Earlier in the week I was at Westminster Hall, where I was listening to the Wilberforce Address, organised annually by the Conservative Christian Fellowship (CCF). The address, given this year by the Foreign Office Minister, Alistair Burt, was so powerfully thought provoking that I decided to write about it after all! I tweeted earlier in the week that I wouldn’t because all my spare time was taken up with writing my book, but I decided to just say a few words.
I’ve borrowed his title, which he chose, because of the danger of complacency which threatens to make human trafficking even bigger than it is in our society and all around the world. It is reputed to be taking place in as many as 137 countries and globalisation seems to fuel the practice, with the organised crime syndicates being able to exploit loop holes in legislation globally. They are also able to exploit those who are vulnerable due to poverty, lack of human rights in their country and more importantly our indifference to a crime which we feel does not affect us directly.
We were roundly disabused of any conviction we might have that we are outside the influence of this insidious practice. He challenged us on our complacency on how we view women and defied us to deny that the treatment of women as sexual objects in the wider society has no bearing on the sexual exploitation of women and girls, which forms a significant part of human trafficking.
He exposed the high incidents of forced labour, another feature of human trafficking, especially in the food industry and urged us to be discerning and concerned about what goes on in the businesses we patronise. He urged us not to be mistaken in the belief that slavery in all its forms is dead, but to continue to stand up against exploitation of the vulnerable, wherever it occurs, just as Wilberforce did in his day, who had to go against the establishment and powerful businesses and individuals who had a financial interest in slavery. Alas, that is not the case today. We all agree that human trafficking is abhorrent and we should therefore do all we can to stand against it.
For my part, I am grateful that we live in a democracy, where we can contribute freely to the debate and use people power to achieve results. If people power can force a huge corporation like Starbucks to pay back money, they don’t technically owe, how much more a cause that affects the lives of women and children.
In response to a question about how liking a facebook post or retweeting a comment can help the cause, Alistair quoted the American President Roosevelt (though we later found out that John Wesley said it first), ‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are!’