Monday, September 17, 2007

Not for Sale

Sunday I attended a presentation entitled The Concert to End Slavery, an awareness raising event by the Not For Sale Campaign. This is the first time in a long time that I have felt like I had a concrete opportunity to be effectively involved in the fight against modern slavery.

If you are thinking to yourself, "I thought slavery ended after the American Civil War," you're not alone. As a historian and teacher, I even believed slavery to be extinct. I knew workers were exploited and assumed some women were forced into prostitution, but never entertained the thought that slavery might be an actual evil still confronting the world today.

About four years ago, a high school student in my church told me about an article she read about the millions of slaves still captive. I took in the information, reasoned it away (she must have misunderstood, the article must be talking in metaphors, etc.), and moved on with my life. Then slowly I became confronted with the realities of sex slavery, human trafficking, child soldiers, forced labor, and other forms of human captivity. And here's the worst part: it's going on in the U.S. In mass quantities. In massage parlors and private homes and karaoke bars and all sorts of places. I could probably point to five places on my street.

I got more information. And I got more overwhelmed.

Any guesses how many people are slaves today? 27 million. That's 3.5 million MORE people than live in the state of Texas. It's mind-boggling. Nearly 80 percent of these slaves are women and children. What do we do with those kinds of statistics?

We use our skills. We funnel our despair into action. We pray for opportunities. It's been four years for me, trying to make sense of it, trying to find a way to help. It all converged on Sunday night. I met two students who want to help and a couple already doing work to identify trafficking rings and sites. I'm in a small group that just spent the whole summer discussing topics of social justice and the Bible's call to action and compassion. I work in an activist-oriented academic office at a major university and serve as an officer for a student organization that could become anything we want it to be. I'm good at research, organizing and motivating people, and disseminating information. I'm well-versed in my responsibilities as a Christian to be a part of the liberating work of Christ (with divine help), in feminist theory, in historical activism, and in the importance of boundaries when you're involved in social justice.

I'm telling you all this because I want you to ask me in 2 months how it's all going. In 6 months, in a year, in 5 years. By then I could be on my way to a country where trafficking is a major industry or I could be teaching students how to get involved in global abolitionism. Or I could have forgotten about this moment, when it all seemed so important and so necessary and so doable.

I always thought that if I knew about slavery in the early U.S. or knew about the Holocaust, I would oppose it and do what I could to end it. So here I am, fearfully aware of genocide and slavery, and I'm ready to be an abolitionist. I'm going to start small, I'm going to pace myself. But I'm ready.

And God does not call the equipped... God equips those He calls.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives..."
(Isaiah 61:1)

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