In our Church calendars we have just remembered the anti-slavery campaigners led by William Wilberforce. His faith motivated him to become interested in social reform and the way people were treated. He and others campaigned for abolition of the slave trade. It wasn’t an easy fight, slavery was a profitable business that many powerful people had become dependent upon.
Thanks to people such as him, we no longer have people openly selling slaves as though they were tea or coffee, but sadly there is a modern day slavery movement.
An article this week said ‘there were more than 100 reports of modern slavery made to Cumbrian authorities in recent years.’ Worldwide it affects an estimated 40 million people. It would appear that modern slavery is all around us, but often just out of sight.
For the casual observer, it can look like a normal job. But people are being controlled and trapped; making our clothes, serving our food, picking our crops, cleaning our cars, even working in houses as cooks and cleaners. People who are trying to escape poverty or violence and fear the threat of deportation.
We need to look out for the signs, not to turn a blind eye when we suspect this is happening, nor to engage with those businesses that are misusing people.
It should be our desire to continue in the path that Jesus set out for us in his ministry: ‘to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to set at liberty those who are oppressed’ (Lk 4:18)
As Wilberforce said “having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know”