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The Caribbean 2005

Our contacts in the Caribbean started in a rather remarkable way...

Andrew Winter, who is one of our trustees, was on holiday with his family in Barbados. His wife Vonnie is from the island. One day, as they were driving round, they came across a property which had obviously once been a slave plantation. Then they noticed that this place, called Thicket Plantation, was actually a Youth With A Mission location. When Andrew walked in there, he met four people who were obviously having an earnest conversation. As Andrew began to share why they had stopped and to describe the Lifeline Expedition, they were all amazed! They had just been talking about their plans to respond to the legacy of the slave trade in the Caribbean and in particular they had been praying about making contact with people in England! As a result of this remarkable meeting, we began to talk with those people about plans for the Caribbean in 2005.

The Caribbean is, of course, a most important region as far as the legacy of slavery is concerned. Here unspeakable horrors were inflicted upon the millions forcibly transported from Africa to enrich Europeans with forced labour. Their descendants form the majority of the population in most islands and the legacy in terms of poverty and disadvantage is still much in evidence. There is great need for healing and reconciliation. 

The Lifeline Expedition to the Caribbean took plave between October 22 - November 5 2005. The main theme for the expedition was "entry points." In the first week, October 22-29, the team was in Barbados, which is the easternmost island and was the main entry point for the British slave trade. Then teams went to the Spanish entry point of Cartagena, Colombia, the Dutch entry point of Curacao and the French entry points of Martinique & Guadeloupe.

The expedition was a profound experience for those who took part...

 Rose Harrison from England, whose forbears were managers in Barbados plantations commented, "It was an amazing time in so many ways - challenging, revelatory, encouraging and restorative." 

On one day in Barbados the team visited Drax Hall Plantation. For Vonnie Winter this was especially poignant because her enslaved ancestors had worked there and she was anxious about how she would feel as she had never been there before. What happened was beautiful to behold! She had an overwhelming sense of the courage and fortitude of her ancestors and she felt rightly proud of them. It was a surprising healing
time for her and it was unmistakable how she walked like a princess for the
rest of the week!

 In Curacao, Ghanaian Joseph Ankrah had the opportunity to explain that quite probably his fore uncle was captured and sold into slavery in Curacao. " I saw the Curacaoan as a long lost cousin of mine. This offered me the opportunity to apologize to my cousin - the Curacaoan - for the role my forefathers in Africa played in being accomplices with the white man in the slave trade. Whenever I expressed this apology it was received gladly by Curacaoans and we embraced each other and shed tears of joy - for me this was the epitome of the whole expedition: the African from Africa finds and embraces his long lost cousin while the African exported to the Caribbean also finds and reconnects to his African roots. On one occasion a slave descendant came to me and said: ‘Joseph, you healed a pain in my heart when you expressed the apology and we embraced each other. Now I look forward to visiting Africa not as a mere visitor or tourist but as one who belongs there.' "

The African American psychiatrist Amos Wilson has said that, "history is a current event" - nowhere was this more evident than in Colombia. It is named after Christopher Columbus and the guerrillas in the current civil war begin each day by saying "Kill the Spanish invaders or die." In Cartagena, the team visited a school where a small boy got out a toy gun and went, ‘pop, pop, pop...'. "What are you doing?" asked a teacher. "I'm shooting whites", he replied. Fortunately, both at that school and elsewhere the team were able to share the message of reconciliation and in particular white people walking humbly in the yokes and chains made a deep impression.

In every location there was extensive media coverage. The walks in Barbados were covered by Associated Press and the BBC World Service.  In Curacao, the Lifeline team had the privilege of an hour with His Excellency Mr Frits Goedgedrag, Governor-General of Curacao and Mr Etienne Ys, the Prime Minister.  

The Lifeline Expedition leaves behind a legacy and local participants will continue the work of reconciliation. As Barbadian resident Rowland Whitehead comments "Thank you so much for your strong partnership and inspiring us to press on with the process of reconciliation/reparation which we are now seeing even more to be so vital to kingdom development here."

For further information contact the following...

David Pott or
Carol Aird in Barbados


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