The Patheos book club has been discussing the book ‘Refuse to do nothing’, by Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim. It’s about the scandal of modern slavery – with an estimated 27 million people enslaved worldwide, it’s a bigger problem than most of us realise. The book suggests that we each should do what we can to contribute to its end.
For example, would you eagerly reach for a chocolate bar if you knew that the cocoa beans used to make the candy were harvested by young children, forced into labor and held against their will? Child labor is used in almost 70% of the world’s cocoa production. As the sweet, chocolatey goodness melts on your fingers, imagine a young child, taken from his family and smuggled across the border to another country, working long hours with little food or pay, away from his family and threatened with violence. He made your treat possible.
Pick up your cell phone, and as you text, talk and surf the web, imagine a 6-year-old child in Africa – let’s say in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which boasts more than $20 trillion in natural resources at its disposal but is ranked by the United Nations as last in the world in human rights. This child is abducted by a militia group and given a machine gun, forced to kill his own parents (and likely rape and then horribly mutilate his own mother) and then instructed to burn down his entire village. That child soldier is now a pawn in ongoing conflict over the minerals used to make electronics. He made your LOLs possible.
Imagine a young girl of 13; she argues with her mother, decides to run away, and ends up at the house of a friend’s older brother. A man living there locks her in a room, beats her, drugs her and then forces her into prostitution. She is denied food, and threatened with more violence, against not only herself but also her family if she tries to leave. Now imagine that it’s your own daughter, right here in the U.S., because 83% of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are U.S. citizens (based on confirmed cases of trafficking).
Imagine a man, born into a family with a debt owed to a sugar plantation owner. At birth, his life is already not his own. He, his children and his children’s children will toil under excrutiatingly horrible conditions, locked away from the outside world, bonded to a debt he didn’t incur but which continues to accrue – one step forward, ten steps back, forever working yet never getting closer to freedom…
… recognize that you have a responsibility to consider how everything you do affects everyone else. You don’t have to become a modern day abolitionist, hitting the lecture circuit or traveling to Cambodia to free young girls held in bondage. You can start by simply becoming an educated consumer. Read labels, look for “fair trade” symbols, ask questions about where your products were made. What we buy on the cheap often comes at the expense of someone else.