A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of hearing from Jocelyn White from International Justice Mission. This stirred a memory for me of the first time I heard about modern day slavery. It was in February of 2007…yes, exactly 10 years ago. I wrote an article for Creekside’s FYI at that time:
We all have gaps in our education. You know, those things we should know but we don’t. Whatever the reason, these gaps are what keep us humble and keep us from thinking we “know it all”.
I am far from the “know it all” category, and at my age it seems I used to know a lot more than I do now. Somehow knowledge is escaping from my grey matter. Whether it is fugitive information or a gap in learning, I recently became aware of some things I should have learned long ago.
In February of 2007, when notified of the release of the movie Amazing Grace, I did some research about the film. I learned it was the story of William Wilberforce and his fight against slavery in 18th century England. I didn’t remember ever hearing about William Wilberforce or his long battle in Parliament to end the slave trade. My research continued and the gap of knowledge enlarged.
Not only have I become captivated by the man who was William Wilberforce, I have learned of the ongoing fight against slavery. Yes, slavery is illegal in nearly every nation, but “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 loom sheds of Nepal, sell their bodies in brothels of Rome, break rocks in the quarries of Pakistan, and fight wars in the jungles of Africa” (Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade – and How We Can Fight It, by David Batstone). The trade in human beings today rivals drug trafficking and the illegal arms trade for the top criminal activity on the planet. The FBI estimates that the slave trade generates $9.5 billion in revenue each year (U.S. Department of State, 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report). The International Labour Office estimates that figure to be closer to $32 billion annually (International Labour Office, A global alliance against forced labour, May 2005).
What can we do? The first thing is awareness. We must educate ourselves about this crisis. But we cannot stay at the starting line; we need to keep moving forward until we reach the point of action. Yes, it is overwhelming. Yes, it is frightening. But we have been rescued out of the darkness to be a light to the world…we=me+you. We are it. We are to be God’s light to a dark and hurting world. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.
My eyes have been opened and my heart has been stirred. I cannot keep from doing something to end the injustice of slavery and oppression. William Wilberforce brought the Slave Trade Abolition Bill before Parliament nearly every year for twenty years before it was passed in 1807. Then he continued for 26 more years to end slavery itself in the British colonies. A few months before his death, he proposed before parliament the petition for the Abolishment of Slavery in the British Empire. On July 26, 1833, Wilberforce was notified that the bill had been passed. Three days later, he died. He spent his life in the fight to give others freedom. Wilberforce’s work needs to be continued.
Ten years ago there were an estimated 27 million men, women and children held in slavery. Now the estimate is closer to 45 million! Gary Haugen, the founder and CEO of IJM says:
Modern-day slavery is as brutal as ever; more vast than ever, but more stoppable than ever.
Creeksiders, you and I have come a long way in the last 10 years. We, as a church, are well aware of the problems of slavery and human trafficking, and we support many organizations that are on the front lines of the battle. Occasionally we need to remind ourselves of what this is all about to rekindle the urgency of the fight.
On Friday, February 24th, at 7:00 pm, we will be showing the movie Amazing Grace at Creekside. Please join me in acquainting (or re-acquainting) yourself with William Wilberforce. This movie’s topic makes it unsuitable for children.
Kim can be reached by email here.