‘Tis the season. I love the build up to Christmas, now that it’s getting nearer – not in August, September and October. I like to get the house ready, the music, the films, the food and all of that. I love to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Let’s face it though, this season does induce a little bit of madness. Yesterday I found myself in a store deliberating over which christmas tablecloth to buy – or should I buy a tablecloth and a runner, or just a runner? Which will live up to the Pinterest vision of Christmas?
I left with none – partly because I couldn’t decide and partly because I finished a course on ‘Ending Slavery’ last week. As I wandered through the store admiring the pretty decorations, I lifted the odd one up to see where it was made, wondering whether it was made in a factory staffed by slaves. It took the sparkle and shine out of all those things.
My post this week was going to feature a slave free cake, hence the title. To celebrate finishing a four week long online course I planned to make a cake with as many slave-free ingredients as possible. This is harder than it sounds – not making the cake, but sourcing all of the ingredients. I may well do this in future, but I failed this week as neither the sugar or cocoa I have in the cupboard at the moment is fair-trade, due in part to my ongoing battle between my conscience and a tight budget. The apples, I know are slave free – I picked them.
It’s a challenge to be a conscious consumer when everything from fruit and veg to cell phones, the clothes we wear to the vehicles we drive, have slavery somewhere in their supply chains. The big numbers can also make us feel a little powerless as individuals. The Global Slavery Index puts the latest figure as 45.8 million people in slavery in the world today, that’s more than ever before in history. Many people think that slavery ended with abolition in the 19th century. The fact is it didn’t even stop and start again, it continued in different forms. Modern day slavery, often called human trafficking, exists in many different forms – forced labour, bonded labour, child soldiers, sex trafficking and forced marriage to name a few. We may assume that everyone knows this, but not everyone does. The story of contemporary slavery is the continuing story of slavery.
I learned more about the things I already knew on the course. One of the major things it kindled is renewed hope. It’s good to read of the people who are making headway with people in power, and hearing and reading stories of slaves who with some help are now making a different life.
Though there are more slaves than ever before, slaves make up a smaller proportion of the world’s population than ever before. This is something I hadn’t realised, and was surprised by when listening to Kevin Bales’ TED talk. The legal framework is also there to tackle it, the majority of the world has instituted in law that slavery is wrong. There are protocols in place – quite a few that still need to be ratified, but they are there. The need is for political will and resources to focus on targeting slavery with prevention, rescue, rehabilitation and restoration. Put simply justice needs to be done.
The question is where does that put us as individuals. Can we do anything? The answer is of course yes! We can educate ourselves and others about what is going on, both globally and in our own back yards, we can buy fair-trade and local where possible, we can write to our governments, ask questions of businesses as to what they are doing, if we have investments (one day maybe!) we can request that our money is invested ethically and not in businesses that are doing nothing to remove slavery from their operations, and we can give. Freeing slaves takes resources, in terms of legal work and after care. Giving to an anti-slavery organisation, like IJM or A21, that does the work of freeing slaves is one of the most effective things to do.
We can also pray. No small thing. I believe that God deeply cares about these things. He is more passionate than I ever could be about righteousness and justice.
I suppose in a way we’re all an ingredient, not for a slave free cake, but a slave free world. If everyone did their part from international institutions like the UN, to governments, to NGOs, to business leaders, to justice systems, to the church, to each individual, working together we can see great change.
If you want to read more, you can check out these links and you’ll find more in other posts that I’ve written on the subject:
Slaves own stories – http://antislavery.ac.uk/solr-search?facet=collection:%22Contemporary+Narratives%22
IJM – https://www.ijm.ca/get-involved