Friday, March 17, 2006

UNESCO Projects on Slavery: St. Patrick' Day

Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was sold into slavery in the 5th century. After his escape he returned to Ireland, where he had been a slave, and brought Christianity to the island. On this day, dedicated to St. Patrick, it seems appropriate to spotlight UNESCO's concern for slavery.

Check out UNESCO's Lest We Forget: The Triumph Over Slavery Exhibit online.

The Slave Route is UNESCO's portal for a long term project with three major objectives:
* to break the silence surrounding the slave trade and slavery through the historical study of the causes and dynamics of the transatlantic slave trade
* to clarify of the consequences and interactions resulting from the slave trade
* to contribute to the establishment of a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence between races and peoples.
The UNESCO Office in the Caribbean also emphasized its Slave Route Project.

The Slave Trade Archives is a major project to break a silence and make universally known the issue of the transatlantic slave trade and slavery, its causes and dramatic results, by means of scientific work. Under this project historical records of the slave trade have been digitized and made available in new formats:
* The National Library of Brazil's project is considered a model of excellence.
* Haiti, in the middle of civil war, under the threat of death, lack of electricity and political instability, was able to finish on schedule the first CD-ROM.
* Senegal prepared the documents of former French West Africa and inscribed them on the Memory of the World Register.
* Colombia digitised over 150.000 images.
* The Museum of Barbados created an archive for the 14 English-speaking countries of the Caribbean.

2004 was dedicated by the United Nations as Slavery Abolition Year. UNESCO's portal for the commeroration describes its activities.

Unfortunately, involuntary servitude is still with us 1600 years after St. Patrick, and in spite of the progress made in the 19th and 20 centuries. UNESCO's efforts, helping to keep the issue before the public and to further scientific understanding of slavery, are an arm in the international effort to promote and protect human rights!

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