Slavery in the Twenty-first Century?

Two weeks ago, a missionary my church is supporting spoke briefly about her work with International Justice Mission. She spoke of a thirteen year old girl who had been kidnapped with the intention of using her as a sex slave. This girl’s story had a happy ending because the kidnappers were caught and the girls under their control rescued. The girl is now back with her family.

I’ve heard from more than one source that there are more slaves worldwide today than at the height of the African slave trading days. Here are the facts IJM states:

• According to the United Nations Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, an estimated 20 million people were held in bonded slavery as of 1999.
• In 2004 there are more slaves than were seized from Africa during four centuries of trans-Atlantic slave trade. (Kevin Bales, Disposable People)
• In 1850 a slave in the Southern United States cost the equivalent of $40,000 today. According to Free the Slaves, a slave today costs an average of $90.
• Approximately two-thirds of today’s slaves are in South Asia. Human Rights Watch estimates that in India alone there are as many as 15 million children in bonded slavery.

One person I heard speak on the subject became involved in the fight against contemporary slavery because of stories about the Underground Railroad during the pre-Civil War era. He said he believed he would have been involved in freeing slaves if he had lived in America then. But if that was true, then he should be involved in freeing slaves today.

Sometimes we need to put ourselves in a horrific scene and imagine what we would do in order to help us know what to do about the horrific of our day. Kay Marshall Strom‘s novel The Call of Zulina, the CFBA feature the last half of this week, is a story that allows the reader to think more deeply about slavery than most of us would choose to. And that’s a good thing.

Books should challenge and inform as well as entertain. This one does. Kay mentions on her Web site that writing the biography of John Newton changed her life. She gives a link to the World Changer Movement—a crusade that actually sprang out of the movie about William Wilberforce.

IJM also encourages people to take action. On their Web site there’s a tab called “Get Involved.” The great thing is, one of their choices listed on that menu is “Prayer Partner.”

Not all of us are called to mission involvement. Not all of us have resources that allow us to give to all the causes we learn about that are worthy. Not all of us have time to spend beyond our current responsibilities. But we are all able to pray. And what better use of intercession is there than to stand for the most needy, the hurting and helpless, and ask our merciful Father to intervene on their behalf.

The Call of Zulina may not change my life, but it’s helping to expand my prayer concerns.

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