“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1
Three years ago, Young Life Africa started a pilgrimage along the historic slave caravan route in Tanzania from Ujiji to Bagamoyo. Here, millions of men and women were chained together and then sold to Arab slave traders in the Zanzibar slave market in the 19th century. But in 2017 – hundreds of years later – over 200 Young Life Africa staff, committee and friends representing 25 countries walked, prayed, sang, talked, healed, established Young Life connections and worshipped along the 1200 km route. Why? To “break the chains” of pain and suffering. The 2014, the Freedom Walk ended at Bagamoyo near Dar Es Salaam on the coast of the Indian Ocean. In Swahili, “Bagamoyo” means “lay my heart down” – what so many Africans were forced to do by their captors.
But…the Freedom Walk was not complete.
In July 2017, the Freedom Walk was finished in a powerful way. Members of the Young Life Africa/Middle East committee and friends, in Tanzania for the 2017 Africa Retreat, joined staff from across Africa and the Middle East to carry chains from the 2014 Walk down the dirt road to the cross which stands at the beach where Bagamoyo meets the Indian Ocean. Country flags flew and were passed from hand to hand, allowing everyone to participate. Voices lifted in song to break chains of bondage from years past and present.
Cries of anguished prayer and beseeched forgiveness at the foot of the cross over past sins of slavery and persecution allowed reconciliation and healing. Each region of Africa and the Middle East was prayed over.
The symbolic final crossing from Bagamoyo to Zanzibar was made by Simon Okiria from Uganda and Irene Mwasanga of Tanzania, two elders on the Young Life Africa/Middle East staff. They left the shores of Tanzania in a wooden dhow, a sailboat similar to what was used in slave trading times while Amazing Grace was sung and cries of hallelujah rang out as the boat broke through the shore waves and headed out to sea. Simon and Irene took the chains, which had been carried across Tanzania, on to Zanzibar to complete the journey.
The group reunited with Simon and Mama Irene the next morning as their boat arrived in Stonetown, Zanzibar. From there, the crowd walked together down cobblestone streets to curious stares – flags waving, chains held up, singing songs of praise and worship. It didn’t matter that not everyone understood the lyrics. It felt powerful and holy. Leaders prayed for freedom from slavery of all kinds – addiction, atheism, poverty, oppression. For pain and suffering to be redeemed; for chains to be broken. The walk finished at the old slave market and cathedral, which was built as a memorial to those who suffered there. A moment of reflection and silence to remember what African brothers and sisters endured. Then, flags and chains were carried into the church and up to the chancel for joyous song and sacred prayer. Freedom. Reconciliation. Chains Broken. Healing in Jesus. Peace.