You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2009.

So if you know me at all, you know that these two words are often on my tongue, usually followed somewhere with a question mark.   I continue to wrestle with the questions of justice and hope.  What is justice?  How are we involved in justice, and injustice?  How can we hope for justice in a world that seems inherently driven by greed, fear and complacency?  How can we continue to cultivate hope against overwhelming odds?  Really, I could go on and on.

I just got home from having coffee with two new friends, Jay and Michelle (www.hopeforthesold.com).  First, its refreshing to find that there are other people out there in the world worth knowing.  After university, when everyone scattered across the nation (or more accurately, everyone moved to Vancouver) and I came home to find most of my old friends are now in other places, I started wondering whether I would be spending a whole lot of time thinking through stuff on my own.  Which is tough for a person who processes best through discussion, such as myself.  Hence the need for this blog.  But clearly, this is a tangent.  Suffice it to say there are people out there, even in this area of Ontario, worth knowing.  And I’m gonna find them.

So Jay and Michelle are back recently from a cross-country road trip which took them from one place to another researching, interviewing and filming footage for a documentary they are putting out on human trafficking.

Say what?  Human trafficking – which I learned is the third (or maybe second now) largest industry in the world.  Next to weapons and drugs.  The buying and selling of human lives.

But I thought slavery had been abolished in the 1800s.  International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org) states:

Today, millions of lives around the world are in the grip of injustice.

More children, women and men are held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade: Millions toil in bondage, their work and even their bodies the property of an owner.

Trafficking in humans generates profits in excess of 12 billion dollars a year for those who, by force and deception, sell human lives into slavery and sexual bondage. More than 2 million children are trapped in forced prostitution.

Did you catch that?  More people are enslaved TODAY than the combined number of slaves bought and sold during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  More women and children are trapped in forced prostitution than the number of Africans who were forced to work on cotton plantations in the South.

And this isn’t just a third world problem.  The largest ‘consumers’ of sex tourism are North American men.   The domestic trafficking of aboriginal women in CANADA for the purpose of sexual exploitation is still rampant.

So what can we do?  Where do justice and hope meet?  I think it’s in a number of places – to begin awareness, advocacy and education.  Awareness of injustice must be forced into the minds of the public if we are going to see anyone stand up and demand change.  Jay and Michelle reiterated again and again that as long as there exists a demand for it, human traffickers will continue to supply.

And the demand will continue to exist as long as we remain ignorant and complacent to reality.  Remember that quote from Edmund Burke? “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [and women] do nothing.”

So what can we do?  I think what I am really starting to understand is that justice and hope meet in the individual.  The individual who refuses to turn a blind eye to systematic injustice.  Because the individual has power to do something.  Maybe not everything, but something. Because justice begins in small places, in small ways.

And justice and hope meet in the individual who is changed because of that one individual.  Maybe that person is someone who will now advocate on behalf of the victims of sexual exploitation.  Or maybe that person is someone who will get involved at a street level, working with women involved in the sex trade, whether by force or by ‘choice’, offering them hope and maybe even a way out.

And maybe that street worker won’t be able to save everyone, but maybe he or she will be able to give hope to one individual, to help one girl see her own worth, and to find a way out.  One individual.

I think that is a good place to begin.

If you’re looking for more info and ways to get involved, go here: http://humantrafficking.change.org/.

For an in depth look at domestic trafficking of women in Canada, go here:

http://www.cncew.ca/Publications/MicrosoftWord-CNCEW_Trafficking_Discussion_SJS.pdf

This excerpt is from a speech by Elie Wiesel (who describes the horror he faced as a Jewish concentration camp prisoner in his book, Night) was given in 1986 as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. You can find the speech in its entirety here: http://www.pbs.org/eliewiesel/nobel/index.html

I remember: it happened yesterday, or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the Kingdom of Night. I remember his  bewilderment, I  remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the  history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be  sacrificed.

I remember he asked his father: “Can this be true? This is the  twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to  be committed? How could the world remain silent?”

And now the boy is turning to me. “Tell me,” he asks, “what have you done with my future, what have you done with your life?” And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.

And then I explain to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe…

There is so much injustice and suffering crying out for our attention: victims of hunger, of racism and political persecution — in Chile, for instance, or in Ethiopia — writers and poets, prisoners in so many lands governed by the Left and by the Right.

Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. How can one not be sensitive to their plight? Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere. That applies also to Palestinians to whose plight I am sensitive but whose methods I deplore when they lead to violence. Violence is not the answer. Terrorism is the most dangerous of answers. They are frustrated, that is understandable, something must be done. The refugees and their misery. The children and their fear. The uprooted and their hopelessness. Something must be done about their situation…

But I have faith. Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all. Isn’t that the meaning of Alfred Nobel’s legacy? Wasn’t his fear of war a shield against war?

There is so much to be done, there is so much that can be done. One person — a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Jr. — one person of integrity, can make a difference, a difference of life and death. As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs…

Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.

Follow on Bloglovin

Blog Stats

  • 18,372 visits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email (no spam, promise).

Join 126 other followers

Categories

Proud Member of the Mental Health Writers’ Guild