Am I an abolitionist?

Hi. I’m Dave.
And I have 46 slaves working for me.

Can I still call myself an abolitionist?

Back in September, Slavery Footprint went live during the Clinton Global Initiative. The demand crashed their servers.

I remember hearing about it in September and I’m pretty sure I even started through the process of calculating my slavery footprint. Somehow I never finished it though. But today I did. It takes a few minutes, and, damn, is it shocking. I don’t want 46 slaves working for me. I don’t want any slaves working for anybody.

It seems like sex slavery gets most of the press attention and all of the movies.* But according to Free the Slaves, there are more labor slaves than sex slaves. They suggest that as many as 20 million of the 27 million slaves in the world are labor slaves. Most of them buried in the supply chains of all the stuff – food, toys, clothes, electronics – we buy.

According to the site, the things that enlarge my footprint most are our electronic gadgets, toys for our kids (especially action figures), my socks and underwear (??) and our cars. Ouch. I need all those things, don’t I?!?

Slavery Footprint grew out of Justin Dillon’s Call + Response project. (Another film I’ve wanted to see for three years now and just haven’t managed to. I think I just discovered New Year’s resolution #1 for 2012: quit stalling and buy that DVD already!) Check out their tumblr blog,** get their smartphone app, go to the website to calculate your own footprint.

But don’t despair! As was said at our Almost Christmas worship service this week: as followers of God in the way of Jesus we don’t believe in hopeless!

We can end slavery. Use all the tools available to you:

  • Spread awareness. (I know, I know. Awareness-raising seems so…lame and inactive. Yet, every time I’ve thought to myself, “Self, we’ve talked about this enough. Everyone at our church must know about it by now.” someone asks what human trafficking is. Awareness still needs to be raised. Let’s just not make it all we do.)
  • use slavery footprint’s take action methods.
  • use your smartphone.
  • screen a film
  • study a book
  • use social media

And believe it or not, Google is an ally in this fight! Slavery Footprint, International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, Not for Sale and others will receive $11.5 million in grants from Google to launch new anti-trafficking projects.

My name is Dave. I have 46 slaves working for me.
But I have hope that will change. I won’t stop striving to be an abolitionist until that number is zero. For me, for you, for everybody.

No person should be for sale.

*Taken chief among them. I didn’t manage to see The Whistleblower. It comes out on DVD January 24. I will see it then.

**Evidence #2368 that I’m old: I don’t really get tumblr. But I know it’s there. That’s something, right? Right?!?

“…Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan…”

“Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

“During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we rededicate ourselves to preventing and ending human trafficking, and we recognize all who continue to fight this serious human rights violation,” declared President Obama as he proclaimed January as, well, National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

You can read the whole thing here (it’s not that long):

But the money quote is:

We stand with those throughout the world who are working every day to end modern slavery, bring traffickers to justice, and empower survivors to reclaim their rightful freedom.  This month, I urge all Americans to educate themselves about all forms of modern slavery and the signs and consequences of human trafficking.  Together, we can combat this crime within our borders and join with our partners around the world to end this injustice.

Additionally, January 11 was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. I was glad to see the Northern IL Conference includes it in it’s “January Days of Note.” However, the link provided frustratingly has only last year’s information on it. And one of the links there is broken.


Now, look, I’m glad our Conference is paying attention and I’m glad Board of Church & Society (the UMC’s advocacy arm) is concerned…but I wish it were concerned enough to keep their info up to date. Seriously, old info and broken links? That’s just embarrassing (kinda like going two months between posts).

January 11 also happens to be the day most committees at my church meet this month. For a couple years now, all committees that meet on the second Tuesday of the month begin by gathering all together for devotion and announcements. We do that to remind ourselves that no one group or committee exists alone, to be reminded that we’re part of a greater whole. We do that to engender inter-committee cooperation, share ideas and tasks. I think it’s a great tradition.

Since these two events (that is, committee night and Trafficking Awareness Day) collide on the same day, Pastor Jim asked me to prepare a short presentation on trafficking for the gathering time.

One good thing from the aforementioned Board of Church & Society statement (Guess that link isn’t totally useless!): “Local congregations can play a role in reversing the numbers of people being trafficked through education and action.”

My church, Woodridge United Methodist has already engaged in both education and action. But what’s next for us? That’s what I tried to offer on Jan. 11.

It is my attempt to briefly inform about the issue, review all the bold actions our church has taken together so far, and inspire our next steps in the fight against modern-day slavery.

Granted, viewing it like this loses a lot of the affect of being in a room full of attentive people. And it loses all of the additional comments, questions and responses. Most especially it loses all the gut-wrenching, heart-breaking stories that put flesh on the bones of those statistics.

So for what it’s worth, you can view my presentation here:

Want to learn more? I offer these for your perusal and edification:

Watch this video from Polaris Project. They maintain the National Human Trafficking Hotline. I couldn’t help but notice and be moved by how young their staff is.

-Read what UMCOR is doing to fight trafficking

-Adopt 1, 2 or even 11 of these ideas

Anti-Trafficking Heroes for 2010

Trafficking in nearby Indiana

-A glimpse at how slavery grows out of poverty

-The ugly underbelly of the country’s most-watched sporting event

-What some churches are doing to raise awareness

-Prepare to be angry. Alabama Sen. Sessions blocked an important bill, thereby supporting child sex trafficking.