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Slavery Alive and Well in 21st Century Europe

In Britain slavery was abolished in 1833. In France it was abolished in 1848. Other European countries followed suit, some taking longer than others, but today Europe prides itself in it declaration that all men and women are equal.

Yet slavery is alive and well in 21st century Europe. Thousands of women throughout Europe are themselves enslaved and forced to work as prostitutes.

It generally happens this way. A young woman is approached by a man who offers her the opportunity for a new life. He may promise a good job, a secure relationship, and happiness in another country. He may tell her he loves her and that if she goes away with him she will be rich and be able to send money back to her family.

Think about it–if you come from an orphanage in Russia or Moldova, if your family lives in abject poverty, or even of you are just in search of romance and adventure, all this is likely to seem very attractive indeed. Dreams of a new life in Sweden or Britain or France seem about to come true.

So she leaves with high hopes, gives her passport over to him and goes with him into a new country–to start her new life. But then reality hits. She has been deceived, and she finds her life ruled by a gang of ruthless men. They make sure she cannot get in touch with her family.

She is constantly terrorised threatened and beaten and raped, just to keep her quiet and obedient. If you try to escape, she is told, we will kill your family. But she cannot escape. She has no passport and no one knows where she is.

She has become a slave. She is the property of the gang. She must work as a prostitute in bars and brothels and saunas, out of sight from most “respectable” Christians.

She must give the money she earns to the gang. No one will care when she becomes ill. No one will care when she gets HIV/AIDS, or becomes so emotionally traumatised that she becomes numb, feeling nothing.

No one will know if she is discarded by the gang because she is so ill she can no longer earn money. No one will know if she commits suicide. She has become a non-person.

Imagine this happening to your daughter or sister. It can’t be true, you say, and if it is, it can only be on a very small scale. But let’s see some statistics:

According to Mark Elliott, the number of women and children from post-Soviet states subjected to international trafficking is in the neighborhood of 175,000 to 250,000 per year. The International Organization for Migration estimates 50,000 to 100,000 Moldovans, more than 100,000 Ukrainians and 500,000 Russians are currently active in prostitution outside their home country.

These figures tell only part of the story. Thousands of daughters and sisters are being trafficked all over Europe today. It is happening on the European Baptist Federation’s watch.

The EBF prides itself on promoting human rights and religious freedom. Thus we cannot stand by and watch as thousands of women and children are denied personal freedom and made to live lives full of hopelessness and pain.

Our networks throughout the former Soviet bloc, the Baltic states and western Europe mean that we are well placed to lobby those in authority to work against trafficking and change attitudes of apathy in our churches.

We can also be engaged in the “three R’s”–rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration. In other words, we can help individuals who have been affected by trafficking to become free from slavery–physically, mentally, spiritually.

The EBF Anti-Trafficking Work Group is committed to enabling Baptists to bring Christ’s love to trafficked women and their families. The need is urgent. We cannot be faithful to Christ and ignore what is happening around us.

“In as much as you do this for the least of theseā€¦”

Marion Carson is a lecturer in New Testament and Pastoral Care at International Christian College in Glasgow, Scotland.