Monday, April 8, 2013

Social Justice: Modern-Day Slavery

I feel vastly overwhelmed by the idea of writing this blog post. I don't know why. It might have something to do with the fact that the stuff I want to talk about is vastly overwhelming. Yep. That's it. This week we had Randy Hein and Tara Teng teach us a class on "Social Justice." They taught us the difference between compassion, which is like giving food to a hungry person, and justice, which is like finding out why that person is hungry and trying to fix it. We are called to both, but most Christians just stick with the compassion part. Randy talked about the new-fangled idea that worship and justice should go together. And by new-fangled I mean it's aaaaallll through the Bible and yet we seem to ignore it. Justice is everywhere in the Old Testament and everywhere in the New Testament. Again and again God says, "Take care of the poor, the widows, the orphans and the foreigners," as in the most vulnerable in society and "fight for justice." But He doesn't say it like "this would be a nice thing to do, if you have some extra time." He commands it. It's as much a part of His law as "do not murder."

Tara Teng is this amazing girl who is all about ending human trafficking (some key words we discovered in describing what she does are "ending" and "anti." It's the little words that matter) and happens to also be Miss World Canada. I can imagine as a young child when people asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up they would be quite confused to hear "I'm going to be an abolitionist beauty queen!" She travels around using her beauty pageant platform to speak against human trafficking, which most people don't know, isn't just a problem in far off countries but is a problem in Canada as well. What is human trafficking? It's defined as a "multibillion dollar criminal industry that involves the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or delivery of people for the purpose of slavery, sexual exploitation, and forced labor." If you were to ask most people they would say that there is no such thing as modern-day slavery. We abolished it remember? Wrong! More children, women and men are held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade. It's the fastest growing industry, second only to the drug trade, and earns over $32 billion dollars. Humans are the second most trafficked "product" on the black market. In 2008, the United Nations estimated nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries are being trafficked into 137 countries around the world, but many others estimate that it is more like 27 million (see The Polaris Project), two-thirds of which are women and children and an estimated 79% are used in sexual exploitation. And what about Canada? We think we're pretty great, don't we. But Canada is a known source, transit, and destination point for human trafficking. Here are some sad statistics for Canada:
  • According to the RCMP, 800 to 1200 people are trafficked in and through Canada every year.
  • 2200 men, women and children are trafficked into America from Canada every year. 
  • In Canada a girl can be sold for $15,000 and earn her owner over $40,000 a year for the purposes of sex.

Now, this is going to be hard to believe, but it was only in 2004 that Parliament finally passed a law that even recognized human trafficking as a crime. Yay Canada. Always keeping up with the times. And it wasn’t until 2008 that someone was finally prosecuted after earning over $350,000 by sexually exploiting a 15 year-old girl daily for two years. How much time did he get? Three years. Minus 404 days for time already served. Canada is known for its suckiness at fighting human trafficking. You should not distance yourself from it, saying ah well, the world is fallen. Sure go ahead and say that, but not at the same time that you buy that shirt from Wal-Mart that was made by a human trafficking victim in China or that chocolate from Nestle or you know, 90% of the cocoa out there that is harvested by a human trafficking victim from the Ivory Coast. Did you know that a lot of pornography is made using human trafficking victims? Did you know that the average kid starts looking at porn between 6-8 years old? They don't know they're contributing to girls being held against their will and raped over and over again. But neither do most of the adults who continue to look at porn. And what about prostitution? Prostitution has a lot of controversy because people assume the girls have chosen that work. If by chosen you mean an imaginary debt is being held over their head and they have been threatened, beaten and raped into submission, then yeah, totally. Chosen.

YOU AND ME are contributing to human trafficking by the choices we make every single day. YOU AND ME are the bad guys if we aren't doing anything to help. I don't know about you, but being so incredibly privileged and blessed with so much, I want to fight for justice. I want to get to heaven and hear God say, "Yeah, you did alright." What can you do? Educate yourself, educate people, buy fair-trade, start buying more from places that don't use forced labor, stop buying less from places that do (and if you don't know, start asking) don't contribute to the sex industry, write letters to our government (go here), just to name a few. Here is a cool website that rates industries by whether they are contributing to human trafficking or making efforts to end it: Free2Work. You can download it as an app for your phone as well. And just so you know, I have to start doing these things too, little by little, bit by bit. Even Tara Teng can do more. We all can. But make sure you do something.

I think this is the heaviest blog post I've ever written. You're welcome.

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