Thousands of Uniting Church members are joining forces with Christians across Australia to speak up against human trafficking and slavery on Abolitionist Sunday 23 November.
Following in the footsteps of those whose faith inspired them to seek a legal end to slavery more than 200 years ago, these modern-day Abolitionists are saying ‘no’ to a world where millions of men, women and children are still exploited for profit.
Dr Mark Zirnsak, Director of the Uniting Church’s Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit said human trafficking and slavery exploits the vulnerable, stripping people of their basic human rights, dignity and freedom.
“It reduces human beings to commodities, bought and sold to service the demands of global consumers for cheap goods and services,” he said.
“Slavery and human trafficking are serious criminal activities and require collaborative action from governments to stamp them out and make companies responsible for ensuring these activities are not present in the products they make and sell.”
The JIM unit is joining World Vision for Abolitionist Sunday to raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking and slavery and equip Christians to speak up on the issue.
World Vision Australia’s chief executive, Tim Costello, said Christians are often unaware of the human suffering that may be behind the products and services they buy.
“Human trafficking is woven into the lives we lead – whether we know it or not,” Mr Costello said.
“Even though state-sanctioned slavery is illegal, millions of people around the world are still forced to work in fields, mines, fishing boats, homes, factories or the sex industry – often without pay and in terrible conditions.
“Our own actions may even contribute to this demand because of the goods we consume.”
Mr Costello says that whenever people are exploited for profit, rather than being valued as children of God, the Church must speak up.
“Christians need to be at the forefront in speaking out against human trafficking and slavery. And we can make choices that give people hope and a future.
“As Christians, we have made a difference in the past, and I believe that today we can again bring an end to this horrendous abuse of human life.
“We must ask questions of the companies we buy from, to ensure their supply chains are free of trafficked and forced labour.
“By demanding more ethical products we can show that we are serious about ending human trafficking and slavery and that we will not tolerate men, women or children being exploited for profit,” Mr Costello said.
True story of a human trafficking survivor:
Twelve-year-old Dubale (pictured) from Ethiopia is a survivor of human trafficking and child labour. He and five other children were trafficked by his uncle. “I was misled by my uncle to migrate to the town with him … I made [a] very serious mistake when I disappeared from home without the knowledge of my mother,” he explains.
The children ended up working as weavers for more than 17 hours a day, in a small room filled with suffocating cotton dust. Dubale survived, but tragically his friends were less fortunate. The trafficker buried one child and abandoned the other five in nearby towns. Dubale says he was fortunate to survive: “I am lucky that I survived… one child died and [the] other two were very sick”.
Dubale was able to return home, where he became a registered child with World Vision Ethiopia and was able to return to school. “Now I am happy living with my family,” he said.
You can raise your voice against human trafficking and slavery by taking part in Abolitionist Sunday, 23 November. To receive a resource kit, register your church at www.worldvision.com.au/abolitionistsunday