In the last year I've had the immense privilege of being part of this awesome project called "JustUs", which is essentially it's own pseudo-organization at this point. It began as a group creating a curriculum for young people on God's heart for the poor and how to engage with social justice accordingly, but it has grown beyond that.
Part of this project has been an ongoing blog about different social justice issues, and why it is important that we care about and engage with them. I had the opportunity today to contribute to our blog for the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, tomorrow. As this is an important topic, I decided to commemorate the day by sharing that post here, on my own blog:
In the 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, more than 15 million men, women and children were uprooted and shipped across the Atlantic. This week, on March 25, we remember those who were denied their humanity, and made to suffer for another's gain. We remember the horrors and dehumanization that racism and ignorance led to all those years ago. We mourn for those who were ripped from their homes, transported thousands of miles, publicly humiliated, sold as chattel and forced to do back-breaking work, day in and day out. We remember the people who lost their lives either aboard a ship, or due to harsh treatment and over-work, and we reflect on the after-effects of that horrible system which still pervades our culture today. We remember, and we cry “never again.” We hang our heads in shame and say, if only they had known what we know today, they wouldn’t have stood for that.
But unfortunately, that’s not true.
Those who were victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade deserve to be remembered and mourned, but more than that, they need to be remembered, and we need to be disgusted by the fact that it happened, so that we can respond properly to this fact:
There are more people in slavery today than there were in all 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade combined.
I don’t in any way want to belittle the horrors those 15 million people experienced, but I do want to emphasize that those horrors are not a thing of the past. Slavery is not an historic problem, but a current one.
Despite the fact that slavery is not legal anywhere in the world today, it is happening everywhere. In Uzbekistan, children are forced to pick cotton for the clothing we wear; in India, men, women and children are forced to work in kilns, reaching up to 130 degrees for up to 17 hours a day; in Ghana, children who don’t know how to swim are forced to work long hours on tiny, rickety fishing boats; and in North America, young women are trafficked and forced into prostitution.
So as we reflect on the Slave Trade this week, with the knowledge that, though the Trans-Atlantic trade is over, humans all over the world are still being bought and sold, what can we do? The problem of slavery can seem too big for us, too overwhelming. Maybe as you read this, you’re despairing, feeling like your hands are tied and that no matter how much you want to, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. If so, I have some good news for you. There is something you can do.
First, you can tell people. Part of the reason slavery is still so common today is because it’s kept quiet. You don’t see it often, and if you do, you probably aren’t aware the person you’re seeing is enslaved. Spread awareness, and educate people about the problem. Help bring this darkness into the light, so that many more will be forced to look upon this great tragedy, and be moved to compassion.
Secondly, you can change some of your consumer habits. Check out www.slaveryfootprint.org to find out how many slaves are used by the companies you purchase from, and to send them notes, letting them know that, as one of their customers, you want this to change. And until you’ve heard they’ve made changes, begin purchasing from companies you know are against slavery.
Thirdly, partner with one of the great organizations that are already working hard in the fight against slavery. Check out International Justice Mission, Free the Slaves, or Made in a Free World. Take a look at their websites to find out what they’re already doing and how you can be a part of their work.
Slavery is not just a bad memory, but also a horrible reality, so as you reflect this week on the 15 million victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, remember also the 30 million people living in slavery today, and decide on one step to take today to be a part of the solution.
The JustUs blog is full of really great content, so if you'd like to read through the previous blogs, you can do so here.