Peter was born in Catalonia, now part of Spain.
He became a Jesuit. As a young man he was encouraged to be an evangelist in the Americas by Alfonso Rodriguez, who was later canonised on the same day as Peter.
He went to Cartagena in what is now Columbia, and he became an apostle to the African slaves.
The salve trade was repeatedly condemned by the Popes. However, those who profited from it refused to stop it. The local Church authorities did not do enough to stop it.
He did his best to look after those unfortunate people, taken away by force from their homelands and forced into slavery.
He did his best to improve their lot and to look after their physical and spiritual needs.
This made him unpopular with those who profited from this unjust and inhuman practice.
Many fashionable ladies refused to enter his Church ‘contaminated’ by the presence of the slaves!!
It did not deter him!
Peter had clarity about his Christian faith. He believed, as our faith teaches us, that all human beings are equal. He did not let convenience and cultural practices deter him from naming the truth of the evil practiced in the slave trade, and in racism.
So many others in his time allowed themselves to be blinded by profit and convenience, as well as by prejudice.
Peter was a prophet in his time; we are called to be prophets in our own times.
Pope Francis in the encyclical ‘Laudato ‘si’ called us all to be aware of injustices done in our own time. There are many forms of slave labour in our time. ‘Sweat shops’ produce cheap clothing and other materials which are sold in our shops here in Australia. These items are often cheap because of the manner in which they are produced. Poor people desperate to make a living, work for very little in often sub-human conditio
Racism is still alive and real, often in subtle ways.
We need to be vigilant so as not to be part of these things, and not to offer any support to the mistreatment of others.
Like Peter Claver, we are called to be prophets championing those who are exploited or discriminated against. Vested interest should not get in the way of our Christian calling.