The kids in my Church have been learning about Jericho and this morning made trumpets, and at the end of the service the minister told us how they had wanted to march around the congregation with their wonderful creations that they’d made during craft time. But instead of a captive audience watching this very triumphant procession the minister got the kids AND the adults to march around the hall to represent what the Israelite’s did at Jericho, but this time for Bangor and the rest of Northern Ireland, to lift up the name of Jesus in our town and our communities and to bring His light to our nation.
I could have cried. In fact I almost did but managed to hold back the tears because explaining what I’m about to explain to you would have taken quite a lot of time.
My whole life growing up in Bangor, and Northern Ireland as a whole, it appeared to be this lovely little Christian bubble. I think that’s the view a lot of people actually have of it too, which makes the truth even harder to hear. I grew up in the Church, 99% of my friends were Christians, I went to Christian events in Bangor, Belfast, Comber, Newtownards, and numerous other places. The whole place was this little safe haven for Christians and I wasn’t afraid to be honest about my beliefs.
But then I went away to Scotland for four years, grew up quite a bit, and came home again. And recently my eyes have been opened to the truths of the little town I grew up in.
This morning while we marched around the Church hall, with the kids blowing their trumpets, laughing and smiling at the silliness of it all, I couldn’t get the problem of human trafficking in Bangor off my mind. I don’t want to be a killjoy, it’s not like I stopped the congregation and made them all pray in silence, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how important it was that I keep praying into these situations, that I start getting involved in the movement against human trafficking in Northern Ireland that really seemed to gain a lot of speed around this time last year.
I loved marching around the Church hall with the whole congregation, I love my Church and how it brings together so many broken people who have been set free in Christ. I want all the trafficked women and men in my community, the community of Bangor and the wider community of Northern Ireland, to know that freedom too; to know safety and comfort, family, security, warmth, home. Trafficking doesn’t always involve women, and it doesn’t always involve sex, but wherever it happens, to whomever it happens, and however it happens, it is a horrendous and tragic thing. It is beyond cruel and it is a reflection of how bitter and broken and hurting our society is, that we would break people down, that we would use people, that we would crush them under our feet so we could prosper.
Trafficked people are told lies, told that if they do what their traffickers tell them they will have good lives and make lots of money for the families they have left behind; this is never the case. They are exploited and tortured, beaten, abused. Many Eastern European people leave their homes in countries like Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia and many other places, and are told of the great jobs they will have. Instead they find themselves being sold for sex, dancing in the windows of red light districts of many cities across Europe, becoming one of thousands of people involved in the pornography industry, or doing numerous other things that we would never want for any part of God’s creation.
There are numerous brilliant organisations to speak to and get involved with in the fight against human trafficking. Firstly, for the North Down area, check out North Down ACT (active communities against trafficking). Further afield there is No More Traffik, who are based in Northern Ireland but who also have a very much global outlook, and for an organisation outside of Northern Ireland check out International Justice Mission.
Please also do not be afraid to contact Crime Stoppers (0800 555 111; they also have an online form if you don’t feel comfortable calling) if you suspect something in your area, regardless of where you live in the UK. We are their eyes and ears in our communities and it is important that we aid them as much as possible. However, please remember to use this contact responsibly.
Finally, please pray. Never think that your prayers are too small or insignificant because every prayer is listened to by a great God and through Him has great power. Even if our prayers are short, as long as we keep bringing them to God He will keep working on them. Never be afraid to pray.
At the minute there are approximately 27 million slaves around the world, which is more than there has ever been in human history. We live in a progressive society but are still treating people as if we didn’t understand the value of human life, as if we had no knowledge of the slave trade in America that was abolished so long ago. William Wilberforce fought for the freedom of the African people and I believe that if he was still alive would be as passionate about the current fight as he was about that one. I’ll leave you with one of his many inspirational quotes from his speech entitled On the Horrors of the Slave Trade, delivered in the House of Commons in 1789:
“When we think of eternity, and of the future consequences of all human conduct, what is there in this life that should make any man contradict the dictates of his conscience, the principles of justice, the laws of religion, and of God? Sir, the nature and all the circumstances of this trade are now laid open to us; we can no longer plead ignorance, we can not evade it; it is now an object placed before us, we can not pass it; we may spurn it, we may kick it out of our way, but we can not turn aside so as to avoid seeing it; for it is brought now so directly before our eyes that this House must decide, and must justify to all the world, and to their own consciences, the rectitude of the grounds and principles of their decision.”
We couldn’t be any more aware of slavery in the 21st Century, it is now our job to do what we can to fight it.
Justice will prevail.