27 Million…

…That’s the number of people who are estimated to be in slavery today.  According to research done by Free the Slaves, there are more people enslaved today than at any other time in history.  Noted anti-slavery organization, the Polaris Project, estimates that there are currently over 100,000 U.S. citizen minors who are vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. 

Those numbers sometimes keep me awake at night.

Those numbers are far too large, in a world where technology and progress have brought us further than any of our ancestors’ generations before us. 

Even one person in slavery would be too many.

Last night, a group of about 20 people watched a film in the Chapel,  called “Not Today.”  The film tells the story of Caden, a young man who comes from a privileged lifestyle (the watch he wears costs approximately 1/5 of what my house is worth!), who winds up with some friends on a holiday trip to India.  While there, he encounters Kiran, a Dalit (“Untouchable”) man who has had to sell his daughter to human traffickers in an effort to try to keep himself, and the girl, alive.  Kiran does not understand that his actions have put his daughter at risk for exploitation–the film hints that she has been used both in the commercial sex trade and in sweatshop labor–and he is devastated when he discovers the conditions that the girls he encounters are kept in.  At one point, Kiran and Caden are able to free two small girls from a brothel, only to discover the next day that the girls have run back to their “owners,” because they have been led to believe that their compliance with the pimps and Johns will somehow create a better life for themselves and their families.  It’s a heart-wrenching film that has the ability of being able to make one feel both inspired and completely depressed at the very same time. 

The story of “Not Today” is but one example of the horrors faced by those who are held in slavery today.  The chains of modern slavery may not be made of the iron of the old days, but the mental and physical strictures on trafficked persons are just as strong, and just as devastating, as the restraints of the past.  It is time for those of us who live freely, and who enjoy the privileges of Western decadence, to stand up and make our voices heard.  Slavery exists not only in India and in other developing countries, but in the United States and most of the rest of the world.  Everyone, everywhere is affected by this tragedy.  No one is truly free as long as anyone is enslaved. 

In his inaugural sermon, in his own hometown (Luke 4:16-21), Jesus preached the words of Isaiah 61:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
   because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
   to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
   and release to the prisoners;
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,

The call of Christ rings in my ears today as I reflect on the tragedy of human trafficking.  As I ponder the enormity of the number 27 Million, I wonder, “What can I do?  I’m just one man!”  But I know that what I can do–what we can all do–is learn more, educate others, advocate for freedom, and work to end slavery once and for all–even if it means working one person at a time.  Who knows, maybe we can get that number down to 26,999,999, and then 26,999,998, then all the way down to 0.

Pray for the freedom of all, but most of all, act up for freedom every day.