It is estimated that 45.8 million people alive today are enslaved. But a new report suggests the number is about to get a lot bigger thanks to the onset of robot manufacturing.
The annual Human Rights Outlook suggests automation will result in drastic job losses, especially in South East Asia.
The report predicts that slavery and trafficking will spiral as a result.
“Displaced workers without the skills to adapt or the cushion of social security will have to compete for a diminishing supply of low-paid, low-skilled work in what will likely be an increasingly exploitative environment,” says Verisk Maplecroft’s Head of Human Rights, Dr. Alexandra Channer. “Without concrete measures from governments to adapt and educate future generations to function alongside machines, it could be a race to the bottom for many workers.”
But it’s not just governments that should respond. Gary Haugen, Founder, CEO and former President of International Justice Mission, sees an opportunity for the church.
It’s an opening that Haugen believes the church has missed for too long. He told the ChurchLeaders podcast that although Christians have responded to evangelism and many charitable needs, “the one category where we could not see where the body of Christ had very much capacity to respond was where the poor were the victims of violence. One of the biggest forms of violence that the poor suffer around the world is slavery.”
Recalling the biblical story of the Good Samaritan, Haugen asks, what if the person in need is not laying injured in the aftermath of an attack but being beaten as you walk by? What would Jesus have you do?
Haugen said the answer lies in the Golden Rule. “If I’m being beaten up on the side of the road and a Christian comes along, what do I want him to do? I don’t want that Christian to just wait until the beating is done and give me care…I would want that beating to stop.”
“If I could transport our congregations to those places,” Haugen says of the brothels or the fishing villages that enslave children, “no one would be wondering, ‘does Jesus really think this is important? What should we do?’”
He said, instead, “love would compel us is to raise our voices and do what we can to bring rescue.”
The Effort to Stop Slavery Will Be a Big Job
One of IJM’s primary points of emphasis is ending the sex trade; a daunting task. President Donald Trump recently called human trafficking worse “than it’s ever been in the history of the world.”
Statistics from government agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs) back Trump’s claim to a certain extent. Some studies say that global human trafficking is, in nominal terms, at a historic high point. The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) estimates that there are more than 21 million victims of human trafficking worldwide as part of a $32 billion industry. Five and a half million of these 21 million victims of human trafficking are children, according to UNICEF estimates.
Social media is helping the traffickers. In the past year, the UN reports, sex traffickers have used the encrypted communications app Telegram to set up online slave auctions, circulating photos of captured Yazidi women, including their age, marital status, current location and price.
Recently, a member of Islamic State attempted to sell two enslaved women on Facebook. Displaced female Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been traded on WhatsApp, and Islamic State relies increasingly on secure apps such as Surespot and Threema for its communications.
Haugen is undaunted. “On our best days God is calling us to lead our churches in the tough things because that’s when we’ll need God.” He told the podcast audience that church leaders want this challenge, “Pastors yearn for their people to be revitalized and alive to God. There is nothing that revitalizes that experience of God more than being his witness in difficult places.”
Churches Unite to Stop Slavery
In fact, Haugen thinks slavery can be ended in this generation, if the church gets involved. More than 3,000 churches around the world agree with him and have dedicated themselves to Freedom Sunday.
On September 23rd, churches around the world “will focus on God’s passion for the fight against slavery,” Haugen announced.
Haugen believes the effort is not only what Jesus would have the church do, but will also help them grow and increase their influence in the world. In fact, he said it’s not a new plan, it’s rooted in Scripture. “The early church grew because of the supernatural way Christians loved the weak and vulnerable that couldn’t be explained.”
He’s praying for a repeat performance.