CHURCH CORNER: Dive in – help the fight against injustice

How much do you know about slavery in the world? Here is a short one-question quiz to test that knowledge: What year had the highest number of slaves worldwide? 1750? 1840? Nope, neither of those. The year when worldwide slavery was at its highest peak is…2010.

Maybe you saw that one coming. Maybe not. It is true, though. Right now, there are 27 million people trapped in slavery – bonded slavery (forced labor), illegal detention and sex trafficking. Twenty-seven million people. It is hard to even comprehend that large a number.

So here are some smaller numbers to help you. Two million – that is the number of children who are trapped in the worldwide commercial sex trade; $30 billion – that is the estimated annual profit from human trafficking around the world; one more number: 200,000. That is the number of American children who are trafficked for sex within our own borders each year.

Were you aware that slavery is at its highest numbers right now? Were you aware slavery is not just a problem in other countries? Until a few years ago, I had no clue about any of this. I thought slavery was something we learned about in history books, not a present reality. Then I read David Batstone’s 2007 book, “Not For Sale,” which permanently opened my eyes to the trafficking crisis around me.

And it is everywhere. Remember the World Cup earlier this summer? Did you know that a safe house (called a Child-Friendly Space) was set up at one stadium, specifically to provide safety for vulnerable kids? When events like the World Cup occur (or the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, for that matter), sex traffickers see great opportunity for profit, at the expense of young children. Sometimes I wonder how culpable we are in this horrible cycle; as we cheer on our favorite teams or athletes, do we realize who is paying the price for our entertainment?

When it comes to abused, trafficked and vulnerable children, we don’t even have to look as far as South Africa or Vancouver. There are many kids, adults, and families in our own community who are trapped by hunger, poverty, abuse and even slavery.

Something like systematic, worldwide slavery can seem a bit overwhelming, can’t it? We might feel paralyzed, unsure what to do or whether we can do anything at all. But we can do something – we simply need to dive in. One of the ways I have responded to this crisis is to get involved in an organization called International Justice Mission (find them at ijm.org). Their primary goal is to pursue justice for victims of slavery and oppression through lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals; they work with local officials to rescue victims, prosecute traffickers and change the systems that allow slavery to continue around the world. We have supported IJM in several ways as a family; a few weeks ago I even helped advocate for an anti-child-trafficking bill by visiting a senator’s office. Yes, these are small steps, but I believe they can lead to changed lives and changed systems.

Every single one of us can join in the fight against slavery. Or maybe for you, another justice issue tugs at your heart. Poverty, racism, immigration rights, environmental issues, clean water, foster/orphan care, HIV/AIDS concerns…the list is endless.

One last thought: pursuing justice isn’t exclusive to Christians, either. I don’t care if you believe in God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster – we can all take a break from the latest episode of “Jersey Shore” and acknowledge that the world is bigger than ourselves, that there are people in great need and that we can do something about it. Break the paralysis, become aware of the needs around you, take a small step forward and dive in!

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