right to keep slaves as the bounty of war, assuring them that it is justified in the Koran, as a means of conversion to Islam; and provided logistical back-up on 'slave raids' with provisions of horses, weapons and troops.'
"One of the book's authors, Baroness Caroline Cox, is a member and former vice president of the House of Lords - Great Britain's high political assembly. In her first trip to Sudan, Baroness Cox went to a village called Nyamlell in the Bahr El-Ghazal region, where just before her arrival 80 men and 2 women were killed and 283 women and children were abducted as slaves. Afterward, she made another twenty or so trips to Sudan, often in forbidden areas while gathering ever more detailed documentation.
"The book also contains interviews with Arab slave traders, who sustain that the shari'a (Islamic law) authorizes them to enslave children and relatives of men with whom they are at war. They state that they sell slaves to Arabs in other countries.
"A former slave from Karko in the Nuba mountains, Mende Nazer, told her story in a book published last year in German (now in English). Captured in 1992, she was first a slave to a rich family from Khartoum and, then in 2000, to a Sudanese diplomat in London, from whom she escaped seeking political asylum."