The video I want to share with you today comes from Obama's speech at The Clinton Global Initiative. President Obama speaks up about the issue of modern-day slavery, and says it is "barbaric, it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world." To see the leadership of one of the world's most important countries speak so boldly about the issue of human trafficking is deeply encouraging for me. I kept on having to pause the video as I was scribbling down all the significant things he said!
I'm excited about the four steps Obama's leadership is wanting to take to go after the traffickers. It is very refreshing to hear a political leader understand that human trafficking will never be solved by trying to stop the supply of slaves. Rather, by stopping the traffickers, as well as the johns, the families who abuse their nannies, and the companies who use forced labor, the demand for slavery will begin to drop. As I understand it, Obama's plan includes:
1. Doing more spot it and stop it: Obama discusses treating victims as victims, working with police, teachers, and parents to know what to do if they see a suspected trafficking victim. This step is so important because recognizing trafficked persons is something every citizen can and should take part in. Yet so many people don't know how to spot a victim of human trafficking, much less how to talk to someone they suspect may be trapped in slavery, including myself! This is something I personally want to invest more time into learning about over the next year. There is a free online training through the Ministry of Justice of British Columbia that I've wanted to take for a while now. It takes 5-7 hours, but I want to carve out some time in my schedule between now and the end of November to do this training and learn more about how to recognize a trafficked person, and give them the resources they need if I was to come into contact with one. I would love for you to join me in this!
2. Turning the tables against the traffickers: Using technology to beat them at their own game. I LOVED that Obama subtly brought up the related issue of pornography here. When he speaks of "[developing] ways for young people to browse the internet safely," this means that software will be created to help prevent children, youth, and I hope grown adults as well, from running into porn or inappropriate pages as they browse the internet. It is so important to recognize the connection between porn and the increase of sexual slavery around the world. If you don't believe me, let me ask you this... Who do you think frequents the women who are forced to sell their bodies as prostitutes? Men who don't watch porn, or men who do?
3. Doing even more to help victims recover and rebuild their lives: Here Obama talked about simplifying Visa procedures so trafficking victims can stay in the US to help convict their traffickers. Why are traffickers so rarely convicted? First, because they indoctrinate their victims into believing that if they tell anyone, they will harm or kill their family back home. But even if social workers/police/counselors are able to break through that lie, and the victim decides they want to testify against their trafficker, they are often unable to because their passport has been stolen by their traffickers, or their Visa has expired, and they are deported back home to try and rebuild their lives on their own. This is a very complex and multi-faceted issue, but it's pretty shameful that we aren't (Canada and US) able to better facilitate the recovery of these victims. Another reason for this is that there are so few well-supported rehabilitation centres and safe houses, that even if victims are rescued from their enslavement, they often have nowhere to go, and end up right back in the snares of their traffickers.
4. The US will be leading by example to make sure their contractors do not engage in forced labor: Wow. I have a future blog post about this resource in mind, but Obama mentioned the Slavery Footprint quiz. This is a short quiz you can take to find out how many slaves work for you simply from the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and the activities you do. It's pretty astounding when you realize that almost every product we purchase today is somehow related to forced labor or slavery. Thankfully, the company behind the Slavery Footprint, Made In A Free World, has created the Free World app (download it now!) so you can engage and educate yourself about how to increase the demand for fair trade and slave-free products at retailers that are local to you. Obama said it best, "Every citizen can take action [against modern-day slavery]... By speaking up and insisting that the clothes we wear and the food we buy are free of forced labor." This is another thing I want to invest more time in. Right now, I encourage slavery more than I care to admit. I stopped buying non-fair trade chocolate half a year ago, but I know there is so much more I can do! You can expect some future posts on that as well. ;)
But above all this, personally my favourite quote from Obama was this: "Every faith community can take action as well, by educating their congregations, by joining in coalitions that are bound by a love of God and a concern for the oppressed. Like the Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho, we can’t just pass by indifferent. We've gotta be moved by compassion. We've gotta bind up the wounds. Let’s come together by a simple truth that we are our sisters' and our brothers' keepers."
I was very thankful that Obama specifically targeted the faith community as one that needs to step up and take action against the issue of trafficking. Since I found out about trafficking, one of my biggest motivations has been to try and get churches to understand the important role they need to play in leading the fight against slavery.We as the body of Christ are instructed to care for the people in slavery. "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? ... Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard" (Isaiah 58:6, 8).
Last night, I saw an aurora borealis for the first time. As I reflect on it, I'm reminded of my roots in social justice which began way back in junior high... We named the social justice club at my youth group "Generation Aurora" after those verses in Isaiah 58. How fitting that God would show up last night in his beautiful creation to give me a little squeeze of affirmation that says, "Yes, my daughter, you are doing what I have asked." Check out the beautiful photo snapped by my brother and be blessed to know that the glory of the Lord shines on those who take up his work.