Original Research

Redemption and restoration: The anti-slavery/trafficking call of Christian missions in South Africa today

Siphiwe I. Dube
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 4 | a6358 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6358 | © 2021 Siphiwe I. Dube | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 October 2020 | Published: 25 February 2021

About the author(s)

Siphiwe I. Dube, Department of Political Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

This article engages with the religious dimension of the politics of anti-slavery/trafficking and presents an analysis of select Christian-identified organisations working in anti-slavery/trafficking in South Africa. Using website content of the select organisations as primary material, the article argues that in similar ways to the paternalistic early Christian missionary approach to indigenous religious practices, the politics of paternalism persist to this day in the realm of Christian organisations working in anti-slavery in South Africa. That is, the ‘White Saviour Industrial Complex’ identified by Teju Cole is pervasive in the rhetoric of these Christian organisations. Consequently, and firstly, the article further bolsters the argument that the African continent has frequently been treated as a key site for formulating and testing a variety of models of humanitarian assistance, aid and economic development dating from the colonial era to the present neocolonial one. However, and secondly, the article also highlights that there is ambivalence in the ways in which the Christian anti-slavery/trafficking organisations in South Africa take up a key feminist concept of empowerment as informing how they understand their work. As such, the article proposes that caution be applied in critically engaging the discourse of these organisations.

Contribution: This article engages with the religious dimension of the politics of anti-slavery/trafficking and presents an analysis of select Christian-identified organisations working in anti-slavery/trafficking in South Africa. The article illustrates how the intersection of political studies and religion is part of the journal’s focus on interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary contested discourse.


Keywords

anti-trafficking; anti-slavery; Christianity; paternalism; redemption; restoration; South Africa

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