mike's blog

wearing the orange

I went to the Freedom Summit this past weekend. It was a conference on “human trafficking” (a.k.a. slavery... I honestly don't know why they use that term). While I was vaguely aware that slavery still exists in other countries, I was surprised to find out both the scope of the problem — about 27 million slaves worldwide — and that it's still present in the US — about 200 thousand slaves, including several slave-trade rings in the bay area.

The conference itself was an explicitly Christian event. The main thesis was that individual Christians and the church as a whole are called to fight injustice wherever it occurs, and slavery is one of the greatest injustices of our time. Francis Chan's preaching was spectacular, and he really convinced me that action is required. But of course, I'm a coward. I know that Christianity is supposed to radically change my life, but my life is actually pretty comfortable right now, and I'm afraid of what that change would bring. So as of now, I'm only doing cowardly things to fight slavery, like raising awareness by blogging about it.

So what can be done to fight slavery? The most straightforward is missions to set slaves free, mostly by getting police to break up slave-trade rings, and to help them find an honest living once they're free. But this is an endeavor for the brave. (Well, sort of. You can always google for sketchy massage parlours in your area, investigate them, surveil them, and get them busted for sex slavery.) Aside from that, you can give logistical or financial support to groups which do this, most notably International Justice Mission and Agape International Missions.

On another front, it's important to break the economics of slavery. Unfortunately, the biggest sector of slavery in the US and worldwide is sex slavery, and other than not visiting brothels there's not much you can do about that economically. But agricultural slavery is easier: you can buy fair trade, particularly for coffee and chocolate.

To fight industrial slavery, there's a similar effort called free to work. Free to work companies pledge to avoid slave labor in their contractors and suppliers as well as their own factories. Because this is a fairly high bar and free to work is a fairly new effort, only a a couple dozen companies have taken the pledge, but that's changing. And you can help it change by asking your workplace to take the pledge.

And of course, if you're both cowardly and lazy like me, you can at least get the word out. Blog about it, facebook it, tell your friends, or wear something orange to show your support. More information at Not For Sale.

— Mike Hamburg, May 19, 2009, 12:49 PM