When Paul and Silas came to Philippi in Acts 16, a woman who was demon possessed began to pester Paul. Paul commanded the demon to come out of the woman and she was set free from spiritual bondage. But Paul and Silas then got into trouble, because setting this woman free came with economic consequences: she had been enslaved by owners who exploited her demonic abilities for profit. Now their slave was worthless to them. Tragically, this story highlights one of the worst evils known to humanity—the enslavement of others for economic gain.
Many Christians in Western nations like Australia see slavery as a thing of the past or something unrelated to everyday life. But is this true? What comforts might we enjoy at the expense of others? What slavery might be taking place even in our own land?
In this episode, we consider what modern slavery looks like and how we might take action against it.
Links referred to:
- Four Corners: Tell the World, 28 November 2019.
- Australian government: Modern Slavery Act 2018
- International Justice Mission
- Anti-Slavery Australia
- Walk Free
- Baptist World Aid guide to ethical fashion
- Our 2022 events
- Commanding the heart: Anger with Chase Kuhn (9 March 2022)
- Support the work of the Centre
Runtime: 36:27 min.
Chase Kuhn: As I read the Bible with my kids last night, we considered Paul and Silas’s ministry in Philippi in Acts 16. In the town, there was a woman who was demon-possessed that was pestering Paul, and Paul commanded the demon to come out of the woman, and she was set free from spiritual bondage that she had known for years from that demon.
But Paul and Silas got into trouble for this, because as they set the woman free from the demon, this came with economic consequences. See, she had been enslaved by owners that had exploited her demonic abilities for their profit. And now that their slave was set free from this demon, she was worthless to them.
Tragically, this story highlights one of the worst evils known to humanity: the enslavement of others for economic gain. Many Christians in Western nations like Australia see slavery as a thing of the past or unrelated to everyday life. But is this actually true? What comforts might we actually be enjoying now at the expense of others? What slavery might actually be taking place even under our noses in our own land? Today on the podcast, we consider what modern slavery looks like and how we might take action against it.
CK: Hello, this is Chase Kuhn. I’m coming to you from Sydney, Australia, and more specifically, from lockdown in Sydney. And I’m very pleased to introduce my guest today: Emma Penzo. Emma is a member with me on the social issues committee for Sydney Diocese, and works in the banking sector, and also attends church in the Sutherland Shire of Sydney at St Luke’s Miranda. Emma, I’m so glad to have you with me today.
Emma Penzo: Thanks for having me, Chase. Pleasure to be here.
CK: Great to have you. Today we’re talking about a really difficult thing that I think goes under the radar for so many people, and that’s the issue of modern slavery. The reason why it goes under the radar is because, I think, for so many of us, it’s a faceless issue. There are ways that we hear about things, perhaps, but we don’t see it or experience it in our everyday lives. And this is a real danger for us, because so much of our gain can come at the exploitation of others. So Emma, you’ve kindly agreed to come on and help us think a little bit about this.
Most people think about slavery in terms of the American South—about people being taken out of Africa and put into bondage in North America or elsewhere. What is modern slavery, and what does that actually look like?
EP: Oh, thanks, Chase. It’s such a big term, modern slavery. I mean, it’s encapsulated in legislation in Australia under the Modern Slavery Act 2018. But modern slavery captures a whole lot of practices—slavery and slave-like practices. And there’s maybe seven different types, and I’ll quickly run through them, because they’re all unique in their own way. So there’s human trafficking, which involves servitude, or forced labour, debt bondage, and forced marriage, and, of course, the worst forms of child labour. So that’s modern slavery in a nutshell.
So slavery is where someone has ownership powers over another person. And servitude relates to a deprivation of liberty, where you’re not free to go home or come and please as you wish and need. And forced labour is where you don’t think of yourself as being able to stop working, because of some sort of false information or coercion—like your family will be harmed. And then debt bondage is where people are just working to pay off debt that they’ll potentially never get themselves out of. And then of course, there’s deceptive recruitment practices, where you’re hired, thinking you’re going to do one thing, and then you end up doing another thing. And then forced marriage, of course, is where people are placed into [a] marital situation at a time where they’re underage, or they don’t have the mental capacity to make those decisions. And then there’s also the worst forms of child labour, which can include sexual exploitation or using children for drug trafficking, drug production, and just putting them into situations that will impact their health, safety or their morals. So that’s sort of modern slavery.
CK: So basically, it’s all pretty ugly stuff. I mean, it’s really the worst ways that humans act against humans, seeking power over others. And it’s really terrible to think about, actually.
EP: It’s horrible. And a couple of times when I’ve had to explain modern slavery—in the corporate world, where I’ve had to present to my CEO, and I’ve given her case studies, it’s quite an emotional process to pull together some of those case studies so that there can be understanding of the situations.
CK: Yeah, and I guess this is part of what makes it so hard to talk about is that it’s such an ugly side of humanity. It’s the kind of things that we’d rather not be aware of. And yet, these are the kinds of things that we need to be aware of, because, if we’re not careful, we can participate in or perpetuate these kinds of practices—perhaps unknowingly. And so the more we can actually uncover them and expose them, the better off we are, and actually seeing them eradicated or, at least, legislated against.
EP: Yeah, that’s right.
CK: Yeah. So I want to ask you, as we think about these things, well, you’ve just given us some helpful definitions of what slavery can be. What kinds of conditions would you say are conducive to slavery?
EP: Yeah, I mean, there’s several conditions that might bring on slavery. So poverty is the number one reason. We know, for example, that there’s about 750 million people globally that live below the international poverty line. Now, I think the number is about USD 1.90/day is the international poverty line. And I think that figure is—it is a World Bank figure, but I think it’s about a decade old now. And just to give our listeners a bit of a feel, in South Sudan, the poverty rate there is 82 per cent. So they have the highest level of poverty. Whereas in Australia, we have 12 per cent. So that’s the kind of disparity. So poverty is the first one.
The second one is discrimination of women—mostly—children, refugees and religious minorities in fairly homogenous societies. Third one is civil war, and those fleeing civil unrest. And of course, who can forget the scenes that we’ve been seeing from Afghanistan? Afghanistan already has a high proportion of its population—or high number of people under bondage there—and the events of this week, I can’t begin to imagine what it’ll do to those numbers. And then there’s weak, national laws: so where governments have inertia, or are unwilling, or don’t have the capacity to call perpetrators of modern slavery to account and hold them to account. And then finally, natural disasters. So with COVID-19, there will be an increase in the number of people that are vulnerable and subject to being exploited. So if we think about COVID and take, for example, Bangladesh and the apparel industry there, which employs 4 million people, they’re all at risk of losing their jobs and entering vulnerability because of COVID. Well, they’re the key causes or reasons people fall into these situations.
CK: Yeah, and it’s really fascinating. I mean, so much poverty and fighting for power in these vulnerable nations, it all seems so far away from us. So I guess we can talk about much of the developing world being prone to these sorts of circumstances. I guess we still feel like that’s a bit arm’s length from us. But how does what’s happening there impact what’s happening here? I guess you’ve already given a hint towards this with Bangladesh and the apparel industry, but so much manufacturing from our nation is actually happening abroad. So how does that impact us locally, I guess, and make it a local concern?
EP: Yeah, there’s 40 million slaves worldwide—40.3 million. That’s the estimate. And that’s a conservative estimate. And so the Walk Free foundation or Walk Free organisation, lists the top 10 countries where these people live as being India, China, North Korea, Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia and the Philippines. So those 10 accounted for 60 per cent of that 14 plus million.
And the way that it would affect us—well, there’s two ways, right: so Australia is such a multicultural society. So chances are that we have friends or even family members who are from these regions—or church friends who are from these regions. And so it could affect us on a personal level. I mean, there must be some very serious internal conflicts that people who’ve come to us from these nations must experience when they look at their life here and they compare it to the life that they had in their homeland, and that maybe some of their friends and family continue to have. So that’s like that dysmorphia—like, it must be horrendous to live with. And so we could support those people by being more aware and perhaps being more empathetic.
But I think—like, going back to the focus of your question, we also trade with these nations. And we use the word “trade” as usually being like a intergovernmental term, right? You want to balance the payments and the like. But really, that only reflects your and my purchasing habits. Like, I just bought something from Amazon, and it arrived from overseas. And so that foreign trade is actually the purchasing activities of everyday Australians.
And so I think I’ve been a bit scarred by a Four Corners report in 2019—and if the listeners Google, they’ll be able to find this report—where they represented some examples of the supply chains of some common department stores that I shop in, that you would shop in—shops that we use every day, our favourite clothing shops. And they gave an example in one of the Chinese—Xinjiang province, it was, where they featured the Uyghur women who were claiming that they were being made to produce some of this apparel under bondage. And then there was also an example of a very high-end luxury fashion brand that maybe some of us aspire to own; I certainly don’t own this brand. But the garment was being produced between China and North Korea, and it was being sent to North Korea for some detailing and coming back to China for finishing, and then it was shipped back to Europe to the high-end stores—all with modern slavery labour.
But then even closer to home, if we think about the seafood that we consume—so whether it be out of a tin—a tin of tuna—or whether it be at one of those fine dining places—they might also harbour elements of modern slavery in their supply chain. Right now, there are men and boys in fishing fleets from Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines, and they’re living in the most horrid conditions while they fish for their daily catch. And so, I pick up that tin of tuna and, you know, who knows how it came to be there?
CK: Yeah, yeah. That’s heavy to think about. And we’ll talk about this in a moment—about how we can take action and not feel paralysed by this information—
EP: Yeah, yeah.
CK: —because it can be quite overwhelming. Before we do that, though, this is a really—you know, it’s a real startling wake-up for many of us as we realise the implications of just our own purchasing habits and things on these practices around the world. But what kinds of slavery are present in Australia? Or—we have listeners all over the world, but I mean, in particular, about Australia where we are here, is slavery all offshore, or are there examples of modern slavery even on our own continent?
EP: Yeah, so my eyes have been so wide open. I can’t pass a construction site now without carefully looking at people. So the numbers here, they range—so we think there’s about 15,000 slaves in Australia—possibly 1900 in New South Wales. So we don’t have precise numbers, but that’s about—I don’t know and I could be wrong here. I think it’s about one slide per 2,000 or so people in the country. And then if you proportion that out to us Sydney Anglicans, and this is an underestimation, but if there’s 50,000 Anglicans in Sydney, attending Sydney diocese churches, then that’s like 25 slaves amongst us all, right under our noses—
EP: —as we go by our daily business. And you’ve got people here that are forced into modern slavery in the agriculture sector, construction, domestic work, meat processing—and we all think about the meat processing facilities that have been so in the news during COVID. Just think about those poor workers who have been vilified. And then cleaning, as well as some food services.
Usually, they come here on temporary visas to fill skills gaps, or more likely, to do the jobs that Australians won’t do. And that’s because the minimum wage here in Australia simply won’t enable people to live and earn a living here. So if I’ve got time, I can maybe give you a couple of examples.
CK: Yeah, of course.
EP: This one came up on my LinkedIn feed last week, but it was a woman from Southeast Asia who had married an Australian man and had come out. They were living—I think it was in Dandenong, in Victoria. And he then proceeded to divorce her, and her community swooped in to supposedly help her. And the way that they helped her was to put her into domestic servitude, where she’d be sleeping on the floor and cleaning all hours of the day and into the night. And then eventually, her story led her to a brothel, where she ended up becoming a sex worker. So that’s not unusual, where you have partner migration rings, where people come in through marriage visas and then they’re dumped. And then supposedly helpful people pick them up, and that’s where they land.
Another example is of a gentleman—a construction worker from Indonesia—and he’d like 15 years’ experience in Indonesia—couldn’t make ends meet in Indonesia. So he came out on a 457 visa. And instead of working as a tradie—well, he was, sort of—he got taken out onto a farm where he was put into a minivan with others, day and night, shipped out to where he was expected to work. He worked six days a week. He only had one day a week off. But even on that one day, he was expected to do odd jobs without being paid. He was paid $250/week for six days’ work. But from that, he was deducted $100 for his food and accommodation, including his one weekly permitted phone call to his family in Indonesia. So these people are under our noses right now.
EP: I get quite teary even saying that. It’s really quite sad.
CK: Yeah. It’s very difficult. I mean, as you start hearing these stories, it fleshes out a picture for us. It’s not just something random far away, but it actually—we don’t see the face, unless we’re looking at the news, but it puts a face to these tragic circumstances and it makes us feel for what they’re actually going through in terrible ways.
CK: As we take a break from our program, I am excited to announce the live event program for 2022. Christians have a mixed history with the law. The tightrope that seems to be walked is somewhere between legalism and licence.
But perhaps this is not the right way to think about righteousness in God’s kingdom. For 2022, the Centre for Christian Living live events will consider different laws that Jesus expounded in Matthew chapter 5, exploring how the commands reveal the heart. Plan to join us we consider righteousness that is more than superficial. Jesus said there in Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (ESV).
Our first event of the year will be on anger. I will be speaking at this event, kicking off our series. So please mark March 9 on the calendar. Or better yet, go online and register for the event. If you are a minister or a Bible study leader, we’d love for you to consider a group registration for our livestream option.
Now let’s get back to our program.
CK: I want to begin to turn to thinking about how we can address these things in our own lives. And I guess we could start with something that you’ve mentioned. I mean, we’re hoping that Christians aren’t going to brothels. [Laughter] There are concerns that we have, obviously about, you know, [Laughter] we are all buying produce and meats and things, and so there’s obvious concerns there. We are in businesses, maybe, that can be held to account: one of the things I’ve been really proud of is where I work here at Moore College, as we’ve been doing this audit for the Social Issues Committee for the diocese, we’ve been talking about being responsible in our institutions, and I was able to ask my institution. They said, “Wow, there’s some things we need to make sure we investigate”. And we went back through our supply chain and investigated: are we giving contracts to contractors—cleaning contractors—that are going to be responsible, having visas, giving appropriate wages? And I’m thankful to say that we can do that. But we’ve had to make sure that we were doing that.
CK: So we were trying to be responsible about these things. But how can we be responsible just as individuals? And let’s think about, maybe, supply chain and the purchases that we make.
EP: Yeah, that’s a tough one, right? It’s tough for individuals. But I think with the power of our prayers, our wallets and our voices, we can all make a difference. And so I can give a few suggestions here.
So for example, first of all, think about connecting with a modern slavery charity. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some people from the International Justice Mission—IJM. And they’re the largest modern slavery Christian charity in the world, and they have Australian offices. But if you sign up to their newsletters, you’ll receive prayer points, and you’ll know where the hotspots are, and you’ll be able to pray with them as they tackle this at the coalface. And I have to say, I don’t have any allegiance to IJM. I’ve picked them because they are a Christian charity, and there are very good secular charities as well, such as Anti-Slavery Australiaand the Walk Free foundation as well. And of course, you can use their case studies and pray even through those charities.
You can use your voice and your wallet. So, for example, pick your favourite supermarket. In Australia, every big corporation is required, as you’ve said, Chase, to undertake a modern slavery audit and then to report on it. So under their investor relations sections on their website, they will have their modern slavery statement printed, or you can just Google “modern slavery” and the supermarket’s name. And have a read of it, and if there’s particular risks that they’ve highlighted, which they should have, just email their customer service and say, “What have you done about that risk? How long before you rectify that risk?” That’s all you have to do. It’s really just a paragraph. And once you’ve done that for your supermarket, and maybe you’re emboldened, you can do that with your favourite food that you buy, be it—I won’t name any brands—or your favourite clothing that you buy.
You can also get educated through reading guides such as the Baptist World Aid guide to ethical fashion. And so they give you good tips for how they rate particular businesses and shops on the ethical scale.
And for those of us with school-aged children, you can call your uniform shop and ask them to confirm that there’s no modern slavery in the children’s uniform. I mean, how awful for my 13-year-old to be wearing a school uniform that might be made by a 13-year-old in bonded labour. That’s just awful.
Or you can do the same with the canteen, and make sure that the canteen manager has it within their sights to only order products that are clean, from a supply chain perspective. Or you can approach your P&F and ask them to adopt a modern slavery statement and to refer it back to the school’s administrators to ensure that, for example, the cleaning staff are not under any kind of bonded labour, and that they are being paid fairly for their services. So they’re just some small things that we can start to do.
CK: Yeah, that’s very helpful. I guess one of the things that we’ve become concerned about in our house—and again, it’s been largely because I’ve been involved with Social Issues Committee and had more awareness of these things that are happening around us—is the kinds of things that we are buying in the shops and in particular, clothing. And what I’ve been impressed with is that quite a few manufacturers now will have a statement of their ethical policies and guidelines. And they have certain guarantees that their supply chain is produced a certain way. I remember reading one recently—I was about to buy some clothes for work, and I just looked on their website, and they said, “We make and manufacture all of our clothes in this particular city, which was actually a Western city, and we pay everyone an above minimum wage rate to manufacture those clothes”, which was at least a guarantee towards certain ethical standards for the manufacturing of those garments. There’s other things, of course, to consider in the supply chain. But those things, at least, were nice to be able to read about on their website—that they were taking efforts to produce these things.
But I want to ask you, is it just about not buying cheap? Because, I mean, for a family that’s on a budget, and even like our own, you often go for the lowest dollar. I mean, that’s it: you find something that’s the lowest price tag and you go for it, because it seems like the best deal. Is it just about buying more expensive to get yourself out of trouble? I mean, you mentioned designer apparel that’s made in just as bad of circumstances, and I can remember buying a sofa not long ago, and they said, “We make our sofa in the same factory as this high-end line” and it’s all coming from the same exact country—I can tell you, in the same exact warehouse. So you pay $15 grand more for something or you pay a lot less, and you’re going to get it from the same warehouse. So how do we think about these things, Emma? Is it just cheap or—what are the right ways?
EP: Yeah, again, it’s just really challenging, Chase, because you’ve got lots of little ones, and I’ve got a big family as well, and it’s not easy to clothe and house everybody—within a budget as well.
So I’ll go to the last one: so expensive isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s slavery-free. For example, I did a quick Google search on a very, very popular brand of mobile phone, which sells for around $2,000. And within seconds, I found reports that the production of that mobile phone was associated in the supply chain with forced labour camps. And so an expensive phone is not going to be guaranteed that it’s slavery-free. And then gravitating, I guess, toward that $3 T-shirt, because, you know, we all love that bargain. But if you stop and think that the full cost of that T-shirt might have been, say, $20, then that means somebody has paid for that $17. So I can save that $17 and pay for a $3 T-shirt. Somebody—a young boy, a young woman, an older woman, a man—somebody—somebody’s paid for it in a sweatshop somewhere. And so that’s the way that I think about it.
But it’s a bit like going organic, right? Organic food is very, very expensive as well. And I think the best advice I got with that was to just pick one thing and just start with that. And so that would be what I would be saying to listeners today, because with all the hundreds of purchase decisions we make in probably a given month, it can become very overwhelming—
EP: —very quickly.
CK: Yeah, no doubt. Yeah. And I mean, we felt this before, you know: how much guilt do you feel after you’ve bought something cheaply and think, “Oh, no, what have I done? Was I wrong in doing that?” I mean, it was what I could afford at the time—
CK: —was I foolish? Or—I’ve been using—how many smartphones have we all had, now? Where does it come from and how have we gotten it?
CK: So recognising that we keep living, and, in some ways, these things have come to us. How do we counter—this is a bit off the cuff here, but how do we counter the argument that sometimes demanding fair trade actually upsets whole local economies as well? And, in one sense, the fact that we are buying still these things that have been manufactured is, in one sense, a justification of those people that have been working for them.
EP: Yeah, I mean, that gets into really complex economic development discussions. And I guess the simplest way that I can maybe respond to that is if we take our gentleman from Indonesia who came out here on a 457 visa, whereas maybe you or I doing, maybe, the work that he was doing—could not live in Australia because of the living standards in Australia. And so that wage, we basically couldn’t even pay our basic bills—
EP: —for him to be paid that Australian minimum wage would provide ample opportunity for him to feed his family. And in fact, I think his plan was to do it for three years, save up, and then go back and set himself up and his family up. And so, I think the trick to think about is, so when they come into our shores, we should pay them what is fair—what is the minimum wage, even—and not take cruel deductions from them, and enable them to be able to save—to be able to get ahead in their own economies. The discussion about buying fair trade and the like overseas, that gets to be—really complex economic development theory. And I’m not one of those theorists. So I am an economist, but not development theory.
EP: And I do have my own understanding of it from another form of economics, but I don’t know that I’m actually qualified to sort of—
CK: That’s okay.
EP: —go further into that.
CK: Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough. Well, I think what you’ve raised is helpful about—just because this seems like a good wage to somebody else, when they’ve come from afar, doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing for us to do when they’re here. I mean, I grew up in California, where we have known large amounts of illegal immigrants who have come searching for better wages. What they end up getting paid is not minimum wage, but it’s better than what they would have at home. And so, they are saving up—they’re living in bad conditions—so they can get enough money to take it back home and have a better life. That’s the idea.
That’s actually rocked everybody. I mean, it hasn’t been a win for anybody, because it keeps people working under the table—under the radar of good government support systems. They’re actually illegal. They’re being paid illegal wages, which are not just off the books—that’s illegal—but also less than what they should be paid. And it also, then, upsets all the opportunities for local work, because it puts other people out of jobs, because people can get paid less than a minimum wage. It becomes very problematic for everyone around. It’s just disgusting. It’s very bad. And you think, “Oh, well, we’re giving them a favour”. But we’re not actually giving them a favour. What we should be doing is paying them what they’re owed, according to what our local wages are. It’s very, very difficult stuff.
EP: Yeah. And they might not be working under conditions of bonded labour either.
EP: Right? ’Cause that’s where that grey zone emerges. No, that’s right. And if they were paid their minimum wage, according to Australian levels—and it might be something that maybe a university student—say, take fruit pickers—that a university student might find appealing, but not enough for someone on a family—with a family—responsibilities to fund that family’s lifestyle. If the 457 visa holders were provided even just that minimum wage, that would be enough for them to be able to set their family up. But don’t hold them in bondage.
EP: Don’t ship them out in the back of a truck like a bunch of sheep.
EP: Don’t take their passports away from them. Don’t limit their interactions to just one day a week with their family, or one time a week. And make sure that they have adequate time to rest and recover per the employment laws here. So that’s where there’s that really fine line between bonded labour and then poor work practices and policies.
CK: Yeah, yeah. It’s very helpful. I’ve got two more questions for Emma before we wrap up. The first one is, what do you think the issue is behind the issue? I mean, it seems to me like where our greatest vulnerability to a blind spot would be, perhaps, the consumerism of our society. That is, we are consumers. We’re being catered to as consumers. And in order to meet consumer demands, we have to keep driving prices down. And in order to come—prices to come down, it’s going to cost somebody somewhere. They’re going to get squeezed. And so, how is it that we can think about this in terms of a meta level? Is it consumerism that’s the problem?
EP: Yeah, that meta level. I think household economics is definitely a factor. I don’t know about consumerism. I mean, we all—consumerism is at the root, I think, of all Western challenge [Laughter], quite frankly. But I think the reality is that there’s a real household economics issue that impinges on this.
And then there’s this idea of—we are victims of our own wealth here in Australia. We are so wealthy that—even the poorest of us are so wealthy, except for maybe that 12 per cent that I referred to earlier. But it’s really hard for us to see beyond our worldview. And I know we joke about #firstworldproblems here—like, my son is doing a trial HSC remotely right now, and so, our big #firstworldproblem is, “Oh, my goodness: is the NBN going to withstand the challenges of a two-hour HSC math trial exam?” So we find it really hard to see beyond ourselves. So I think—the worldview, I think—
EP: is really what gets in the way. And then, finally, because they’re silent victims and somewhere on the other side of the world—or they’re just silent—it’s easy for us to just walk past. Or it helps us to not focus on them. Because it’s very painful, as well, to be confronted with the effects that your commercial decisions are having. So if we sort of unpack what consumerism means—that , kind of, three places that I come to—
EP: —household economics, we’re victims of our own wealth, we can’t really see worldviews beyond ourselves, and we have silent victims—
EP: —an invisible victim.
CK: Yeah. It sometimes just takes that painful glance—that one look—to actually see what’s behind what we know and experience, and realise that at what cost it’s come. I mean, I can remember visiting slums in developing countries and, you know, you come home and you have nightmares for weeks about it—
CK: —because it’s just so horrific.
CK: And then you realise, wow, I feel guilty about what I’ve enjoyed just thoughtlessly, in one sense, and not appreciated the comforts that I have.
As we round off our conversation, Em, and I’m really grateful for the help you’ve given us today, how does thinking about how the gospel prompt different thinking or living in this area?
EP: Yeah, and I do have some Bible training, but nowhere near as much as you, Chase. I think you’re much, much more qualified on this than—
CK: Oh, no. Glad to hear from you on this.
EP: [Laughter]But, you know, maybe from the perspective of someone who sits in the pews, as opposed to someone who’s up the front, I guess the way that I come at this particular problem is that we ought to see everybody as being created in the image of God. And so, just like me, who has also been created in his image. And so, I don’t know why I, in particular, was born into the affluence of Sydney, Australia, when probably another woman who was born on the same day as what I was in that month of March so many, many decades ago, was born, say, into Uyghur poverty, and without any access to education. We are both made in the image of God, and I need to respect her. I can’t compare myself to her, I can’t see myself as being better off, and I certainly should not be speaking words like—this is me speaking: “Thank goodness it’s her and not me”. She’s been made the image of the Lord and I need to respect that. And I need to have empathy for her. So that’s my first lens—biblical lens.
And then the second biblical lens goes back to that silent victim, and I think of Jesus’ teaching and the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-36. And I just think about the way in which the Samaritan picked up the stranger in his path and took care of his needs. And it cost him to do that. And so, we think about the fact that the world is such a small place, in so many ways, and that these people—these slaves—are actually in our path. Now, whether they’re in my pathway at the local construction site, or whether they’re in my pathway in the tin of tuna that I had for lunch, they are still in my pathway, and I need to step down and help them. And so, in thinking about that, it does come at a cost.
And I came across recently a quote which William Wilberforce wrote so many centuries ago. And he wrote this about slavery, and I think it summarises all our discussion quite nicely. And he—I’ll quote him—and he said, “A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished”. And he says, “Let the policy be what it might. Let the consequences be what they would”.1 So that’s a modern-day social economist saying to us, “We’ve got to face the costs”.
CK: Yeah. That’s so helpful, Emma. That Wilberforce quote is so striking. When we learn about these things, it’s really inconvenient for us—not just ’cause it’s painful, but because if we were to take action to change, it’s going to cost us. It might cost our wallets. It might cost us time. It might cost us different steps in our normal planning and life. There are a whole range of ways that this might actually change our lives.
But no matter how inconvenient it is, it’s necessary. And as a society, whatever cost it comes at to us as a society, it’s necessary, because it’s never acceptable to be building our structures on the backs of slaves. That’s really bad. Yeah. And how wonderful to think that the slavery that has haunted us all has been overcome—that we’ve been set free in Christ. And actually, that has implications, too, for our desire to see other people liberated from bondage to sin, but also all kinds of bondage.
Emma, you have really provided us some really helpful, heavy, no doubt, but very helpful introductions to modern slavery, and just a little step in the right direction: you said, “Pick one thing and start thinking about a little bit different. That means something.” And I really appreciate your help on this, and I’m thankful for your advocacy in other areas. So thank you for joining us today.
EP: Thanks for having me, Chase.
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