Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Church and Modern Day Slavery

In a previous post, I discussed the importance of faith in the efforts to eliminate the slave trade in the English Empire--an effort recently popularized by the movie Amazing Grace. Sadly, human trafficking is still thriving, with tens of millions of people enslaved worldwide for both labor and sex. And just as the faithful led the battle to end slavery in both the English Empire and the United States, NPR's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly is reporting that the faithful, led by the progressive Christian group Sojourners, are once again leading the way to end modern day human trafficking:


"Two hundred years ago, Member of Parliament William Wilberforce presented to the House of Commons a petition with 390,000 signatures, the climax of a campaign that led to the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

. . .

"The British bicentennial has received wide recognition in the U.S. as well, and this year contemporary abolitionists hope to submit a petition to the Congress with the same number of signatures as Wilberforce's historic document -- a symbolic effort to urge American policymakers to combat global slavery more actively, and not just abroad.

"For most Americans the occasional newspaper headline is the only indication that forced labor exists in the United States. Each year forced labor generates millions of dollars for criminals who prey on the most vulnerable," according to "Hidden Slaves," a 2004 report published by the Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley in collaboration with Free the Slaves, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., and the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University. "Forced labor," says the report, "is a serious and pervasive problem in the United States for four reasons: it is hidden, it is inhumane, it is widespread, and it is criminal."

"Slavery and human trafficking for labor and sex were the topics at a recent event at the Tivoli Theatre in Washington, DC featuring the leaders of groups making awareness and, ultimately, abolition of modern-day slavery their goal. The evening was sponsored by the Not for Sale campaign, a collection of "individuals, musicians, artists, people of faith, businesses, schools and sports teams," according to its Web site, who are united to end slavery, and hosted by Sojourners, the progressive evangelical magazine.

"According to Not for Sale, 27 million people are enslaved worldwide, and at any given time approximately 10,000 people are enslaved in the United States. . . .

"The largest concentrations of trafficking for both labor and sex in the United States take place in California, New York, and Texas. The majority of the victims are from Korea, Thailand, Peru, and Mexico, according to the Office of the Attorney General. But the Polaris Project, an antislavery grassroots organization, emphasizes that one of the major trafficking myths is its victims must be foreign. US citizens, too, are caught up in human trafficking and modern-day slavery. The UC Berkeley research found forced labor in the U.S. predominantly in prostitution, domestic work, agriculture, sweatshop factories, restaurant and hotel work, and entertainment."


Read it all here. Hat tip to Kendall Harmon for finding this article. Sadly, this is an outrage of immense proportions that has not received much attention. Hopefully, this will be the start of viable movement.

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