Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Where were you ...?

Where were you?
Where were you when I sold myself into slavery to follow a dream of a better life?
Where were you every night when my father beat me?
Where were you when I paid a year's wages for an illegal ticket as a stowaway?
Where were you when the foreman locked me in at night and the house burned down?
Where were you when my first eight clients raped me of my virginity?
Where were you when my sister escaped and fell off the seventh floor balcony?
Where were you when my 16 hour day in the fields ended with being bedded down in a barn?
Where were you when my wages never came?
Where were you when I needed a doctor?
Where were you when the pimps hunted me down?
Where were you when I returned home and my family threw me out?
Where were you when the gang master said "it's quite safe" and the tide came in and drowned so many?
Where were you when I couldn't bear it any longer?

This morning at a joint session of the assembly of the Churches' Commission on Migrants in Europe (CCME) and the central committee of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), we heard about the churches' work to combat human trafficking from various contexts across Europe.
The presentations were powerful, erudite and heartfelt and I learnt alot. However, as I listened it struck me that inherent sexism in our societies does both men and women a huge disservice when it comes to campaigning against trafficking. Women become the sexualised "victims" of this trade. Much of CCME's work is in trying to move the focus away from victimhood to victims' rights but I realised how difficult this is when it is somehow more attractive, dare one say "sexier", to talk about the suffering of women trafficked into the sex industry than to look at some of the other victims of trafficking - namely men many of whom are working in conditions of near and actual slavery in their attempts to seek out a better life.
Women and children still represent the majority of those trafficked but all of our societies need to be aware of struggling against the economic, patriarchal and unjust structures which can often make people more vulnerable to trafficking. It's important that we focus not only on the plight of women who are trafficked but also on the terrible situation of forced labour which many trafficked men find themselves in.
God created us male and female to be in God's image.

Where we you when I was sold into bondage?
Where were you when I travelled by night in a crate?
Where were you when I was worked to the bone, worked to the limit of my psychological and physical limits?