Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Modern slaves

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Amos 2:1-16

TO CHEW ON: "Thus says the Lord:
'For three transgressions of Israel and for four,
I will not turn away its punishment,
Because they sell the righteous for silver,
And the poor for a pair of sandals,
They pant (trample on) the dust of the earth
Which is on the head of the poor
And pervert the way of the humble.'" Amos 2:6-7

Last night my husband and I went to a fundraiser for International Justice Mission. Four 12-14-year-old girls organized this concert and dessert night. Interspersed with songs by Carolyn Arends, yummy chocolate fondue and more music by She Says Electric, they brought us face to face with the plight of modern slaves.

For, as our young emcee reminded us, though the last country to make slavery illegal did so in 1981 (Mauritania), there are more slaves on the planet now than at any other time.

They told us stories of young girls in poverty-ravaged cultures who are promised good paying jobs, then sold to brothel keepers in countries like India, Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam, Guatemala.

In 2008 a Nike factory in Malaysia was exposed for human rights violations that were virtual slavery. Young people applying for work at the factory were charged a fee to come to work. When they couldn't pay, they were advanced the fee on credit so started work owing money. On arrival their passports were taken away. They lived on-site in crowded squalid conditions, working long hours six days a week and earning so little, they would never be able to pay back the debt they incurred to get the job. (Nike promised to look into the situation, so conditions may have changed by now.)

Companies selling fair trade products like chocolate and coffee have sprung up all over the place. They assure us that the coffee and chocolate they sell doesn't have any human rights-compromising behaviour in its picking or production history.

The Bible speaks of slavery in negative terms. Though slavery was an accepted part of Old Testament culture, six years was the length of time a Hebrew slave could be kept; to be freed in the seventh year. Kidnapping a free man with the intent to sell him was punishable by death. Slaves had rights to physical well-being. Injuring a slave, to the extent of merely knocking out a tooth was grounds for the person to go free. In our reading in Amos, Israel's slave-making behavior was grounds for God's punishment.

Uncomfortable revelations like we heard and saw last night about modern slavery make me feel squirmy. They demand more than just a tsk, tsk. How can I (and you) make a difference to those trapped in it?
- We can pray
- We can support organizations who work to free slaves.
- We can change our buying habits.

PRAYER: Dear God, I am touched by the plight of modern slaves. Help me to remember to pray for them. Please show me other actions I can take. Amen.

MORE: Organizations to check out and support

Shadow of His Wings is an organization that rehabilitates girls and young women who have been rescued from forced labor, abuse and neglect on the streets of Guatemala City.

The Dalit Network works to liberate the Dalit people of India from slave labor. I first became aware of them at Missions Fest in 2009 (and blogged about them here).

International Justice Mission works for justice around the world. It also has a Canadian arm.

- Brick Kiln Rescue

- South Asia Quarry Raid

- Namwaan's Story

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

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