A fact sheet and call to action for local churches
Slavery and human trafficking in all their forms are unjust, destroy human dignity and devalue human life. We denounce and resist all forms of slavery and human trafficking: indentured servitude, trade slavery, sex-slave trade, and the forced sale and/or transport of people (forced adoption for profit and mail order bride for profit). We actively oppose slavery by establishing local and global networks in conjunction with existing Free Methodist ministries to combat slavery through prayer, education, advocacy, rescue, protection, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims. We oppose the people and organizations responsible for human trafficking and call for the application of justice. (Position adopted by the 2007 General Conference of the Free Methodist Church – USA.)
Did you know? Slavery still exists!
Slavery was officially abolished in the United States in 1863 by the Emancipation Proclamation.
Slavery is illegal in virtually every country in the world. However, it is still a relatively common human rights violation in almost every country in the world.
More than 27 million people are currently enslaved.
While the numbers shift constantly, and because slavery is underground it is difficult to assess, careful review suggests that more than 27,000,000 people are enslaved in the world today.
More than 50,000 slaves are being used in the United States.
While estimates vary widely, conservative estimates tell us that at least 17,000 people are trafficked and forced into slavery each year in the U.S. The total number of slaves in the U.S. at any given time is at least 50,000. About 50 percent work in prostitution, 30 percent in domestic service, 10 percent in agriculture, 5 percent in sweatshops, and 4 percent in restaurants. The other 1 percent is used in a variety of different types of work.
Given the number of slaves in the U.S. and the varying kinds of work they do, it may be that you have regular contact with slaves but don’t know it.
The most frequent types of modern slavery:
Trafficking is when a person is forced or tricked into moving for the economic gain of some other person.
The slave owes a debt to the slaveholder that they cannot reasonably be expected to pay back. His or her work becomes the collateral for the debt. Debt bondage is often the result of a crisis in the life of the slave or the slave’s family.
This refers to labor enforced by a government or some official group. This outrageous practice is still common in several countries.
Definition of slavery:
• Control through violence – Slaves are controlled by an overseer of some kind who uses force or threats to make the slave work.
• Economic exploitation – It is the overseer who profits directly from the slave’s work. The overseer may pay the slave something, but it won’t be enough to allow freedom of movement.
• Loss of free will – The slave cannot leave or change work by choice.
Slavery is not a matter of ownership. Slaves come in every race and color of human being. Slavery is not necessarily a permanent condition. This provides the new abolitionist with hope!
The root cause of slavery is broken relationship with God and others. Because of the spiritual nature of this cause, the church is the solution God has chosen. As the church we are called to prayer and action. Take time to use the resources below to build your own awareness of slavery, its causes and effects. Help your congregation become aware of modern slavery. Encourage your local church body to join you in prayer, to be aware of the issues themselves, and to take one or more of the actions listed below.
While it is the overseer who profits from slavery directly, we all profit indirectly. The use of slavery in production of coffee, chocolate, steel, and many other products is well documented. However, a simple boycott often backfires.
Slavery is inextricably linked to poverty. The relationship of slavery to international debt is clear. Countries with large international debt don’t have resources to spend on social institutions such as justice, education and economic growth that tend to curb slavery. It is the crushing poverty of individuals that often forces them into slavery.
Increase your own awareness and that of your congregation by:
- exploring the resources listed below.
- encouraging a topical Sunday School class or ad hoc local task force on slavery.
- promoting International Child Care Ministries (ICCM) of the Free Methodist Church within your sphere of influence. Many small investments in ICCM might help prevent the slavery of thousands of children.
- Include prayers for your sponsored children in your morning worship.
- Provide regular opportunities for your congregation to sponsor children.
- Set aside an annual “Freedom Sunday” where you highlight the problems of slavery and explore possible actions that might be implemented by your congregation.
- Partner with International Justice Mission (IJM) or other groups working globally to end slavery.
Following are the websites for some of the main groups involved in modern abolition or slavery prevention. They are full of helpful tools and practical ideas for action. International Child Care Ministries is a Free Methodist ministry. IJM is faith-based. All of these groups are sympathetic to the church.
Through individual sponsorship, International Child Care Ministries provides education and resources that prevent many from being enslaved.
International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.
This website is for the “Free the Slaves” group formed by Kevin Bales.
 “Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade — and How We Can Fight It,” by David Batstone, HarperOne (2007). [Find My Place]  “Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States,” Berkeley Journal of International Law, 23, no. 1 (2005). [Find My Place]  See the discussion on boycotting on pg. 183 of “Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves,” by Kevin Bales, University of California Press (2008). [Find My Place]