According to the Global Slavery Index there are 45 million slaves in the world today. That’s more than at any other time in history.
Today, on Anti-Slavery Day, I urge you to start seeing the people behind these startling statistics;
The families in debt bondage in brick kilns in India. The young boys in forced labour slavery in the fishing industry in Ghana. The young girls being bought and sold for sex in brothels in South East Asia. The children who are sexually exploited online through cybersex trafficking.
When we put faces to these statistics it changes everything.
If you had the chance to look into the eyes of a small child forced to work for 18 hours a day, on a lake in Ghana, beaten, abused and malnourished, what would you tell them?
If you had the opportunity to sit across from a young girl called Sadhna, in India, who was forced to sell her body night after night, what would you say?
If you could spend time with the little boy called Maarko, in the Philippines, who was sexually abused live online, could you look the other way?
What would we, the Church say to them?
Why didn’t we look for them?
Why didn’t we find them?
Why didn’t we do something?
Why didn’t we come sooner?
William Wilberforce, speaking of the Transatlantic slave trade once said, "You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know."
I had the opportunity to spend time in Cambodia a few years ago. There, I met a 6 year old boy called Panha who was bought and sold for sex for $2.50 per night. When I looked into Panha’s beautiful little face I couldn’t look the other way.
I am so thankful that my home church, Wellington Presbyterian, have become increasingly aware of the issue of human trafficking and modern day slavery over the last few years. Now that we know, we are choosing not to look the other way. On the 24th of September 2017, we hosted our first Freedom Sunday to highlight the reality of slavery today, and to learn more about how we can partner with International Justice Mission to end it.
In Micah 6:8 we’re told, ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ I love this verse because it doesn’t say what does the Lord require of the person beside you it says what does the Lord require of you. The reality is that ending slavery begins with the Church; it begins with God’s people.
The message on Freedom Sunday, whilst filled with stories of injustice, was nonetheless fuelled by hope. Whilst the reality can be overwhelming, greater yet is the hope we have in Christ and His power to rescue, restore and redeem the broken, the oppressed and the abused.
There is so much joy in seeing the Church, God’s people, moved to action and driven by the belief that our God can and will bring justice to the earth. When we step into God’s work of justice, we have the privilege of seeing lives transformed as sorrow turns to joy. We get to see the captives set free from both physical and spiritual bondage. When we step into the work of justice, we get to see God move in unimaginable ways.
Now that we know about the reality of slavery, we must do something about it for Panha, and for the 45 million he represents.
What can you do?
Pray- We cannot do this work without the power of prayer. Sign up to IJM’s prayer letters here.
Learn - Explore what our Biblical response should be with IJM’s Justice Session’s Resources.
Give - Choose to financially support freedom and justice.
Dedicate - One Sunday to learning about slavery, and commit to partnering with IJM to end it.
Host - A fundraising event; for example, a coffee morning, cake sale or car wash.
If you had the chance to stand face to face with 1 person out of the 45 million what would you say?
I hope that we, God’s people, could tell these men, women and children that we never stopped looking for them and that we will continue to relentlessly pursue those who we have not yet found.
Until all are free.
If you or your local Church are looking to respond to #AntiSlaveryDay, get in touch with Lauren who can connect you with a number of local justice agencies. We can also provide a number of posters and leaflets for your Church produced by the Department of Justice to raise awareness of the signs of modern slavery.
You can contact Lauren by emailing her: firstname.lastname@example.org
* This photo was taken in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The children pictured in this photo have either been trafficked or are vulnerable to trafficking