If you think slavery is wrong, raise your hand. If you have a problem with the exploitation of women and children in every country of the world, usually involving forced sexual prostitution, stamp your foot. I hope I don't have to tell you why humans deserve freedom, but I definitely needed a wake-up call to the reality of this modern issue. What, you want numbers? How about 27 million? That's people in modern-day slavery across the world. What about 1.2 million children exploited by the global commercial SEX trade, every year? There are at least 161 countries identified as affected by human trafficking in this $32 billion a year industry. For those who think this is not a problem in the U.S... there are 14,500 - 17,500 foreign nationals trafficked into the United States every year, and the majority are between 12 and 24 years of age. There are more slaves in our world now than at any point in human history, more slaves today than there were total in the 4 centuries of the atlantic slave trade.
This evening, I went to hear the founder of Not For Sale, an anti-slavery organization, speak in Harajuku. I have heard many people talk about human trafficking, and have been interested in movements to end it since grade 11, but never have I heard someone speak with such specific ways for everyone to get involved like David Batstone did. This man spoke in such a way that presented the gravity and immensity of the issue, but balanced it with stories of how everyday people can make a difference and DO make a difference in their own diverse ways. He was truly inspiring, and I've come away feeling a bit fired up, if you can't tell.
As his lecture commenced, he said something he always tells his university students in his Justice 101 class (O my gosh can I please take that class?!) He says, “Don't try to go out and search for meaning in life. It's right in front of you and all around you. You just have to open your eyes and recognize it.” Working to further the anti-human-trafficking movement does not mean everyone should drop what they are doing and fly to a foreign country in search of brothels to burn. Slavery goes on under our noses in our own backyards. It is even involved in the food we all eat, the clothes we all wear, and the products we use. That's where our first step needs to be.
In developed countries like the U.S. and Japan, there is a certain ignorance, disbelief, and even denial of the slavery that goes on in the cities around us. This is something the church, especially, needs to get involved in. I should hope that if we claim to believe differently from our apathetic non-Christian neighbors, we would also be willing to ACT differently. We cannot remain blind and immobile in the face of what will soon be the largest source of crime and human rights violation world-wide. As Christian we are called to be compassionate, and also just. This means reaching out to victims of global slavery, as well as destroying the root of the injustice itself. We can give a man a fish, and we can teach a man to fish, but we also must create equal access for him at the pond. Without getting rid of the traffickers, and the consumer demand for trafficked products, we can never end it's giant industry.
What can we do? The site free2work.org gives ratings for how much a company or product involves slavery or unjust working situations. Companies like Hershey's, Hanes, Nestle, Molten Sports, Brigestone, McCormick Food, Godiva, Skechers, OshKosh, Amazon, Reeces, Marvel, and Kay jewelry all rate very poorly. As Christian consumers, we would be hypocrites to condemn the sin of enslaving humans, but support the practice through our consumption, which only fuels the demand for slave labour. Shoot...how am I supposed to just give up buying from pretty much any major production company? Small steps. That's all we can hope for. But we can start questioning the inhumane means of making our favourite pair of jeans until the companies are forced to clean up their act. We can also stay aware of the injustices going on, ell others about it, and contribute to organizations which are working hard to end human trafficking, and create programs for children and adults to have positive lifestyles, prevention, and recovery.
I almost wish I hadn't gone to the conference tonight, because I absorbed every word and cannot pretend to be unaware of the prevailing issue all around me. I can't just close my eyes to the hundreds of millions of people, people beloved to God, who are treated as filthy objects for their whole lives. I can't just notice them and sympathize either. I have to do something. It's not right to do nothing. That's the whole reason that slavery still exists and is flourishing more than ever today—people do nothing. You're probably wishing you never read this as well. Because now you cannot be ignorant. Now you have a responsibility too.