Slavery and Human Trafficking

‘Twenty-seven million slaves exist in our world today. Girls and boys, women and men of all ages are forced to toil in the rug looms of Nepal, sell their bodies in the brothels of Rome, break rocks in the quarries of Pakistan, and fight wars in the jungles of Africa. Go behind the façade in any major town or city in the world today and you are likely to find a thriving commerce in human beings’. So begins the recent title, NOT for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade – and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone. [Reviewed here]

In today’s TimesOnline, Ruth Gledhill draws our attention to a video shot in Zanzibar during the Primates’ Meeting earlier this year in Tanzania. The film was made to promote the Church of England’s Walk of Witness which took place to mark the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. Today it won the IPTV award, a £2,000 award for internet television, at the Jerusalem Awards ceremony in London. I’ve embedded it here:

Watching this film, I was reminded of some words from Theissen’s investigator regarding the Essene community:

‘The first thing that I heard about the Essenes was that they reject slavery. They reject it because it is an offence against human equality: they argue that it goes against the law of nature, which bore and brought up all men. All are children of nature. All men are brothers. Riches led them astray, turned trust into mistrust, friendship into enmity. I was fascinated. Where else is there a community which rejects slavery? Nowhere’. – Gerd Theissen, The Shadow of the Galilean: The Quest of the Historical Jesus in Narrative Form (trans. J. Bowden; London: SCM Press, 2001), 47.

While I do not believe that the Church – as the Church – should ever identify itself wholly which any social programme (individual believers are free to so do), the Church is impelled – by the Gospel itself – to be at the forefront of practicing, equipping and celebrating all acts of liberation, compassion, sanity, hope, and justice, of naming all that demeans and devalues life, and to lead the way in repentance when it fails to do so. I think here of such statements made not only by official bodies such as the WCC that ‘all forms of slavery … constitute crimes against humanity’, but also of those made by individual believers, such as PT Forsyth’s 3 moving letters to the Editor of The Times in January 1906 protesting against the British Government’s trafficking of Chinese human beings in South Africa. Another example, he suggests, of the ethical giving way to an economic rationalism gone mad.

Following the UN Protocol on Trafficking, countries have been enacting their own legislation and policies to prevent human trafficking. But at what cost? A new report commissioned by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, has found that many of the strategies to eradicate trafficking are having an adverse affect on the human rights of the very people they are trying to protect. For more, listen to this recent podcast.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets; A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.” This is what God the LORD says – he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness’. (Isaiah 42:1-7)

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