Insight into Slavery in the American Continent


By Marta Alves ©2010

St. Paul wrote the Letter to Philemon asking him to take Onesimus back. Paul had met Onesimus in jail.  He was very dear to him and he reminded Philemon of how much he owed him, Paul. He desires Philemon to treat Onesimus (Philemon 1:8-10, 14, 17) not as a slave but as a brother (Philemon 1:16).

Paul is asking a favor and Philemon probably accepted the request because the letter survived. If Philemon would have been upset, in my opinion, he would have destroyed the letter and it would not have been honored and preserved by the Christian community.

Saint Paul is taking a risk knowing that he can trust Philemon making the right decision.

As in the Roman Empire, there was slavery in ancient cultures like in Egypt and in Greece.

After the Roman Empire fell and Western Europe was Christianized slavery as it was known in the Roman Empire disappeared. The feudal system developed in the Middle Ages.  A Lord governed and defended the kingdom and the Monastery attended to the care of the people, educated them and attended to the sick. The serfs were bound to the land and by name they were not slaves but they owed loyalty and were tied to the land.

When Columbus discovered America, he thought he had arrived to India, so he called the inhabitants Indians.  The Spaniards who stayed behind were given an encomienda.  As  the Wikipedia says:

The encomienda is a labor system that was employed mainly by the Spanish crown during the colonization of the Americas and the Philippines. In the encomienda, the crown granted a person a specified number of natives for whom they were to take responsibility. The receiver of the grant was to protect the natives from warring tribes and to instruct them in the Spanish language and in the Catholic faith.  In return, they could exact tribute from the natives in the form of labor, gold or other products, such as in corn, wheat or chickens. [1]


Fray Bartolome de las Casas denounced the ill treatment of the Indians in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba - I was born there  - one of the first six villages founded by Diego Velazquez, and therefore one of the oldest cities in the American continent.

Spain in the middle of the 16th century condemned the enslavement of the Indians, and because of that the trade of African slaves to the Americas began. +


Scripture Verse

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”   Romans 8:15

Personal Reflection

God gave us free will, the will to turn towards him in prayer.  His love is sufficient for me.



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