I was confronted by the issue of human trafficking in Russia over seven years ago. Since then, I’ve spoken at many churches on the issue, lead the River Conference of the Free Methodist Church in our abolition work, worked on overseas projects, met many great people, developed priceless relationships and have ended up as Chair of the Board for Allies Against Slavery in Austin, Texas.
I want to simply go over six principles I believe are necessary for the church’s engagement in this issue.
1. Theological clarity
It is imperative that we form theological clarity around the issue of modern-day slavery and our engagement of it. If not, the issue will be reduced to just another option on the buffet of watered down, overprocessed causes. This is not just another cause. Our response to modern-day slavery must be built on the truth that slavery is an all-out assault on and complete contempt for the Imago Dei (the image of God). This reality demands engagement. Modern-day slavery has serious theological implications—as does avoiding the issue.
2. Intellectual development
Our response to human slavery cannot be a short-lived fad or a commitment based on immediate results. Rather, as Nietzsche would say, it is “a long obedience in the same direction,” and that direction is a hard commitment to learning and engaging this issue with intellectual integrity without conflating it with other emotional issues in order to draw a larger following.
We must do the hard work of studying, learning and exploring to uncover the nuances of the causes, solutions and perpetuation of slavery. When we are committed to growing in our understanding of the issues, learning and sharing best practices, we will, in the end, create solutions with both thoughtful depth and lasting impact.
3. Listening ear
There are people and leaders who have been involved in this far longer than we have even known about it. If we are going to engage, we have to begin our engagement and partnerships humbly and with a listening ear. Oftentimes, we assume we have the solutions and the know-how, along with a better plan of execution. We become a breath of fresh air to those seeking partnership when we being with a listening ear.
4. Mourning and repentance
As we discussed in the first post in this series on modern slavery, we must start by acknowledging our role in perpetuating modern-day slavery, and we must mourn and repent. Check out our first post if you missed it.
5. Humble partnerships
Rather than be focused on creating our own vision, we should let the need create the vision and partnering with those already in the trenches. If we want to effectively engage, we have to let the experts lead the way. By supporting their agenda.