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King Leopold II of Belgium used forced labor to build his empire in the Congo.

When you think of the world’s worst mass murderers, King Leopold II doesn’t usually come up. But due to his forced labor practices in the Congo, nearly 10 million people lost their lives. He did this by pretending that his actions in that region were a missionary effort. In reality, he forced Africans to harvest wild rubber or risk having their hands cut off.

The truth is even darker than that: it turns out that Leopold was far from the only person doing this. This same era was marked by many major world powers engaging in forced labor. From the US in the Philippines to Arab countries in eastern Africa, much of the modern world was built on forced labor.

Author Adam Hochschild joins us for this episode to discuss his book “King Leopold’s Ghost“.

I first heard about this story on the Noble Blood podcast and their episode “The Red Paint on Leopold II”.

Discussion Questions:
  • Had you heard of King Leopold II before this?
  • Leopold did send missionaries to the Congo. Was that a positive or negative thing for our Christian witness?
  • Did you know that other major countries were engaged in forced labor into WWII?
  • What do you think of the US-backed coup in Congo? Is it okay for the US to get involved in the politics of another nation?
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