Nothing is impossible

"So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the slave trade's wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition”, Stated William Wilberforce as he continued year in and year out to effect change in his society. 18th century English society was a stark contrast to our society: in ideas and thinking, customs and traditions, in rules and sanctions.

The vision for social transformation however, was perpetual. William Wilberforce, rarely heard of today, was an eloquent, passionate member of parliament in 18th century England. It was a time when slavery was an ‘accepted’ practice and the slave trade rampantly growing into an economic benefit; it was a time of civil wars and revolutions all across the globe. So, (you may ask), WHY is this column focusing on some long forgotten period, and WHO, is William Wilberforce and what is his connection to us?

There are three sects of people in the world of social change: firstly, there are those who believe that change is possible and social transformation is a dream that can be fulfilled even in the smallest of acts. Secondly, there are those who believe that change is ‘wishful thinking’ in a world full of violence, selfish interests, selfish gains and inequality.

Lastly, there are those who ‘hope’ for change but are reluctant to do anything about it. Believers in change and social transformation have sometimes been called idealistic or even naïve. If today we are sometimes labeled ‘idealistic’ for desiring to change the world around us, imagine what 18th century society labelled Wilberforce?

Wilberforce had two main dreams: to abolish slavery including the slave trade, and the reformation of manners or morals. He expressed ‘no doubts’ about his chances of success and indeed was optimistic in fulfilling these dreams. But inevitably he met with great opposition. Despite criticism, comments and doubts of his own, he persistently introduced anti-slavery motions in parliament for 18 years, all the while longing for a light at the end of the tunnel. His undying efforts were met with success when finally, in 1807, the slave trade was abolished by an Act of Parliament.

The issue of slavery still prevailed however and he was determined to continue till justice was served. It wasn’t until a few days before his death in 1833 that an Act was passed giving freedom to all slaves in the British Empire. Wilberforce was sometimes pressured to resort to a revolution or violent protests; but he declined and fought for this cause peacefully. His admirable story illustrates that in the midst of adversity, sickness and oppression of every sort, he persevered to fulfill his dream. The result was truly rewarding. The very people who spoke against him and doubted, in turn applauded him. He went on to help children, promote education, health and protection of animals.

Conventions and organizations that upheld human rights were absent at the time; the opposition was great with little to convince agents of change to hold fast to their cause. But transformation did happen although the process may not have been quick.

Today we have a plethora of movements and causes, conventions and organisations striving to make this world a better place. Yesterday, Wilberforce and his supporters believed that nothing was impossible. Today, 3 centuries later, where the process is relatively easier, do we still think it impossible to change the world around us? One man, against all odds, did what he could to help and make the world a bit better than when he first entered it. Can we not do the same? STITCH is helping to change the lives and communities around in many ways.

To find out how you can be a part of it please email ivolunteer@stitchmovement.com or visit www.stitchmovement.com

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