Category Archives: Abolition

Will Your Church Step Up?: The Challenge of Human Trafficking

Earlier this week, President Obama spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative gathering on the topic of human trafficking.  In this speech he challenged churches to step up and act to “answer the Bible’s call to seek justice and rescue the oppressed” by educating their congregation about the reality of human trafficking;  by joining in coalitions that are bound by a love of God and a concern for the oppressed; and by standing up against the degradation and abuse of women and children.

Here is a link to this remarkable speech (18 minutes).

In the United Methodist Church, Human Trafficking month will be in January.  As your church plans it’s program and ministries for the next year, I encourage you to take action and join this great human rights challenge of our time. But there is no need to wait for January. Throughout the church year as a church engages with scripture, there are ample opportunities for a congregation to become more aware of the need for action regarding this form of modern slavery. You can show people this infograph and get the conversation started. We can determine to fight slavery by endorsing the use of Fair Trade Products in our churches and in the businesses and homes of church members. We can FOCUS our mission efforts by supporting women and girls. If you do not know about the Girl Effect, watch this video and check out this website.

Another opportunity to learn about ways to fight human trafficking and to support the well-being of women and girls will occur NEXT week. On October 1 and 2, Independent Lens on PBS will present a four hour “broadcast event” that will involve social media, educational modules, a social action game on facebook, and mobile games. Don’t miss this event! Half the Sky will provide you with inspirational and disturbing stories, and MANY suggestions about positive actions you can take to make a difference.

If you have not yet read the best selling book Half the Sky by Nickolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, get a copy and read it. It was part of the UMW reading plan several years ago, and is great reading.

I support the new abolition movement by blogging (See “Teens Stand Up As Abolitionists,” “An Unlikely Hero Rescues Slaves in Nepal”,  and Human Trafficking Month Resources “) and by offering an ongoing micro-financing loan to women through Kiva.org. I have been recycling the same loan money for several years now, and I have supported women in Kenya, the D.R.Congo, South Sudan, and Uganda. I am about to make my seventh loan. Another organization I love to support is the Heifer Project.  Every Christmas, I make donations in honor of my friends and family for Christmas gifts.  In the past, I have given animals (or portions of animals) to one of the beneficiaries of HP.  My mother was quite amused the year I gave her part of a goat. Last year, since I have recently become a gardener, I purchased a gardener’s gift basket for someone else’s garden.

I invite you to take a look at these resources, share them with people you know, and DO something. I’d also like to invite you to share what you are currently doing or plan to do below. This can be an opportunity for YOU to contribute your ideas so others may step up to meet this human rights challenge of our time.

Will you and your church step up to this Biblical challenge? I pray that each of my readers will accept this charge.

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Filed under Abolition, Bible, Blogging, Christianity, Human Trafficking, Reading, Slavery, United Methodist

Human Trafficking Month Resources

Over the past few weeks, I have been involved in a campaign initiated by Vicki Davis (an award winning education blogger aka @coolcatteacher on Twitter) to raise awareness about the issue of modern slavery. Vicki asked educators to blog or tweet once each day during the winter break from school to help end modern slavery.

I enthusastically joined her campaign, and in the process I have learned a great deal.  In this post, I would like to offer some resources that may be helpful to you as you address the issue of human trafficking.

Recently three organizations working to abolish slavery received an 11.5 million dollars from Google to aid their efforts. Each organization takes a slightly different approach to the fight. The International Justice Mission is a Washington DC based human rights agency that  works to rescue victims of slavery and sexual exploitation in about 12 different countries. The Polaris Project and The Slavery Footprint work together in the US Human Trafficking Initiative. the Polaris offers a Human Trafficking Resource hotline, and the Slavery Footprint offers a great interactive website so people can learn how their lifestyle depends on slave labor.

Educator Larry Ferlazzo has compiled a great list of resources that will be useful to anyone interested in learning more about modern slavery. The CNN Freedom Project is an anti-slavery campaign that was launched in March 2011. They report that 2000 people have been freed so far through their efforts.  Their website has many useful resources. ABC also reported extensively on child slavery  in the summer of 2008. Their news reports inspired my initial interest in abolition, and  although some of the links on this page are no longer active there are still some that might be helpful to you.

My book suggestions to learn more about modern slavery include the following:

A Crime So Monstrous by E. Benjamin Skinner–This book by a journalist was published in 2008 and is really a foundational book for anyone who wants to learn more about modern slavery. Many rave reviews.

Be the Change:Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing the World  by Zach Hunter — The author of this book is a college student and a well known public speaker on the topic of abolition. He has been an abolitionist since age 12 and wrote this book as a teenager.

Sold by Patricia Mc Cormick- This novel about a 13 year old girl from Nepal sold into prostitution by her step-father was a finalist for the National Book Award. It is recommended for grade 9 and up.

The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church has some church specific resources posted on their website. These include bulletin inserts, official church resolutions, small group study resources, current legislative actions, and links to other Christian abolition resources.

President Obama has declared January to be Human Trafficking month; and the United Methodist Church designates January 11th as Human Trafficking Day.  Although I am posting this information on January 6th,  human trafficking education, advocacy, and preaching is appropriate on many different occasions. It can be easily integrated into the curriculum of a high school English class (see this great unit plan for a high school English class and my post on “Teens Stand Up Against Slavery”) and into preaching (there are  many scripture passages that could be useful for this) at various times of the year.

It is my prayer and my hope that educators and pastors will work together to bring awareness to this continuing human tragedy. Together we are a powerful force.

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Filed under Abolition, Education, United Methodist

An Unlikely Hero Rescues Slaves in Nepal

When I discovered this  interview of the 15 year old abolitionist Zach Hunter by Robin Roberts on  Good Morning America, I was STAGGERED by Zach’s claim  that there are 27 million slaves in the world today.  In order to come to grips with this astounding  figure, I immersed myself in learning more by continuing to watch the extensive ABC video archive reports about modern slavery.  Although my research was spurred by a 17 year old student’s question in the American literature class I was teaching (see my previous post); this was something I needed to do for myself.  I was diving deep. Deeper than I could take my students. I was trying to assimilate the incomprehensible.  So, I watched the horrifying news reports of children being sold, abused, and exploited.

According to my rather conservative, prudish standards, most of the videos I watched were not suitable for use in school–even for 11th graders.  To deal with my student’s question, I finally decided to show my class the GMA interview with Zach Hunter; but I considered showing another video as well.  It tells the story of an 82 year old American woman who has found a fairly simple way to rescue child slaves in Nepal. In fact, she is eradicating slavery in entire villages.  Although time constraints prevented me from showing this news report to my class, I find that it continues to inspire me in my personal attempt to make a difference.

Please ignore the irritating commercial at the beginning, and watch the video on the following link. The report is only 3 minutes and 11 seconds, and it  is well worth your time. It will also help you understand why the picture of a goat heads this post.

http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/kwidget/wid/0_ag64o5yp/uiconf_id/6501241

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Filed under Abolition, Education, Public Schools

Teens Stand Up as Abolitionists

Two years ago, when I was teaching 11th grade English, my students were discussing The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano , a slave narrative. The excerpt we were discussing described the terrible voyage of Equiano to America on a slave ship as a young African captive in the 18th century.  One of my 17 year old  students blurted out a comment, saying,

“I don’t understand slavery. I mean, how could people be so cruel to one another?”

I spontaneously replied,

“Oh, there has always been slavery. It has existed throughout history. It existed in ancient times. We read about it in the Bible during the time of Moses. We read about it in the New Testament in the writings of St. Paul, and we even see it in the world today. It has never been totally abolished.”

I was rather startled at my own response, and I think I startled my students as well. So that evening, when I got home, I began to investigate modern  slavery more thoroughly. I discovered a wealth of information.  There are numerous books on the topic. http://www.amazon.com/Crime-Monstrous-Face—Face-Modern-Day/dp/0743290089/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325079106&sr=1-2 But for a quick understanding of the reality, I turned to  ABC News online. They  had recently spent a week reporting on How to  Buy a Child and there were numerous videos posted showing how disturbingly easy it was for one of their reporters to purchase a Haitian girl for less than the cost of a television! (Unfortunately these no longer seem to be available at their website.)

The real prize, however was this video of Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts interviewing a 15 year old teenager named Zach Hunter who has taken up the cause of modern slavery.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/fifteen-year-tackles-slavery-2953597

Zach said that according to Amnesty International, there are more than 27 million slaves in the world today—more than at any other time in human history! (I have since heard other figures ranging from 27-32 million.) I  modified my lesson plans for the next day and decided to show my students this interview with Zach instead.  A few days later, I was delighted to learn that our school not only had an Amnesty International Club, but we also  had a chapter of Zach’s non-profit organization, Loose Change to Loosen Chains. I encouraged my students to check out these extra-curricular activities, and several chose to do so.

Later in the year, I was able to incorporate this real life issue into our curriculum as we studied the writings of another abolitionist, Henry David Thoreau. For that unit, I asked my students to keep a journal (as Thoreau did); and one of the options they had for a journal reflection was to attend a meeting of the Loose Change to Loosen Chains chapter at our school and write about what they learned from attending.

As a teacher of American literature, I find that students often question the relevance of the literature they are required to study.  Sadly, the topic  of slavery is not an irrelevant issue in today’s English classroom.   But if teachers and students begin to recognize that slavery is a contemporary reality, perhaps it WILL become a blessedly irrelevant topic.  I long for that day.

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Filed under Abolition, Education, United Methodist