Regrettably, the history of our world is beset with enormous atrocities. Tragically, the barbarism of the African slave trade is forever memorialized on a quiet beach in West Africa. Marking the exact location where slaves bound in chains walked the warm sandy beach up creaky wooden planks to board slave ships bound for Europe and America, stands a monument erected with words in French, “the Port of no Return.” One can now only conjure the unspeakable horror that took place on this beach. Two centuries later, the place is eerily quiet with only the sounds of lapping waves and an occasional yelp of a fishing seagull to invade the silence. During my visit to the African nation of Benin (Monday April 11, 2011), which is the site of the Port of No Return, ICM Partner Rev. Romain Zannou escorted me to this hallowed beach so I might learn more about mankind’s inhumanity to man. The ravages of sin and the profound depravity of our species have rarely been more evident in my mind than at this place. But my friend Romain did not bring me here to demonstrate the white man’s guilt. He wanted me to see the whole story of slavery, including the complicity, told through excavated artifacts, parchment bills of sale and artist’s depictions of the mass abuse and murder. The 11 African Kings who ruled in this region in the early to mid 18th Century were willing accomplices and profiteers who partnered with foreigners to sell human beings so that they could become rich themselves. The extreme cruelty inflicted on their subjects is beyond words. The Kings would first send mercenaries into villages to burn huts, driving screaming families out into the darkness where they were abducted and hauled to Ouidah, Benin and the Port of No Return. There they were beaten and starved to test who was strongest, as it was they who commanded the highest price. Some slaves died and were thrown into a mass grave. The wounded or sick were also thrown into the grave with the dead and buried alive. The strong ones were then chained and led in a march to the beach, where they took one long last look at their homeland before venturing out to sea on the slave ship. If they could endure two months on the ocean, living on dry bread and water, crammed like sardines in the bowels of the big boat, they would begin their life sentence of hard labor in the new world. If the died or became sick in transit, their bodies were thrown overboard as shark bait.
Back in Ouidah, Benin; the African Kings counted their money.
ICM, in obedience to Almighty God, who is more intimately aware of the crimes against His African children than we are, has begun to build churches in the villages of modern day Benin. The redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ is already permeating this land, in part, because of the efforts of our Partner and his partnership with ICM. Prayerfully, this work will continue until we all depart this life and enter into the joy of the Lord in the Kingdom of God. That departure will also be from a “port of no return,” but unlike the slave journey that began at this beach of sadness, we will be on our way to Paradise.