Question: If you and I had lived during the centuries of the African slave trade, would we have been among the minority of Christians who tried to do something to stop the inhumane and cruel trafficking of humans? Or would we have found some pious reason to maintain the status quo and ‘submit to God’s sovereignty in history’?
The answer to these questions can be found in our response today to the even more widespread trade in human flesh and blood involving many more millions than ever were involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade!
The shocking realities of that slave trade, carried out by both Protestant and Catholic countries on both sides of the Atlantic, are exposed in the film Amazing Grace. It tells the story of William Wilberforce, the English abolitionist who led the successful campaign to outlaw the trade. British audiences are by now well familiar with the name and the story, as this year is the 200th anniversary of that historic legislation.
But elsewhere in Europe the name means little:’Wilbur who?’ Few are aware of the so-called ‘Clapham sect’, a handful of Evangelicals who were the driving force behind that effort lasting decades to persuade both public and parliament. Among other strategies, they led a national sugar boycott, protesting the slave labour that had placed the sweet white substance on thousands of English tables.
Today few also are aware of the brutal and inhumane trafficking going on right now across Europe, as well in virtually every corner of the globe, infiltrating even respectable suburban neighbourhoods.
This year I have been waking up from a deep slumber on the subject into a disturbed consciousness. A gnawing awareness of the millions – 27 by some counts – who are being forced against their wills into some form of physical and unpaid labour, somewhere on this globe at every moment of the day, has begun to haunt me.
I’m reminded of how I felt when a YWAM team under my responsibility was imprisoned in cramped conditions for several weeks in Morocco some years ago, simply for giving someone a gospel of John! Every day I woke up with them on my mind. Or when a YWAM couple was kidnapped in Dagestan and held in isolation for 165 days and nights. They were constantly in my thoughts and prayers during the day and often in the middle of the night, as I tossed and turned on my comfortable bed.
Now I find myself thinking about the thousands of aspiring teenage girls from the Ukraine, or Romania or Moldova or Bulgaria or Poland or Hungary or Georgia or Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan or Kyrgystan or Belarus or Lithuania or Albania or Russia…
How many are being raped and psychological broken at this very moment in some halfway house in Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland or Italy to prepare them for the brothels of Holland, Belgium, Germany, Britain, Greece, Italy, Denmark, France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Austria, etc!
I think of that horrific moment when reality dawns in the minds of these girls. That attractive offer for a job as a model or a waitress or a nanny in the west has lured them to become one more victim of a ruthless multi-billion euro trade. It ranks second only to the illegal arms trade on the black market today…. bigger and more lucrative now even than the world-wide drugs trade!
While nearly every country in the world is involved in some trafficking activities, European countries top the rankings as transit nations (22 of the 24 ‘high’ or ‘very high’ nations), as countries of origin (eight of the top eleven), and as destination countries (nineteen ‘high’ or ‘very high’)!
Reasons why this trade has burgeoned in recent years include the growing globalisation following the collapse of communism resulting in open borders and global networks of organised crime; western tolerance and acceptance of prostitution, the lowering of public moral standards and corruption among law enforcers; unemployment in many countries of origin – and the ignorance of people like you and me!
For example, there’s a big chance that the last piece of chocolate you ate was the product of slave labour in the Ivory Coast! Unless it was fair trade chocolate, it was likely made from cocoa harvested by some of the 12,000 Mali children and youths trafficked south to provide luxuries for us westerners.
This fact–verifiable from numerous sources including the International Labour Organisation–was the focus of a music manifestation last evening in Amsterdam’s rock temple, Paradiso, organised by a number of former YWAMers working with Stop the Traffik featuring well-known bands and artists including Daniel Bedingfield. National media attention has begun to make the Dutch public aware of the steps individuals can take – like only buying fair-trade (slave-free) chocolate, encouraging the main chocolate manufacturers to become ‘fair-trade’, and to encourage local supermarkets to only stock fair-trade chocolate.
Other small steps we can take include reading about the issue (two books I recently read are The Natashas and Not for Sale), and checking out sites like: www.stopthetraffik.org, www.theamazingchange.com and www.lastradainternational.org.
But beware. It may give you sleepless nights!
Till next week,
Till next week,