Thursday, October 04, 2007

Slavery, Justice, & Christianity

Yesterday I read the July/August 2007 issue of Mission Frontiers which is published by the U.S. Center for World Mission. The title of the issue is The Global Slave Trade: A Cause for our Time. I would highly recommend this issue, as well as the publication in general.

The cover story, composed by the International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org), gives a brief overview of the problem in our times, including such jarring facts as these:

1. There are more slaves today—approximately 27 million—than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade (National Geographic report).

2. The problem exists, to some extent, in at least 112 countries worldwide (U.S. State Department report).

3. Human trafficking generates about $9.5 billion per year (U.S. State Department report).

The article goes on to suggest three ways that we, as Christian people, can engage in the work of justice for these millions of human beings: educate ourselves about the issue, explore the issue personally by taking a short-term missions trip or two, and report cases of which we are aware to IJM.

In 1991 or 1992, Kim and I were ministering in a little village in Mexico called San Vicente. One day we went out with some Mexican friends to a field where migrant laborers were gathering in the harvest. There we preached the gospel and ministered to the needs of the workers. As we were coming to the end of our time with these precious souls, two of the men approached us in tears and asked if we would help them escape. They told us that they and their families had been taken by force from inland Mexico and separated from one another. They pleaded with us, “We just want to find our mothers.”

Our hearts simply broke for them and we agreed to help them. As we traveled down that remote dirt road toward the only paved road in the area, they shared more with us about their situation. After they had been abducted, they were forced to work the fields for a major farming conglomerate for only one-dollar per day. Once per week they were brought to the local store and allowed to spend their money. The store was owned by the company for which they worked. It is rare to see Mexican men cry: these men were weeping.

As we approached the paved road we noticed two military police men standing by the side of the road. They had M-16s or something similar in their hands, and they appeared to be drunk. We prayed and kept on driving, and by the grace of God they paid absolutely no attention to us.

We took the two men into the main town, dropped them off, and never saw them again.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we simply cannot turn a blind eye to such tragedies as slavery. We must stand and speak, and even die, for those who are weak, down-trodden, and oppressed. As the Bible says in Isaiah 1:17, we must “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.”

I close with a quote from Ralph Winter, General Director of Frontier Mission Fellowship: “Evangelicals are very well known at the Billy Graham level for talking and explaining and communicating and giving out information about Jesus Christ. Even commanding people to obey Jesus Christ. But we are not so visible when it comes to actual planning, to a presence in meetings that are now being held around the world on the really urgent suffering that is going on outrageously in many places, in many different ways” (Mission Frontiers, July/August 2007: 4).

Lord, help us display your glory in the world by laying our lives down for the helpless.

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