All around the world, vast numbers of people are trapped.
Hidden away in farms, brothels, sweatshops, fields, kitchens and mines, these people have had their freedom stolen. They have been bought for the meager sum of around $90 and sold like commodities.
They are forgotten by many, unknown by the majority. But they are people with families, friends, brothers, sisters, children. They have hopes and dreams.
But we remember them. You, me, we the church of Jesus Christ – called to act justly and offer the hand of hope to this world. And we stand with them.
This summer, more than 8,500 young people from Soul Survivor – a Christian organization that seeks to help young people “capture first a vision of Jesus, and then to equip, train, empower and release them into his ministry in their everyday lives” – signed a petition asking the United Kingdom government to do more in their fight against modern-day slavery.
They signed their names to say that the fight against slavery must increase. They raised money and gave generously to fund projects that work to raise people out of poverty and away from the hands of the traffickers. They added their prayers, cries and hopes to the mission to end slavery.
You see, slavery doesn’t have to exist – it is a human problem, often caused by poverty and the exploitation of the most vulnerable and it can be ended by humans.
There is an increasing global movement to end slavery, with people and organizations the world over making a stand.
I was fortunate enough to spend some time with some friends at Redlight in Durban, South Africa, this year. They are working to get women out of the sex industry; they pray for them, feed them and help them to find a route out of the industry by helping them learn new skills.
They also go into schools in the townships surrounding Durban to help the poorest young people to understand the issues of human trafficking and modern-day slavery to make them less vulnerable to it.
While I was there, they told me a story that will stay with me for a long time. They meet with not only the girls in the sex industry, but also with some of the pimps who control the women.
Many of the pimps are Nigerian men, from the poorest backgrounds with little education.
But few of them want to be there. In fact, many of them had been trafficked in to the country themselves and were being forced, through coercion and threat of violence, to run the district.
These men were being forced to exploit others while being exploited themselves – a truly tragic story of poverty enslaving the most vulnerable in society. Thankfully, people like Redlight are taking up the fight.
But the fight is happening in the U.K., too – there are more than 70 organizations in the U.K. who are leading the way in stopping slavery in our own country.
There are an estimated 10,000 slaves here in the U.K. – 10,000 slaves in a society that abolished slavery 200 years ago.
I’m certain that William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson and the other abolitionists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries would be taking up arms again.
The U.K. government is already moving in the battle. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is proposing the “Modern Slavery Act” to Parliament, and we are hoping to be able to deliver our petition to her to add weight to the voices calling for this act to pass.
There are a few aspects to the act, but the specific part that will both be controversial and bring incredible change is the TISC (U.K.) Bill. This is asking that there be transparency in supply chains for any companies with a turnover of greater than 100 million pounds (nearly $162 million) annually.
This would mean that they have to disclose their supply chain routes, which companies they work with, where the labor comes from and, essentially, guarantee that they are slave-free from source to sale of all goods.
It would mean that:
â— Men, women and children laboring in Uzbek cotton fields would be set free.
â— Miners extracting coltan for our mobile phones would be set free.
â— Our choices are widened as to who we buy from to ensure that we can buy fairly traded, ethically sourced and guaranteed slave-free goods.
I like the sound of that.
Modern slavery is a vile injustice caused by humans, which means that it can be ended by us too.