On Slavery, Islam, the Sack of Baltimore – and “a Thief in the Night”

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Today, 20th June 2015, marks the 384th anniversary of “the sack of Baltimore.” On the night of 20th June 1631 Muslims from North Africa’s Algeria made a surprise raid on the village of Baltimore which lies on the coast of west Cork in Ireland. Thomas Osborne Davis (1814-1845) the Irish poet and politician describes the dreadful scene in his poem which is quoted in Des Ekin’s book “The Stolen Village.”

Most of those villagers (men, women and children) were carried far away to a life of slavery in North Africa; apparently only two of them ever saw Ireland again. I wonder what terrible stories they would have to tell us if they were alive today?

The Sack of Baltimore is said to have been “the most devastating invasion ever mounted by Islamist forces on Ireland or England.” Some of the prisoners would spend the rest of their lives chained to oars as galley slaves, while others may have been prisoners in harems. I can only imagine their horror as they tried to grow accustomed to the stifling heat of a new climate, while the peaceful seaside village that they once knew became a mere part of their dreams.

Today most people view slavery in terms of European slave traders whisking African prisoners away to a life of forced labour, something which was abhorrent to William Wilberforce, the Christian who headed the parliamentary campaign for the Abolition of Slavery. William Wilberforce (1759-1833) is said to have trusted the Saviour in 1785 and went on to campaign for many other worthy causes, including the Society for the Prevention of Vice, the foundation of the Church Missionary Society and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The words slave/slaves are only mentioned twice in the Bible (Authorised Version), given as an account, as it was part of the culture during certain periods of history. However, I believe that the Lord never intended that any man, woman or child should ever be a slave; even though, despite their slavery many souls triumphed in adversity and became followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed!” (John 8v36)

As opposed to this, the Koran, on the other hand allows slavery and there is evidence to suggest that slaves still exist in many parts of the Islamic world, particularly in Saudi Arabia, even though Saudi Arabia and Yemen are said to have abolished slavery in 1962. However, there are countries which presently claim that slavery has the sanction of Islam and within these countries slavery is said to be a current practice; these include Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Mali and Sudan.

Today we are facing the threat of invasive change on a global scale… but the invaders are much more subtle in their approach, pointing to ‘political correctness’ to further their aims and rapidly gaining positions of power in the political world. Nevertheless, for those who know Jesus as Saviour – “here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13v14)

I cannot even begin to imagine the trauma for those villagers in Baltimore all those years ago, when men, women and children were literally stolen away. The Algerian Muslims descended upon their peace “like a thief in the night.”

In 2Peter 3v10 we also read of a thief in the night: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

The villagers of Baltimore never for one moment expected such a terrible thing to happen to the peaceful security of their lives in that village in the southwest tip of Ireland. They had no warning at all.

On the other hand, there is a warning to those who live in the world today of that ‘Day of the Lord’ which is to come. We are warned of this many many times in God’s Word and for those who are His servants it is our duty to warn others of His coming again – this time to judge the world.

“Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” (Revelation 16v15)

As the signs of the times show us that “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5v8) may those who have never trusted Him, turn to the Lord in repentance and may those who know the Him as Saviour, be faithful to loved ones, neighbours, friends, acquaintances – yes, and even the very stranger they meet in day to day life…

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