The church was built in 1873 (ten years in the process) immediately after the abolition of the slave trade, and on one of the walls hangs a wooden cross carved from the tree under which David Livingstone’s heart was buried in Zambia.
Livingstone was appalled by the evils of the slave trade and worked tirelessly in campaigning for its abolition. Zanzibar was the centre to which the millions of slaves captured in east Africa were taken to be sold in the Middle East and India.
Once the slave trade was ended, the slave market area was chosen as the site for the first church on the island, signifying the redemption that mankind has received in Christ. Powerful thought!
Underneath the church site are two of the slave chambers that have been kept as part of the memorial to those who suffered there. All the others were sealed off when the church was built. We were able to see the dark, dank airless chambers where men, women and children were crammed in waiting to be auctioned…it was crushing to think of the suffering that humans have caused each other.
The most significant part of the church is the altar that was built on the exact spot where the whipping post was located. The slaves were taken from the underground chambers and whipped in the auction area to determine their cost. Those who did not cry out were considered stronger and fetched a higher price. Circle on the floor in front of the altar was the base of the post.
Motivated by the unbounded love of God, Livingstone and others like him stood against this evil and thousands of slaves were freed. The hotel we stayed in for our last two nights in Stone Town is called 236 Hurumzi . The name “Hurumzi” comes from the Swahili words “urhuru” (freedom) and “mze” (men) and this was the building where slave owners came to receive compensation for the price of the slaves they were setting free.
Thank God for His Son whom we celebrate each Christmas “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:14).