Monday, January 12, 2015

Baptism and Human Trafficking: Resisting Evil and Injustice in Whatever Forms they Present Themselves

Hyman Trafficking Awareness Sunday
Baptism of Jesus Sunday
Mark 1:4-11
January 11, 2015
Chatfield United Methodist Church
Rev. Debra Jene Collum

Today the focus of our worship is on two topics. Baptism and Human Trafficking. Seemingly very different topics.

Until you remember the vows that we all take when we participate in a baptism. We all reaffirm these vows each time we baptize a child, we reaffirmed these vows in our own confirmation services, and we promise to walk along side children and youth to teach them the meaning of these vows as they grow in their own faith journey.

Hear again the vows that we all renew each time a person is baptized or confirmed.

On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of your sins?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and race?
According to the grace give to you will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?

We are called as people of God and as Christians to live our baptisms. To live as those who are opposed to evil and injustice and oppression in whatever forms they are present.
As we contemplate human trafficking, we have to agree that it is one of the most wicked, evil and oppressive sins of human kind in the 21st century.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery wherein people profit from the control and exploitation of others, through force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against the person’s will. . It is a Federal crime in the US. It is also illegal in all 50 states.

Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 14.2 million people trapped in forced labor in industries including agriculture, construction, domestic work and manufacturing. In addition the ILO estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally. 18.7 million people.

That would be the population of Australia, in case that helps picture the number.

How does a person become entrapped in modern slavery?

Here what typically happens to someone who is caught up in human trafficking.

They come from a place of extreme poverty. Yet, they believe that there should be a way out, for themselves and their family. They have hope, in spite of the poverty, they have hope. So they listen to the man on the street who tells them about a job he has for them. They could make enough money for themselves with some left over to send home to their families. Their families could be out of the slum within months. He would help them get a work visa, a place to live, he would bring them to America or Europe or to the city. All ythey have to do is give him $5,000 or upwards of $20,000. But don’t let that scare you. You are going to be making lots of money. You will pay that off very quickly. It’s not even a loan, it is just money to help me help you. We will settle it all up when we get there.

So you sign on the line, you agree to the terms. In a few days, sure enough, you have a work visa in hand. See the man was telling the truth. You give him all the money you have. You say goodbye to your family. You get on a ship or in a plane or the trunk of a car.

You arrive, it is overwhelming. But so beautiful and new and exciting…You are going to be able to provide for your family. It is a new life…finally your hope is paying off.
Oops says the man at the other end of the journey. The job we had lined up for you isn’t going to work out. But here, we have this for you.
We can’t pay you, not in cash, but you can work off the money you owe us.
And we won’t tell anyone about how you got here. So you will be safe.
And just to make sure you are safe and we get our money back we will take your documentation and hold it until you pay off your debt.

That is how it happens. Here in America, in India, in China, in Europe, all over the developed world. Men, women and children are lured into slavery.

We hear quite a lot about the sex slave trade; yet for every sex trafficked victim there are 9 labor trafficked men, women and children.

And what jobs are they doing?
They are Farm workers, picking our produce, milking our cows,
Factory workers, slaughtering our meat, assembling our clothing, making our electronics
Hospitality workers, cooking our meals, cleaning our rooms, bussing our dishes, doing our laundry.

Why? Why are there over 18.7 million people being trafficked in this world?
Because it is a $20 Billion dollar industry.
$20 Billion dollars!
Why is it a $20 Billion dollar industry?

Because the global economy wants lots of cheap goods. The cheaper the better.

Labor trafficking is not easy to trace. Because we live in such a global economy where pieces of what we buy are made here, there and everywhere, it is hard to trace the path of a manufactured item.

But logic will tell us that if something really cool costs $1 it is probably not being made by someone who is getting a fair wage. Let me say that again.

This is where our baptism vows come in. As people who are called to live our baptismal vows, As people who are called to resist evil, oppression and wickedness in whatever way they present themselves, it is necessary for us to be aware that our purchasing habits might be contributing to human trafficking. And it is our baptismal vows that call us to advocate for fair wages and fair labor practices for all humans in all places.
Here is what one website said: By supporting fair pay for workers and basing our purchasing choices on the fair treatment of those who make our products, consumers have the power to reduce the demand for labor trafficking.

We have the power.
It isn’t often that we feel as if we have any power. Particularly over something as complex and pervasive and hidden as human trafficking.
But if we start to make wise purchasing decisions based on what we do know and simple logic, we exert power in the market place. Power that could change the way the world’s economy works.

That may sound polyanna-ish to you. But I do believe that we are called to be this sure of our influence in the world.
By choosing to purchase those items that you know are made in a fair way by people who are receiving a fair wage you will change the way you see the world. I can guarantee it. You will find that you might now need everything that you think you need. You will find that you care about your neighbor whom you don’t even know who works in dismal conditions. You will find that you pay attention to the stories of the world’s poor. You will find that you will seek out places to support those who are transcending the market economy.
You will find that you are more and more connected to the human family.

And you will begin to realize your place in this world. In the family of God in this world. And you will realize that you, in fulfillment of your baptismal vows truly are Christ’s representative in the world.

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