Trafficking. Commercial sexual exploitation. Modern day slavery. However you choose to label it, I think we can all agree that the atrocity of human beings bought and sold for the satisfaction of others is a great evil. And the fact that it exists in a day and age with adequate social and legal systems to stamp it out completely is unfathomable.
It is easy for us to shake our heads in pity over the statistic of between 10 and 30 million people trapped in the conditions of slavery today. Easy for us to voice that something must be done to stop the atrocity. But it is more difficult to know what to do.
I have spent a couple of years in that frustration. My heart passionately desires justice for the slaves of the world today. I want to cry out on their behalf and be involved in setting them free. But it is hard to know what to do with that passion. There is so much information out there and there are so many aspects to fighting this evil and bringing freedom to its victims, that it can be overwhelming.
And I don’t know about you, but often when a problem is big and multi-faceted and I cannot see an easy solution for fixing it, I tend to shut down. I confess there was a time I just wanted to turn off the anti-slavery noise in my life. I had read and researched and sought out individuals and organizations involved in the fight for abolition when my passions were high. But as the messages of modern day slavery clogged my social media feed and my clear-cut vision of what to do about it clouded up the more I learned, I was tempted to say, “This is not my fight. I have another ministry.” I hovered over the option to unfollow and make it all go away.
When it hit me in my gut. This is the heart of the problem. I can turn away, turn it off, tune it out. I am not trapped in its reality against my will. And it does not have to be ever before my eyes if I choose to look away. The same is not true for so many women, children and men living the horrors of slavery every day. Do I honestly have a choice to turn away? Or does my humanity demand that at the very least I be willing to look, to acknowledge, to know? To keep the reality of these people, real people with names and stories, ever before my eyes.
Because it is the one thing I can do. I can choose to hear their stories, to cheer for their rescue and pray for their recovery. To acknowledge their reality by keeping it ever before my eyes.
So, yeah, my social media news feeds can be a bit of a bummer some days. Some days there are things that reach in and grab me in the gut and won’t let me go. Some days I get to rejoice that progress has been made and a captive has been set free. But every day I can choose to stand with those who do not have the choice to look away from the reality of slavery, the slaves themselves, and to know the key freedom fighters working to combat this evil, and to make myself present to their stories.
There is a lot of talk about how focusing the anti-slavery movement only on awareness has led to a lot of talk with not much action. It’s probably true on a big picture level. But on a personal level, I think one individual’s commitment to deep awareness, to educate him/herself, to stay linked in to the issue and let it move him/her to think, to communicate about the issue can, in fact, lead to some pretty effective action.
So no, stamping a red “X” on your hand one day, snapping a selfie, and then turning your back again until next year may not be an effective way to engage in the abolition of modern day slavery. But if that “X” becomes the start of personal commitment to keep the reality of slavery ever before your eyes, it can be a powerful tool of engagement.
So if you are compelled to look more closely at the issue of modern day slavery, to make a commitment to keep looking, keeping learning, keep knowing even when it would be easier to just avert your eyes, here are five organizations I suggest you get to know through social media.
- A21 Campaign: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- The Exodus Road: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- International Justice Mission: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Rescue Her: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Polaris Project: Facebook, Twitter
Let’s be remembered not as the generation who looked away from slavery because it was hard and made us uncomfortable but as the ones who were willing to keep injustice ever before our eyes, seeking a solution and doing our parts to make it happen.
Copyright 2014, Colleen Mitchell