Today, June 19, 2021, is the first Juneteenth celebrated after it becoming a federal holiday. Of course, it was officially celebrated yesterday, as all federal holidays are celebrated on the closest Friday or Monday to the actual day. But, even still, today is June 19, so today is Juneteenth. If you’re not familiar with Juneteenth, you can read more about it here. Briefly, though, Juneteenth is celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States. It recognizes the day, June 19, 1865, when slaves in Texas learned of their freedom after the end of the Civil War.
I should say, however, that Juneteenth is the celebration of the end of legal slavery in the United States. Today is a good day to remember and take action on the fact that slavery still exists all over the world, including here in the United States, and here in Tennessee.
It is very difficult to get a good grasp of how many slaves there are in the world. The Global Slavery Index from 2018, the website with the most recent statistics I could find, estimates that there were 30 million slaves in the world and over 400,000 slaves in the United States at that time. The most common areas of modern slavery are:
*forced labor (domestic work, agriculture and farm work, travelling sales crews, restaurant or food services, health and beauty services, and compulsory prison labor for private individuals or companies.
Those populations at greatest risk of becoming modern slaves include:
*migrants, especially women and children
*children, especially those with little support system, such as runaways, those having suffered abuse, foster children, those estranged from their parents
*Adults and children who have suffered violence or trauma (physical or sexual abuse, war, discrimination)
The World Population Review reports statistics on human trafficking by state. According to their website, there are 2.59 persons entrapped in human trafficking for every 100K persons in Tennessee and 180 cases of human trafficking in our state (though it’s not clear to me what period of time that statistic represents). Just this month, six men were arrested for seeking illicit sex with minors in an undercover human trafficking operation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Human Trafficking Unit.
What can we do about modern slavery? First and foremost, recognize that it exists and learn as much as we can. Here are some resources for that purpose:
Shared Hope International – a website with a large number of resources, including letter grades on how each state is combatting human trafficking, as well as plenty of opportunities to get involved.
IT Has To Stop – the TBI website dedicated to human trafficking concerns with resources on how to help, including “The Defenders” for men interested in getting involved in the fight against human trafficking.
Slavery Footprint – an interesting site that will ask questions about your lifestyle and estimate how many slaves in the world today are working for you. I took the survey and learned that 43 slaves were working for me and, believe me, I live pretty simply compared to most moderns. I own no jewelry, use few hair and grooming products, and don’t own a lot of clothes (I have four pair of jeans, one suit jacket, and three pair of shoes). Take the survey and it will open your eyes as to how international trade is rife with slave labor. According to the Global Slave Index, the products most likely to be linked to slavery are: computers and phones, apparel and clothing accessories, fish, cocoa, and timber.
Human-Trafficking-Research-Brief.pdf (catholiccharitiesusa.org) – this is the human trafficking website for Catholic Charities USA
Locally there are organizations in east Tennessee and middle Tennessee dedicated to fighting human trafficking in the state:
CCAHT powering Grow Free TN – east Tennessee
End Slavery Tennessee (endslaverytn.org) – middle Tennessee
“Remember my chains” (Col 4:18).
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.