Slavery is not a word we connect with current day events. The word brings to mind history textbooks with stories of ancient Egypt or of African slaves in America. However, slavery is an evil that continues to exist today in various forms.
Some current forms of slavery and human exploitation include:
- A child working on a cocoa plantation in Ghana in extreme heat with little pay. He may apply dangerous pesticides without proper protective equipment, or endure physical abuse at the hands of employers.
- A woman in Bangladesh who is working on a farm to repay a debt that her grandparents took on before they died. The exorbitant rate of interest makes it unlikely that she will pay the debt off in full in her lifetime.
- A man picking blueberries in BC whose passport has been taken away until he repays the cost of his flight and visa to his employer.
Modern day slavery and human exploitation exists in far off countries and right in our back yard. It is an issue that crosses cultural and religious boundaries.
A group of religious leaders, including Pope Francis, have come together to speak out against modern day slavery and human trafficking by signing a declaration committing to eradicating modern slavery by 2020. If you wish to sign the declaration, you may do so at http://www.globalfreedomnetwork.org/declaration/
There are other actions you can take in the fight against modern day slavery:
- Educate yourself. Modern day slavery is a well-documented phenomenon. There many websites, books and other materials dedicated to the topic. A place to start could be http://allianceagainstmodernslavery.org/home . Their ‘resource’ section includes videos, book lists, links to articles and research reports.
- Buy food certified by organizations that monitor production and work with companies for ethical employment conditions. World Vision has a great information page at http://nochildforsale.ca/?attachment_id=268 that focuses on the chocolate industry. Their ‘sweet solutions’ section lists certifications you can look for on the label when purchasing chocolate, coffee, tea, fruit, oil and more.
- Become an aware shopper. Pope Francis has said “Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral and not simply an economic act”. Ask questions about how your food is sourced and your clothing or electronics are made. Support companies that source and manufacture their products ethically. Many of us spend money on non-necessities like a fifth pair of shoes, chocolate and flowers. If we can afford such indulgences, surely we can justify spending a few more dollars with the goal of supporting companies that respect human life and avoid companies that exploit men, women and children.