On the 4th April 2018 the eyes of the Commonwealth, and even the world, will turn to the Gold Coast as the city plays host to more than six thousand athletes and officials from 70 countries – all arriving to participate in the 21st commonwealth games. The city has been preparing for this event since they were announced as the winners in 2011. Infrastructure, accommodation, facilities have all been massively upgraded, preparing for the wave of participants, spectators, and tourists that will arrive for the games.
At the same time, there has been another side of the Gold Coast that has been preparing for the games. There are people arriving on the Gold Coast for an entirely different purpose – modern slavery; human trafficking.
You see, when cities play host to big events like this, the illegal sex industry grows to cater for the influx of people looking for a ‘good time’. It’s thought that the sex industry can triple in size during one of these major events. Already, police have identified increased activity in the sex industry on the Gold Coast… but the sad thing is, once the games are over, the sex industry remains inflated.
It’s not isolated to sporting events.
Every now and then stories of sweatshops and horrendous working conditions mar the reputations of companies like Apple, H&M, and Nike – people forced into less than acceptable working conditions, paid very little, and made to work long hours. As first world citizens, these stories outrage us. We rant about it on social media, we may even boycott the offending company, but very little thought goes into the problem beyond that – these are factories in other places, after all… far off, other places.
But do we ever stop to think that modern slavery is a problem closer to home?
There are people being forced into all sorts of modern slavery in Australia, every day. The Freedom Hub founder Sally Irwin identifies 6 areas where workers are exploited – sex industry, retail, construction, domestic help, farming and hospitality. The exploitation ranges from ‘wage theft‘ to enforced servitude. In fact it’s estimated there are 4,300 people living in conditions of slavery in Australia, with thousands more being exploited in their workplace.
You can play a part
When we think about situations where slavery occur we often blame the perpetrators. But have you ever stopped to think that you play a part in modern slavery? That our consumer behaviours are fuelling demand for companies to treat their workers in these ways?
In 2014, Creek Road Presbyterian did a series on What the Church Gets Wrong But Jesus Makes Right, in which we addressed Human Trafficking.
The main thing the church gets wrong about human trafficking is we try to address the symptoms of slavery, while we remain largely ignorant of the part we play in fueling modern slavery. We buy cheap clothes – which fuels the demand for sweatshops; we like cheap food – which fuels the demand for wage exploitation on farms; we are ignorant of slavery in supply chains of our favourite retailers who sell us coffee and chocolate – both industries notoriously known for exploitation of producers; we consume others – which fuels the pornography industry. We are ourselves, slaves to sin and desires which fuel modern slavery.
Slavery exists in the world because we become slaves to our desires
In the beginning God made people to freely enjoy his good creation in the Garden of Eden. But then the fall happened – humans gave up their freedom to become slave to their desire to be like God:
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. – Genesis 3:1-6
The fall has had flow on effects throughout history. In the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament, we see God’s nation in slavery. We see them cry out for a saviour, and God delivers them from the slave drivers.
“Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand.” – Exodus 13:3
All through the bible we see God’s people giving in to their slavery to sin.
Jesus came to make it right
While the church gets things wrong about slavery, Jesus came to make it right by dying on the cross, and rising again. Jesus came to end slavery to sin and death. And the ultimate work Jesus did, should shape our lives as we take up our part in fighting modern slavery.
If we are serious about following the example Jesus sets in loving others, we need to take a hard look at how our decisions and desires are contributing to the problem. We need to partner with organisations like The Freedom Hub that are helping fight modern slavery. We need to see others as Jesus did – people who he deemed worthy enough to die for – not people for us to consume.
“If we want cheap products, then somebody has to pay.”
Jesus paid a pretty high price to free us from our slavery. His selfless act on the cross should shape how we consume – we need to stop living our lives at the expense of others.
So how can you help?
There is an extensive list of resources available on the Creek Road website, but here are some other ways you can help.
- Figure out your slavery footprint – http://slaveryfootprint.org/
- Check out and support The Freedom Hub who work with survivors of slavery to rehabilitate them into society – https://thefreedomhub.org/
- Consider supporting the Freedom Hub’s crowdfunding campaign to raise money so they can set up a Freedom Hub Café and Survivor School to help the victims of slavery on the Gold Coast and in QLD – https://chuffed.org/project/the-freedom-hub-gold-coast
- Be more intentional about your consumer choices. The Shop Ethical guide lists common retailers and rates their social record – https://www.ethical.org.au/theguide/