5 Steps to Give Up Slavery for Lent
Though we may think of slavery as a thing of the past, it's truly a modern problem. It's estimated that there are 20.9 million victims of forced labor in the world today. This includes coerced servitude, sex trafficking, bonded labor, and forced marriage.
You might not think modern slavery has anything to do with you, but do you eat chocolate? Wear clothes made overseas or a diamond ring? Are you reading this on an electronic device? If you answered yes to those, you probably benefited from slavery. It's a hard thing to hear.
Recently, the Vatican vowed to "slavery-proof" its upply chains. Given how widespread the problem is, it may be hard for the average person to succeed in doing this. Even so, here are 5 steps to begin to "slavery-proof" your life:
1. Find Your Slavery Footprint
The first thing to do before slavery-proofing your supply chains is to get a sense for how many slaves potentially are working for you. Humanizing the problem in this way should help us repent of our involvement, and be better incentivized to change.
Take the in-depth quiz at slaveryfootprint.org (created by Made in a Free World) to understand how deep the problem runs in your own life. There you'll anonymously answer questions about your diet, possessions and purchasing habits.
After you finish the exercize, take some time to pray. If you're anything like me, you'll be dismayed at your result.
Join us in praying the following:
Lord, I come to you seeking forgiveness for the great sin of slavery, in which I have particpated. I ask forgiveness especially for those times when my participation was known to me, and yet I did not repent. Help me to feel the weight of the real lives affected by this great sin. You know their names. You know their sufferings and their dreams. Holy Spirit, grant me discernment, so that I might begin to make more ethical decisions. Give me fortitude, that I might resist this sin when it is most inconvenient. Cover me with grace, that I might be your worker in ending this sin here on Earth. I pray all this in Jesus' name. Amen.
3. Don't give up chocolate, go Fair Trade
Two of the biggest products associated with forced labor are chocolate and coffee (which are both popular Lenten sacrifices). This year, instead of giving up your morning coffee or afternoon chocolate, make a commitment to buy Fair Trade. The little bit of extra money for the Fair Trade label is well worth the clear conscience to be had from knowing that fair wages were paid for the product.
In addition to coffee and chocolate, look for the fair trade label on tea, spices, sugar, produce and clothing. For more informtaion on products produced by child and forced labor, check out this list from the Bureau of International Labor Affairs.
4. Don't upgrade
Almost all major electronics companies benefit from a supply chain that uses forced labor (most of them use Malaysia as a manufacturing base, where the problem is rampant). This means that our beloved smart phones, tablets and laptop computers all have modern slavery in their history.
So when you're up for an upgrade on your phone, don't take it if you can avoid it. If you'd like a new computer but you really don't need one, don't get it. Hopefully as awareness of modern slavery builds, accountability and transparency in major companies will increase.
5. Call, Write, Tweet
Speaking of accountability - the only way for that to really increase is by consumer pressure. Research competitors to your favorite companies that are taking steps to source more ethically. Call, write and tweet at the companies whose products you use and tell them your concerns. Let them know that you will be switching brands. Tell your friends to put the same kind of pressure on the brands they consume.
One person may not be enough to rid the world of slavery all together. But many people making their voices heard can cause companies to change. If we raise our voices up as well as supproting the work of organizations like End Slavery Now and Made in a Free World, incremental change can be made.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of steps that can be taken to slavery-proof your life. That list would probably include ridding your life of electronics all together, and never purchasing imported food again. But the goal to end slavery as an individual can't be so unrealistic that people don't even try. So try the five steps above this Lent, because Christ died to break chains.