Clare Short MP, the former Secretary of State for International Development, has spoken of her belief that the world’s richest countries are collaborating in slavery today in the same way Christian Churches collaborated in the Slave Trade over 200 years ago.
Speaking outside The Royal Exchange in the City of London earlier today at JustShare’s annual May Day event, she claimed modern day slavery is part of a vicious circle that will not disappear until we in the developed world change our whole attitude to how we live our lives.
“You can’t take the evil of slavery out of the world and abolish it without making the world more just,” she said. “You will never prevent people living in bonded labour or from getting caught up in sex trafficking while they are so desperate that they have no other choice but to sell themselves. As long as we in the West crave ever more excess, we conspire in their desperation, exploiting it and make ourselves sick in the process. We are well off, yet our society has never been more miserable. We suffer today from the disease of excess, from obesity, drug and alcohol abuse and resulting family breakdown. We must change the way we live, change the way the world is governed and create a new world order, both for ourselves and globally.”
Ms. Short also highlighted the necessity to curb excess for environmental reasons and attacked the lack of action on the part of the churches when it came to campaigning for social and economic justice. “If Jesus Christ was here today he would not be pleased with us,” she said. “I think he would be stunned by the wealth of the churches and their lack of radicalism.”
Joel Edwards of the Evangelical Alliance backed her words, calling on Christians to “fight the evil that exploits vulnerable women trafficked into prostitution in our city and ask questions about the migrant workers who break their backs to produce our cut-price food.” While standing, as he put it, “in one of the richest and most powerful square miles in the world,” he called on those present to “look at the image of God” in people enslaved by global poverty and inequality, and harness their power as “consumers, business or fund managers to demand justice.”
Aiden McQuade, the Director of Antislavery International provided some hope for the future at the JustShare event: “There are 12 million people enslaved worldwide today and each one represents a devastating blow to lives and hopes,” he said. “But we must remember that slavery, at the time it was abolished, was as fundamental to the Western economy as oil is today. Today offers us the chance to reflect on the past and in it find inspiration for the future.”
JustShare is a coalition of churches and development agencies seeking seeks to address the widening gap between rich and poor in the global economy. JustShare encourages dialogue with banks and financial institutions in the City of London in order to achieve positive change. It holds regular debates, training seminars and other events to promote justice for the poorest in the world and a just share of the world’s resources for all.