“Stop the Traffik” an organization that seeks to expose and prevent human trafficking how / where / when ever it is realized. According to its website: “Human Trafficking is the recruitment or movement of persons, by means of the threat or use of force, deception or coercion for the purpose of exploitation… People are tricked into situations where they are bought, sold, abused, and exploited in many different ways: sexual exploitation, forced labour, street crime, domestic servitude or even the sale of organs and human sacrifice. Men, women and children are trafficked within their own countries and across international borders. Trafficking affects every continent and every country… People are trafficked primarily for financial gain. Human Trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry it is a high profit, low risk crime. It is easier to move people around than at any other time in history. This means that criminal gangs are preying on vulnerable people in highly sophisticated ways and eluded prosecution… Anyone can find themselves in a vulnerable situations due to poverty, limited job opportunities, global demand for cheap products and natural disasters. Young people and vulnerable communities across the world must be equipped to spot the signs of how they could end up being exploited”.
It was a few years back, when the film “Amazing Grace” came out, which focused on the life of William Wilberforce and his lifelong campaign to end slavery, I became aware of “Stop the Traffik” and some of the issues it raised. Wilberforce remains one of my great heroes but what Stop the Traffik did was expose the fact that despite slavery being outlawed in the British Empire and the rest of the so-called civilized world human trafficking still goes on, and to a much bigger extent than was the case in Wilberforce’s day and than most people realise. I played a small part spreading that message when the management of the cinema showing the film allowed a few of us to do a display and bookstall around the issue of human trafficking and since then have been aware of “Stop the Traffik” campaigns, in particularly those highlighting commercial enterprises trading products that have effective used slave labour. My interest in India’s Dalit population, who are at the bottom of the pile in the Hindu caste system, has meant the subject has never gone away and I have been made aware that human trafficking continues in all sorts of guises. Regrettably, my activism in this area has been limited, not through lack of interest but because there have been other things where I feel my energies should be focused.
It is very easy to ignore the evils of human trafficking because it is not something we see and it is easy to go about our lives never having to confront this evil. Today, however, it was starkly brought home to me when I met up with one of the guests at the homeless night shelter I manage, who I have not seen for a while. As often happens I got to ask about some of the people I knew and he was close to. One such person was the nicest fellow one could hope to meet, who had every opportunity to escape from his homeless predicament but was unable to do so because of unexercised demons fueled by alcohol. Its relevance with respect to the human trafficking story became clear when my homeless friend pointed out that his friend had been effectively trafficked and was made to work for his abusers who had a hold over him including threats if he were to try to escape. In the end he did escape and I understand he is safe, but the salutary lesson is that all sorts of persons can be trafficked, especially the most vulnerable.
While not in the same league of human trafficking, I have heard three disturbing stories in recent days of people having been bullied. It seems to me there is an ugly human tendency for the more powerful to dominate and exploit those less powerful, and in all sorts of often subtle ways. Having identified with such tendencies in the past, I feel sufficiently empowered and bloody minded to stand with the bullied against the bullies and in the light of what my homeless friend told me feel I need to renew my efforts to stop human trafficking. Not that I need one, but if I were to look for a theological reason for doing so, I would find it in Mary’s Magnificat: “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty”.