Uriah Kriegel, who teaches philosophy at the University of Arizona, reports that slavery is alive and flourishing in some regions of the world. “Not many Americans know it,” Kriegel explains, “but December 2 was International Abolition of Slavery Day. Not many know this either: the institution of slavery — abolished 150 years ago in most of the Western world — is still alive and well in many of the more shadowy parts of the world.”

Kriegel is right, of course. Most Americans think of human slavery as a tragic and haunting reality of the past, but not of the present. He reports:

One place where slavery still flourishes is the Sudan, which is one of the most wretched corners of the earth. Sudan is mired in problems — a ruthless civil war, intense religious, ethnic, and gender oppression, and, most remarkably, rampant and well-established slavery. At present there appear to be no less than 100,000 slaves in the Sudan (population, 35 million). Muslim tribes from the north raid pagan and Christian villages in southern Sudan routinely with the express purpose of kidnapping children for enslavement.

Why is there no publicity or outcry? One of the main reasons our awareness of modern slavery remains so meager is that the flagship human rights organizations seem completely uninterested in the phenomenon. This is primarily because the perpetrators do not represent the kind of highly visible figures NGOs are eager to confront. Most human rights groups are driven today by a single, superficial principle: oppose the powerful and back the weak, no matter what the powerful stand for or what the weak stand for. Perhaps the best example of such is Amnesty International, an erstwhile respectable organization that has, over the past few years, morphed at time into a well-oiled anti-American propaganda machine. (As I write this, the lead article on the Amnesty International Web site, is about the treatment of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and Bagram AFB. There is not a single mention of the horrors in Sudan on the front page.)

More: Instead of raising awareness and battling the existence of real-time slavery, the International Abolition of Slavery Day has become yet another occasion to rehash arguments for slave reparations in the US. Whatever your position on the issue of reparations, financial compensation to people whose current lives are comfortable (by comparison) should not take precedence over the liberation of actual slaves living in complete misery and utter destitution all over the African continent. Isn’t there something rather perverse about the fact that concern for the treatment of terrorists agitates many of today’s mainstream activists much more than concern for southern Sudanese people in the thralldom of Islamic fundamentalists?

Professor Kriegel commends the American Anti-Slavery Group for “standing tall” in the fight against slavery. The group’s Web site is an invaluable resource.  Give special attention to the Slavery Today section, and look at the reality of slavery around the world — even close to home.

As for the church, where is the spirit of William Wilberforce for this generation?