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We Cannot Forget

I know we want to forget sometimes.  Forget about the unspeakable things happening around us.  I know sometimes it is irritating when we’re reminded.  When we’re interrupted. 

Take something as sweet and simple as chocolate.  Scott and I have a date night planned this week to pick up a few small things for Norah’s Easter basket.  It will not include chocolate.  Did you realize that most of that yummy chocolate was processed by children who are slaves?  Who have never even tasted chocolate?  Who apply pesticides without protective gear?  Who use adult tools?  I’m talking about M&M’s and Hershey’s Kisses.  Do you think the owners of these big companies don’t know about the source of their cocoa?  Nope, they do.  In fact, in 2001 they agreed to change.  But they didn’t.  Even those Cadbury Easter Eggs won’t be fairly-traded until the end of this year. 

I know.  I’m messing with things that touch close to home.  But, as the video below mentions, we have dolphin-safe tuna.  Why can’t we make products without injuring and exploiting children? 

I have been in a room with little girls who were rescued from slavery.  I cannot forget. 

Want to do more?  Take a look at an older post with lists of ideas to get started.  Even something as small as skipping chocolate or buying fair-trade chocolate is a beginning.     

Abolition

[Guest Post from my sister]

It was my senior year at Southern Wesleyan when I first heard about human trafficking.  I don’t know if you remember the first time you heard about the fact that slavery still exists in our world.  I don’t know if it struck you the way it struck me.  Maybe this is the first time you are hearing of the enslavement of millions of people who are made in the image of God.  If so, read on!  If you know about modern slavery and you feel paralyzed by the overwhelming statistics, my hope is not to drill more statistics into your head so that you feel even more discouraged, but rather empower you to feel you can do something. 

Maybe you don’t care.  You have more pressing issues in your life.  I know.  I don’t understand where you are or what you’re going through.  When you are hurting, it is so hard to even begin to hurt for others.  As a counselor, my deepest desire would be to walk with you from point A to Z, to be with you on your journey of healing.  If this is your place, maybe you can find someone to help you heal.  Because being a part of redeeming the lives of those participating in and victims of injustice is, I dare say, the most fulfilling work on the planet.  And I don’t want you to miss it.

100_0425My journey began in the spring of 2003 when I had lunch with Dr. Joanne Lyon, the executive director of World Hope International.  I was a psychology major and I really wanted to do counseling.  I felt drawn to women and children in distress, victims of violence and abuse.  Dr. Lyon began to tell me about Cambodia and the problem of commercial sexual exploitation.  She talked about the need for mental health professionals to work with these girls after they had come out of prostitution.  I wept that night.  It was the first time I had heard about modern slavery.  A little over a year later, I boarded a plane for Cambodia.  My assignment was to assist in the set up an assessment center–the first place children rescued from slavery would be brought.  The first rescue of three little girls took place in June 2005.  Today, the center has served hundreds of girls who are victims of rape or commercial sex trafficking. 

Worldwide, there are nearly two million children in the commercial sex trade (UNICEF).  Human trafficking is the world’s third largest criminal enterprise, following drugs and weapons (U.S. Dept of State).  Slavery is particularly lucrative because while a drug may only be sold once, a human can be sold over and over again.  There may be as many as 27 million slaves in the world today and it is believed that half are minors (U.S. Dept of State).  And slavery isn’t some third world problem.  The U.S. is currently home to an estimated 175,000 slaves.

So what will you do?  How will you be an abolitionist?  Would you choose just one item from the list below?  Something you could do to spread awareness, stop the trade, redeem a life?

Learn more.  Download the Trafficking In Persons report from the U.S. Department of State or visit the Polaris Project.

Talk to your friends, your children, or your co-workers about modern slavery.  I know it isn’t light conversation but haven’t we all had enough of that?

Read books like Disposable People, Enslaved:  True Stories of Modern Day Slavery, The Natashas, or Children at War

Watch movies like Born into the Brothels, Blood Diamond, or Human Trafficking

Sign up for the latest news on sexual trafficking here and here.

Hang anti-trafficking posters in your business, church, or local community boards.  Victims, potential victims, and those who may know them can see the victim hotline with instructions in their language.  Posters are available for free download here. 

Blog about human trafficking.

Teach youth and young adults about the link between the sex industry and slavery.  Adults Saving Kids offers a complete curriculum for youth. 

Ask your legislators what they have done to stop slavery in your state.  If they haven’t done a thing…offer to provide information.  Give them a nudge. 

Create and Distribute anti-trafficking stickers, buttons, or t-shirts.  Cafepress is an easy way to print your issues.  Or order from a cafepress store already established.

Serve as a volunteer.  Organizations like FAAST welcome volunteers who can do research, write, design, organize, or staff events.  Or use your skills to serve vocationally–either short term or long. 

Buy “slave-free” goods.  Buy rugs carrying the Rugmark symbol.  Buy coffee, tea, and cocoa labeled “fair trade.”  Ask stores to stock these items.  Encourage your church or business to serve fair trade coffee.  Provide your faith community with info about coffee campaigns

Give gifts purchased from places like Ten Thousand Villages or Go Fish.  Or choose an alternative gift like this.

Do something.  Become an abolitionist.  It matters.