February 2007 Tearfund - Action

Rebecca Taylor faces up to a hard truth about the Sunday church collection bag, and as Freedom Day approaches, asks how she can step into the shoes of Wilberforce …

Dropping a pound in the Sunday collection bag appeases the conscience. It makes us feel we’re doing our ‘bit’. So read one letter in a recent issue of TearTimes.

It struck me hard, that letter. It got me thinking about my ‘bit’.   

The ending of slavery was, for abolitionists William Wilberforce, Oluadah Equiano, Josephine Butler and Thomas Clarkson, their ‘bit’. This March the bicentenary of their success in ending slavery is celebrated. They realised it’s not just lip service – looking like you want to give something to those in need. It’s doing it with all your heart – and maybe with your hands – that matters.

I’ve read countless books and articles, heard numerous talks on getting out of my comfort zone and doing something. 

But it easily feels ‘old hat’, as if the challenges faced by Wilberforce and his peers were somehow easier to address. More tangible. More clear cut than the complex problems of today.  

In fact, despite the tireless efforts of the abolitionists and the triumph of making slavery illegal – it does still exist. Right now. Today. And it’s no less deadly than it was 200 years ago. 

Shockingly, people are still sold as slaves. A modern-day equivalent is the thousands of girls sold by their parents to traffickers. 

The poverty that these girls, their families and siblings face makes the trafficker’s promise of money and a better life seem appealing. But the reality for trafficked girls is much, much darker and more disturbing.

When I took in the personal challenge this presented, I wanted to run as far away as I could. But actually I do have the power to change this. 

And to help me do that, Tearfund has produced the Freedom Pack. It’s brimming with ideas for church, for speakers and youth groups. It looks at modern-day slavery and the poverty of slavery which people are trapped in around the world. It also shows me how I can do something about that slavery.

If, like me, you want to do your ‘bit’ but struggle with the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ then the Freedom Pack is ideal. It’s an easy route into making the world today better than it was yesterday for people enslaved by poverty.

It’s 200 years since slavery was banned in the UK, but with more than 12 million people in modern forms of slavery such as trafficking or bonded labour, it would be easy to think not much has changed.

I often feel powerless at the monumental amount of suffering experienced by poor communities; and my actions can seem like a pin-prick on the bulging balloon that is poverty.

But perhaps through the DVD of one girl’s story and her amazing recovery and new-found faith, the speaker’s guide, or games for the youth group – I can make a small difference and help to end slavery around the world. 

For good.

Rebecca Taylor is a journalist with Tearfund

Sometimes, I just cry. I lie awake, and I’m there again. Staring at the paint peeling in a star-shape on the ceiling. Letting it happen because I have no way out. Sometimes, in my head, I can hear myself screaming. But no-one else is listening. I thought these screams had been beaten out of me a long time ago. Will I ever be free?

Ratha, 17, from Cambodia who has been helped by Tearfund partner The Cambodian Hope Organisation

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