By Katie Campbell –
Last week we published part 1 of Bid Us Rise From Slavery. Incase you missed it, you can read it here.
Part of my research involved studying abolitionist poetry as a method for convincing people of the injustice of slavery, and I want to read one of the poems that I studied that really fits with the idea of seeing others as our sisters and not as someone ‘inherently different.’
The woman who wrote this poem was named Sarah Forten, and she was a free African American living in Philadelphia. The racism that justified slavery, worked against women like Sarah Forten, who were isolated because of the color of their skin. In light of this reality, for both free and enslaved black women, she addressed the free white women of the Northern United States with this poem: ‘An Appeal to Women’
“Oh woman, woman in thy brightest hour
of conscious worth, of pride, of conscious power
Oh nobly dare to act a Christian’s part,
that well befits a lovely woman’s heart!
Dare to be good, as thou canst dare be great;
Despise the taunts of envy, scorn and hate;
Our ‘skins may differ,’ but from thee we claim
A sister’s privilege, in a sister’s name.
We are thy sisters, – God has truly said,
That of one blood, the nations he has made.
Oh, Christian woman, in a Christian land,
Canst thou unblushing read this great command?
Suffer the wrongs which wring our inmost heart
To draw one throb of pity on thy part;
Our ‘skins may differ,’ but from thee we claim
A sister’s privilege, in a sister’s name.”
This was the goal of abolitionists, and it must be ours as well: to see other women as our sisters.
Sisters are awesome. I love my big sister. Sometimes sisters ‘borrow’ things without really asking you…like jewelry and shampoo, but overall they are amazing. And we stand up for our sisters (and brothers). Sarah Forten had sisters herself, so she knew what she was asking. To go out of our way to stand up for them. To fight for them. To celebrate them.
In Proverbs 31:8-9 it says, ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ This is our call from the Lord: to stand up for those who need us. To defend our sisters and brothers in situations in which their rights have been denied.
The reason that we can be hopeful and courageous in this is because God is for justice. He is for freedom. In Isaiah 61:8 he says of Himself: ‘For I, the Lord, love justice’ and earlier in the passage it speaks of Jesus when it says, ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners.’ (v. 1)
Not only is GOD for social justice and freedom, HE is also for spiritual justice and spiritual freedom.
Because Christ paid our redemption price, we who were once enslaved to sin, we have now been made free. He paid the price for our freedom with his own life.
In one glorious act of abolition in his death on the cross and in his resurrection, He brought us into his freedom — Galatians 5:5 says, ‘That it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.’ — Jesus is the Great Abolitionist. And we are called to follow in his way of chain-breaking. There is no question about the fact that God is for justice and freedom, so when we think about the work that Tiny Hands, Cherish, A21, International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, and so many more are doing, we can trust that GOD is for it.
And we have the opportunity to enter into his work of abolition against forced labor and human trafficking today. There are three things that I think are important first steps that we can take to join this fight: to be informed, pray specifically, and give.
Firstly, to be informed, it is so important to know and understand this global and complex problem that is forced labor, slavery, and trafficking. There are many organizations, both NGO’s and government initiatives, that are dedicated to gathering important information about human trafficking in order to better bring about its end.
According to the International Labor Organization, (which provides the statistics used by the UN) there are an estimated 21 million people in forced labor — 3.7 million of those people live on the continent of Africa. This industry has an annual profit of an est. $13.1 billion just on the continent of Africa.
Slavery is defined (within the United Nations Charter of Human Rights) as ‘the status or condition of a person over whom any or all powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.’ — Essentially, when a person has had their ‘ownership’ of self forcibly removed. The UN resolved in 1948 (still in the shadow of WWII) that ‘no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.’
Unlike the nineteenth century abolitionists, we have a more solid legal foundation to support our goal in ending trafficking and forced labor. The abolitionists of the past were opposed by many of their political leaders, and now the U.N. believe in ending slavery completely, which is such a beautiful miracle and reflection of what God can do through his people to change society. And again, it gives us hope in light of current statistics.
Each year, the U.S. Department of State releases a ‘Trafficking in Persons Report’ that tracks the rates of trafficking and efforts to stop it within each country. It gives each country a “tier” – 1, 2, or 3, with 1 being the best.
In the 2016 report, South Africa was placed on ‘Tier 2’ stating that it was a ‘source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.’ Native South Africans constitute the largest number of victims within the country. Your fellow South Africans. Your sisters and brothers.
South African children are often recruited from poor rural areas and urban centers such as Jo’burg, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein. Girls are often then forced to work in sex trafficking, domestic servitude, or in begging. Boys are often forced to work as street vendors, in food service, as beggars, in criminal activities, or in agriculture.
This is hard to hear and you encounter more and more of the darkness of this problem as you learn more about it, but in Christ we are bearers of His light. And His light is more powerful than the darkness. In 1 John 2:8 it says ‘there is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.’
Understanding this problem and hearing about its tragedy drives our empathy for these our brothers and sisters. And enables you to recognize when this might be happening to one of them.
There is often ‘official complicity,’ including from the police, that enables trafficking crimes to continue and go unchecked.
However, although the SA government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, it is making significant efforts to do so…Yay!
With this information, we can pray specifically for this country and for the end of this injustice.
Praying specifically is important because it actually boosts our faith. I’m sure we’ve all heard the general prayers that little kids say (or even we do) that kind of go like this: ‘Dear God, please help all the people out there in the world somewhere who might be sick or hurt. Amen.’
It’s sweet, but pretty vague. Your prayer life will radically change when you start to pray specifically. Not just for the end of slavery, but even in praying for your sisters who are right around you. Your sisters at work, in your community, in your neighborhood — when we pray specifically, then we see a specific result. Now, GOD answers in His own way every time, but how much more connected will you feel when you pray with purpose and knowledge?
And the final of the three initial steps that you can take is to give.
You have incredible resources and talents to offer in terms of your finances, your time as a volunteer, or in your talent — we can each bring something to the table that will enhance this cause whether it’s connections to the right people, artistic expression, a platform, hosting, or something else.
So in this way, we, who follow Christ and are like-minded for justice, are abolitionists.
We who are free are obligated to proclaim freedom to others, and to see them as our sisters.