(all Bible references from the New International Version)
Where Were You?
(by Matt Friedman)
[ UPDATE 28-September-2022: Excellent video with Matt Friedman on youtube.com/watch?v=rUR_yFYDtOo ]
We are not winning the fight against human slavery. We presently have nearly 40 million slaves around the world – more slaves today than any other time in history. According to the US State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, it is estimated that around 108,000 victims were helped globally. Even with the collective response of governments, the UN and civil society partners, less than 0.2 percent of the victims are assisted. Relying solely on the anti-slavery community around the world to tackle the scourge of modern slavery and the criminals behind it simply isn’t working. Unless something drastic changes, this trend will continue unabated.
nearly 40 million slaves … Relying solely on the anti-slavery community around the world to tackle the scourge of modern slavery and the criminals behind it simply isn’t working
Let me begin with a story about Gita. She was a 15 year old girl from Nepal who was trafficked into a brothel in India and systematically raped over 7,000 times over a two year period. I met her when I was living and working in Nepal. At the time, I was researching a book on the plight of sex slavery between Nepal and India and I started visiting shelters throughout Nepal. While nearly all of the girls I approached agreed to tell me their personal stories, there was one girl, Gita, who repeatedly declined my requests for an interview. But during all of my interviews in her shelter, she sat and listened to everything being said.
On the last day, Gita said she had changed her mind – she would give me an interview. Over the next three hours, she described one of the most gut-wrenching testimonials I had ever heard. It was filled with deception, rape, torture, murder, and disease. At the end of the interview, I sat there speechless. I finally said, “Wow, you must be so angry at the traffickers for all of the terrible things they did to you.”
Instead, Gita looked accusingly at me and the others in the room and said, “No, I am not angry at the traffickers, I am angry at you!” she shouted, pointing her finger at each of us in turn. “Where were you when I was in that terrible brothel? I sat there every day waiting for someone to come and save me. I knew that everything happening around me was illegal and wrong. Where were you and everyone else when I needed you?”
“Everyone knows what is going on. How can such terrible things happen without anyone doing anything?”
“And why are you sitting here?” she added. “Why aren’t you down there helping those other girls? Everyone knows what is going on. How can such terrible things happen without anyone doing anything? I am not angry with the traffickers. They are just bad people doing what they do – bad things. I am angry at the good people – society, you! Where were you? Why does no one care?”
That day, a survivor spoke for herself and for so many others. She “called us all out,” asking a fundamental question: “Why doesn’t the world care enough to stop this crime against humanity?” It was a profoundly relevant question then and remains so today.
That moment was an epiphany that helped me to understand that we, the citizens of the world—collectively and individually—have a responsibility to help end the suffering of those like Gita. Slavery represents one of the most significant human rights violations of our time. As rights bearers ourselves, we must all accept some responsibility.
we need to put in place a “second generation abolitionist movement” in which we all step up and do our part to help address the problem
To solve this problem, we need to put in place a “second generation abolitionist movement” in which we all step up and do our part to help address the problem. Wilberforce and others did this 150 years ago. So can we. If an army of ordinary people were to come forward within a mass movement, this would help to supplement the ongoing development activities. This approach worked once before – it can work again today. But for this to happen, we must all take heroic steps to do our part. Even small contributions will add up.
What can we do? We can learn about t he problem and educate others. We can step up and volunteer within one of the many anti-trafficking groups. We can raise money for the cause or donate our own funding to help. We can support government efforts to help fight the problem. The idea is to use our own talents to fight slavery. If you are an artist, do an art project and display it in a public place. If you are a film maker, make a film on the state of modern-day slavery. If you are a writer, write about the issue and post it on blogs. Whatever you do, do it in the direction of freedom. The same can be said if you are a teacher, social worker, doctor, lawyer, or anyone else. If 10 million people did one act each that is 10 million acts. This adds up. And finally, please pray. This is one of the most important actions we need to bring about change.
please pray. This is one of the most important actions we need to bring about change
To help support our efforts to stop this heinous crime, please consider offering a contribution to the Mekong Club or consider reading my latest book on the title “Where Were You: A Profile of Modern Slavery” to learn what you can do to help.
Ship your grain across the sea;
after many days you may receive a return.
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
If clouds are full of water,
they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed[a] in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well.
Light is sweet,
and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
However many years anyone may live,
let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless [hebel; ‘mere breath’].
(by Bjorn Schmid)
Father of Light, Lord of heaven and earth,
We are but dust to You,
Yet you came in Christ Jesus to redeem us.
You suffered with us and died like us, Son of Man.
You rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, Son of God.
All is restored in You,
All is made perfect in You,
All is complete in You.
Help us Lord to be Your servants, Your friends, Your inheritors.
Convict us to be more like You, to love like You, to act like You.
Inspire us through Your Holy Spirit,
With ways and means to reach out to our brothers and sisters,
Especially to those who are abused and suffering greatly.
We want to show all people Your glory Lord,
Nothing of us, only of You,
So they will know it is You,
Not a copy or replica of You.
Be revealed and magnified through Your children we pray,
In the only saviour Jesus’ name,