Thursday, February 26, 2015

End It 2015

2/27 is the annual day to remember the 27+ million people, in today's world, who are held captive and forced to work without pay or the freedom to leave. End It Movement is working hard to bring to light what so many want to keep in darkness because of its extreme profit to their coffers.  Tomorrow, you will probably see, in person and across social media, lots of red Xs on the hands of those who stand in solidarity against modern-day slavery.  Many of you know this hits home oh so acutely for my family.  While I often fight back the bitterness that the world was not alive with passion to end slavery in the 1990s, I do rejoice that this is now an issue that so many recognize as an ugly truth in our world.

$90.  Do you have that much in your bank account?  In your piggy bank?  In your change jar?  $90 is all it takes to buy a slave in most of the world.  This disgusts me.  Human life valued at a mere $90.  How is life valued so flippantly?  How does others not see the eyes of Christ in the ones staring out at them?  I have friends who have started sending $90 a month to Free The Slaves to assist them in their liberation and rehabilitation programs.  One of these families goes without cable each month in exchange for buying freedom for a captive in the name of Jesus.  Another one of the families gave up their gym membership in exchange for buying freedom for a forgotten one.  I stand in awe that those two families alone rescue 24 souls a year just by making a superficial sacrifice.  What could we accomplish if we all dug deep?

I think so many people see '27 million' and shut down.  That number is so large.  I can't picture 27 million of anything.  So often I feel that people become overwhelmed by that number and think that slavery isn't solvable.  We've done all we can to make it illegal all over the world, but we can't stop the evil.  So folks keep living their merry little lives and try to block out the images on TV and social media.

But, God.  Oh, those words  God doesn't stop!  He's at work! God redeems.  No story is lost on Him.  God made justice.  Micah 6:8 is a hip verse in our culture, but that doesn't make it any less true or applicable or important: Do justice, seek mercy, walk humbly with God.  Do justice.  That means in how I talk about people, how I think about people, how I love on people, how I shop, and how I spend my time.

Let's revisit the shopping thing.  I'd love to see an old-school news cast of street interviews with the question being, "Are you involved in the slave trade?".  I guarantee there would be few, if any, yeses.  Yet, we all are involved.  Our global economy is set up in a way that causes us to value a great deal.  The cheaper we can buy what we need or want, the better.  Unfortunately, to buy things cheaply and for the selling company to still make a profit, that often means that those doing the actual manufacturing are not paid much or are not paid at all.  It means that their working conditions are unsafe, unsanitary, and often flat out life threatening.  This is all so that we feel good about our 'deal' and that sweat shop owners, distribution companies, and brand name CEOs live the good life.  The majority of chocolate candies, sugar, coffee, tea, and often fresh fruits and veggies in chain grocery stores are all grown in the hands of slaves.  My friend Given reminds that each time someone bites into a KitKat, s/he is tasting the blood of the slave who grew the cocoa.  I know that's a bit graphic, but the reality is still reality.

Yes, I know that most of us live on a budget.  Yes, I know it's hard to always know exactly where our food and textile items originated.  Even in America, buying something from an American farm doesn't guarantee slave labor wasn't used.  So, what are we to do?  The knowledge, the research, the proof, is all around us.  We can't plead ignorance any longer.  It just isn't a valid excuse for.  Here are some ideas:

~Pay attention to the retailers you use.  The grocery store and the mall are two prime places to find goods made by slave hands.  Look for fair trade symbols.  Organic items are generally fair trade too because of the strict rules governing them to be labeled organic.  Look for these symbols on products:

~Just because a product says "Made in the USA" doesn't mean slave labor wasn't used in its production.  Research the sourcing of the materials in the product.  Something assembled in America can be labeled "Made in America" but it might have cotton sourced from slave labor in Uzbekistan, pieces made in factories in China, or embellishments from sweat shops in Bangladesh.

~Research retailers.  Many websites will have a link at the bottom of their page if they are fair trade/ethically made.  Ann Taylor and Loft, Carters, and GAP (this would include Banana Republic and Old Navy since they are part of the GAP family) are ethically made clothing brands, and they are ever seeking to become more and more transparent with their supply chain.  Shop locally made goods when you can...crafts, clothing, produce/farm goods.  Get to know the providers.  Learn their methods, and enjoy supporting local businesses. 

~I'm not one to jump on the 'ban' bandwagon, but I'm all for letting producers know that you like a product but would like it even more if they changed their production methods to ethically made/ fair trade status. 

~Keep your eyes open.  Slaves are often hidden in plain sight.  A church friend had slaves selling hair bows in her neighborhood recently.  She said she knew something wasn't right but didn't have the guts to call police.  Oh, please call!!  Rescue these dear ones.

~Tell others.  Read up on slavery here.  Share this post.  Then, don't go back to your old ways.  We're held accountable once we're armed with knowledge and then choose to do nothing with it.  I teach about modern-day slavery to my 6th graders each year.  If they learn nothing else in my room, I want them to come away knowing that human life is in-valuable, that our choices matter, and that they can make a difference.  Our children are not too young to learn about this.

~Pray.  God moves in mighty ways, and He cares.We are made in His image for His glory. When you can't find what you need certified fair trade/ethically made, pray for those who made your item.  Pray that God will rescue them quickly and help them endure.

Tomorrow, on this day of recognizing that we still have a long way to go in regards of seeing God's fingerprints in each face, will you commit to doing all you can to ending slavery once and for all?  Then share with others what you plan to do and ask them to hold you accountable.  Let's be in it to end it.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  ~Ephesians 2:10

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