Then the slave drivers and the overseers went out and said to the people, “This is what Pharaoh says: ‘I will not give you any more straw. Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.’” So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, “Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.” And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, “Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?”
The cruelty of slavery can at times seem far removed from contemporary society. But did you know that there are actually 21 million to 27 million people in slavery today, more than ever in human history? Sex trafficking, mostly in the form of forced prostitution, is probably the best-known example of modern-day slavery. However, some experts contend that labor trafficking may be even more prevalent around the world.
In India alone, there are millions or perhaps tens of millions of people in slavery, and many of them are forced to make bricks in almost exactly the same way that the Israelites were 3300 years ago in Egypt. In May of this year, for instance, the Christian nonprofit agency International Justice Mission rescued 40 people who were enslaved at two Indian brick kilns. According to their report from the incident:
When the rescue team entered the first brick kiln, one of the women fell face-down in front of the government officials, sobbing and begging for rescue. Another man added his desperate pleas, explaining how the laborers had no freedom inside the abusive brick kiln. He said that the owner had not allowed him to get medical care for two of his children when they needed it – and both had later passed away.
Slavery in brick kilns, rice mills, factories, farms, and brothels is still all too common in India. But human trafficking is a problem right here in Arizona as well, from child sex trafficking of a Tucson runaway to labor trafficking at a Flagstaff bridal shop. Slavery is illegal everywhere, but it happens everywhere.
It is time for a modern-day movement of abolitionists to step up and answer the great call of Exodus–bringing people from slavery to freedom. You can learn more about human trafficking and how you can help from Southern Arizona Against Slavery. You can also check out this event tomorrow at Caffe Luce hosted by St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on the topic (and led by yours truly!).