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  • Writer's pictureGrace Episcopal Church

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month 2022: Part 4

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:6)

In last week’s article I wrote about what you can do to be part of the fight to end modern day slavery. In this final article of the series, I would like to tell you about what has been done and is continuing to be done globally to bring slavery to an end.

We know that human trafficking and other forms of modern day slavery exist in rich as well as poor countries. But poverty and inadequate justice systems make the problem easier to occur and harder to prevent in developing countries. All around the world, vulnerable people are taken by oppressors who believe that making money matters more than a person’s life. Driven by greed and overlooked by their local legal system, these oppressors steal human beings and intimidate them until they feel too small to fight back. These slave owners shouldn’t be allowed to win.

As you may know, for several years I have been a Coordinator for the International Justice Mission (IJM) Central Florida Volunteer Team. IJM is a global organization working in low-to-middle income countries to protect vulnerable children, men and women. As an organized group of advocates, donors, investigators, social workers, lawyers and government leaders IJM is carrying out a proven plan that will stop the modern slave trade in its tracks.

IJM operates 21 Field Offices in 13 Countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America where it collaborates with local authorities to combat such crimes as forced labor slavery and sex trafficking as well as violence against women and children, and police abuse of power.

IJM rescues children, women and men by disrupting the slave trade, working with local governments to rescue victims and throw their oppressors in jail. Once the immediate crisis is managed, they disrupt the business model that fostered the slavery in the first place. Disrupting the model involves prosecuting slave owners and dramatically increasing the legal, financial and opportunity costs slave owners must pay to sustain a slave-labor model.

The world is changing and slavery is much less tolerated in some of the places it once thrived. When India went on lockdown, it could have been an opportunity for the government to neglect its people’s cries for justice. Instead, India’s government took ownership of protecting its most vulnerable people. In 2020 almost 8000 men, women and children were rescued from slavery in Indian brick kilns.

The fishing industry on Lake Volta, Ghana, has enslaved boys as young as 6 to do very dangerous work that often results in injury and sometimes death. Before IJM began its work in Ghana, there had not been a trafficking conviction in the Volta region in 20 years. In 2020 there was the strongest sentencing for an IJM Ghana case - proof that the new approach is working. Now some prominent owners of fishing boats have taken up the cause of ending child slavery in their industry.

Twenty years ago IJM began work with partners in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In 2020 they concluded their work in the city. IJM is no longer needed there. The team has made a lasting impact by training its partners in the government and the community for two decades, fully equipping them to lead the effort. Now governments, law enforcement and community organizations work together to protect their citizens. This is how societies were meant to operate.

Across the world survivors of slavery and violence are taking leadership of the fight through the Global Survivor Network. Working with IJM their involvement insures that rescue and restoration programs address the needs of survivors. They are the experts and their experiences are invaluable. Their voices must be heard.

Much still remains to be done but much has been done. The fight is not over yet, but when we fight we are on God’s side and with Him we will prevail.

“God’s people are his plan to respond to the needs of the oppressed in our world.”

Gary A. Haugen Founder and CEO of International Justice Mission

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