Citing India and China as the world centres of slavery, a corporate social responsibility guru has called on Queensland Christians to take up the call to be abolitionists.
Professor of Ethics and anti-slavery campaigner David Batstone is author of the book Not for Sale: the Return of the Global Slave Trade — and How to Fight It, and estimates up to 27 million people worldwide are currently enslaved as bonded labourers.
Mr Batstone, who studied theology in Switzerland alongside World Vision Australia’s CEO Tim Costello, is visiting Australia to promote the anti-slavery campaign “Don’t trade lives”.
He described how he stumbled into his calling as an abolitionist when he discovered that his favourite Indian restaurant in San Francisco was the centre of a trafficking ring which had brought around 500 young women and men from India who were forced to work all day, their documents taken, and their families at home threatened if they tried to escape or leave.
“Girls and boys, women and men of all ages are forced to toil in the rug loom sheds of Nepal, sell their bodies in the brothels of Rome, break rocks in the quarries of Pakistan, and fight wars in the jungles of Africa,” said Batsone.
“Do you know what the going price is for a child on the border of Thailand, Cambodia and Burma is today?” Mr Batstone asked. “Three dollars – you can buy kids for three dollars.”
World Vision has taken up the campaign in Australia and the focus is on 600,000 children working in the cocoa fields of the Ivory Coast in Africa producing the raw products used in chocolate.
“The Christian church has a particular claim to credibility and social relevance when it comes to the issue of slavery,” said World Vision CEO Tim Costello, who recently visited the Ivory Coast to look at child exploitation in the cocoa industry.
“William Wilberforce is one of us; ‘Amazing Grace’, the song we sing, is our anthem so we’ve been able to say, ‘that was a Christian out there in the public who did fantastic work’, and that’s true. So it’s a little disturbing for us to discover that slavery is back, that it wasn’t completely abolished.
“Well, this is what the message is: no country has legal slavery thanks to the efforts of William Wilberforce and others. We don’t see people in manacles in a market where a person with a title can actually openly trade them. Nonetheless, slavery is here, driven now by those invisible links we call market processes.”
Mr Costello believes, as consumers Australians have the right to pressure the market processes to offer fair treatment of those producing the goods that we like to buy cheaply.
Mr Batstone said the campaign’s focus on chocolate was focussing on our personal connection to a supply chain around the globe – “how we drive the demand”.
World Vision is providing online coupons for Christians to share with local supermarkets. These simply say, “I love chocolate, but I don’t want to feel guilty eating it because children in West Africa are working in dangerous conditions – and sometimes trafficked – to harvest the cocoa used to make it. Don’t trade lives. Please support and include ethical chocolate in your stock.”
Mr Costello described the process for Journey: “You print off the coupons, you hand it to the retailer where you buy your favourite chocolate and, while you are at it, let them know why you want your chocolate produced ethically.”
Access information and “Don’t trade lives” coupons from www.donttradelives.com.au
Photo : World Vision CEO Tim Costello behind bars at Elmina Castle in Ghana, the place from where hundreds of thousands of African slaves were sent to Europe and the Americas. Photo courtesy of World Vision