What does slavery mean in the 21st century? Grace Baxter looks at the global problem of human trafficking, with an estimated 27 million people in slavery, and what we can do to make a difference.
Stop the Traffik advert
If I said the word 'slavery' to you, what would be your first thought? William Wilberforce? The abolition of the slave trade? Amazing grace? Whatever first comes to mind, our immediate reaction to the idea of slavery seems to be referring to a period of time in the past, a stain on human history, but history nonetheless. But in reality, there are more slaves today than there ever have been. This harrowing fact is a reality mostly attributable to the horrific industry of trafficking.
Trafficking is where a person is sold and transported against their will, often forced into sexual exploitation, a victim of abuse, subject to being sold and trafficked again in the future. Currently, a person is trafficked across a border every minute, trapped in an industry which earns as much worldwide revenue as Coca Cola, twice over. The secrecy of it all makes it hard to gather statistics, but what is clear is that the scale of the problem is enormous. In some senses, it is one of the best kept secrets of our day. You'd be forgiven for wandering around South Kensington, enjoying its wealth and grandeur, blissfully unaware of the 240 brothels hidden in the borough. I don't want to suggest that these all house trafficked women, but I shudder to think what the figure is; even one is one too many. This tragedy is (almost) invisible in many respects, which is one of the reasons why it's so problematic. This really is one of the greatest evils of our time.
London's a funny place. Like most other cities around the world, it is, to use the anthropologists' favourite phrase, a melting pot. People from all walks of life live here, we've got Big Ben, St Paul's Cathedral, 24 hour cafes...you name it, London's got it. But even modern, multi-cultural London is still a partaker in this tragedy, receiving people into its city as if they were possessions, items to be bought and sold. What is so unnerving about this particular form of injustice is the secrecy of it. That as I walk to university, or go to church, this unspeakable evil is quite literally all around, that men, women, and children are conned into situations with the false promises of a better life.
This is not God's longing for His people, to see His precious created beings mistreated and abused in this way. Proverbs 31:8-9 reads, 'Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.' You'd be hard pressed to find a more practical application for this Scripture. If our God is a God of justice, if the Church is the body of Christ, then the Church should be leading the way to see this horrific industry brought to its knees. You may have seen that Matt Redman and LZ7 recently released a song called '27 million', after the estimated number of people in slavery globally, which at its peak reached number 13 in the iTunes chart. It's amazing to see this issue exposed, getting the attention it so desperately needs. We can't all produce a single, but we can choose to take the words of Proverbs seriously and figure out ways in which we can 'speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves'.
Ways to get involed
April 5th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Grace Baxter