March
03
Author
International Justice Mission UK
Ending modern slavery

Modern slavery can sometimes feel like an issue that’s far away from our everyday lives. You may have heard that over 40 million people globally are trapped in slavery – but it’s hard to imagine this as anything other than an abstract figure. 

But did you know that, according to Ethical Trading Initiative, 77% of UK businesses believe there is a likelihood of slavery in their supply chains? It’s something that should shock us, especially as many of the most high risk products are ones we use every day – such as clothes, coffee and chocolate. Even the phone you might be reading this on can have slavery in its supply chain. And it’s a problem that’s sadly predicted to get worse, with the COVID-19 pandemic having driven 150 million more people into extreme poverty, leaving them vulnerable to traffickers and other forms of labour exploitation. 

It’s a problem that International Justice Mission’s frontline staff have seen the human cost of firsthand. Take, for example, Chithra, who at the age of two became trapped with her family in bonded labour at a sugarcane farm in South Asia. She experienced daily violence, harassment and deprivation for the next 20 years—even tragically losing her first unborn baby as she was forced to work. Finally, she was brought to safety by authorities supported by the Released Bonded Laborers’ Association (RBLA) – a group of bonded labour survivors who IJM has trained to help lead the fight against bonded labour. On the day of rescue, Chithra said she felt “relieved, overjoyed and determined. It was too emotional for me to describe in words.”

Whilst the ultimate responsibility for action remains with governments and law enforcement to enforce anti-slavery and anti-exploitation laws, hold traffickers accountable and ensure worker protection, our actions as individuals can also impact the lives of workers all over the world. As Christians we are called not to turn the other way when we discover that people like Chithra are being exploited – because Jesus calls his followers to do the opposite, to turn towards those experiencing violent abuse and stand against it. So how, as Christians, citizens, and consumers, are we meant to take a stand – especially in the middle of a pandemic, while we’re all stuck at home?  

First, we can educate ourselves about the issue. IJM UK has put together a free six week video course called Make #SlaveFree NormalSent straight to your phone, the videos include insights and wisdom from survivors of slavery, frontline workers, business leaders and activists on what the problem is and how we can create change, individually and collectively. It also includes plenty of encouragement that change is possible: we’ll share success stories from the front lines of the fight to stop slavery at source. 

Second, it’s possible to effect change by making better consumer choices. Look out for brands that are taking steps to avoid exploitation and produce products ethically – and support them! By creating more consumer demand for ethically produced products, we’ll help create a fairer global economy. It can be tricky to know exactly how a product has been made, especially as not all brands are transparent about this, so we’ve included lots of tips as part of our video course. Other good resources include Ethical Consumer and the GoodOnYou app. 

Third, you have the power individually and collectively to influence corporate and government policy. Whilst the power of consumer choice shouldn’t be underestimated, slavery in supply chains is a complex issue which requires systemic change. Advocate for greater transparency, fair pay for workers, and for laws against exploitation to be enforced. Show the brands you love that you care about who made your clothes, coffee and chocolate. Why not ask some of your favourite brands and retailers what they’re doing to tackle labour exploitation, and how these efforts have been impacted by the pandemic? 

Fourth, you can raise your voice in prayer, asking that God brings justice and protection to people trapped in slavery – and transformation to the systems that allow it. When you sign up for Make #SlaveFree Normal, we’ll send you prayer resources; you might also consider signing up for regular prayer updates as an IJM Prayer Partner. 

And finally, you can support organisations like IJM as we seek to work with local authorities to find and free people trapped in slavery, restore them to safety and strength, hold perpetrators to account, and equip local law enforcement to effectively stop the problem at its source. Why not give up one slavery-impacted item this Lent, and donate the proceeds? 

We would love you to join us on our journey this Lent. We believe that stopping slavery is possible within our lifetime – but only when we take action together.


You can sign up for Make #SlaveFree Normal this Lent at IJMUK.org/SlaveFreeSeries  


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