In this year when we celebrate the 200th anniversary of David Livingstone’s birth, it is depressing to realise that the slave trade still exists but it is euphemistically nowadays called “trafficking”. Human trafficking is a worldwide and multi-faceted phenomenon with the shipping of refugees as part of it. We have witnessed the tragic consequences from modern slavers plying their commodity from North Africa to Southern Europe; exploited people packed in unseaworthy vessels. While these events have been given the due and necessary prominence in the media, we here have recently had our own disturbing incidents.
Firstly, last year there were two orphaned boys from rural Shangombo who were lodged for a while at Sesheke police station after being discovered at the Zambian-Namibian border about to be ‘trafficked’ to South Africa. This we heard on good authority from the District Social worker. A long running local problem here has been the sending of children, both boys and girls, from this less developed area of Zambia to the more prosperous part in Namibia called Caprivi, to work for a pittance as domestic servants and herdboys.
Another incident occurred earlier this month, when a UCZ Mission Worker was travelling back to Mwandi from Lusaka on the Mazhandu coach. His suspicions were raised by a group of around 20 silent and cowed children travelling with an adult male and other adult ‘helpers’. They were Congolese and in speaking to the accompanying adult male our worker’s suspicions were raised. He phoned Mwandi Police, the Office of the President Officer and the District Social Worker, who stopped the bus and arrested the adult suspects and took the children into care.
A week later people from Namibia were arrested in the village offering children sweets and wanting to know where and with whom they lived trying to find out how vulnerable they were with a view to ‘buying’ them. We are fortunate that Mwandi still has such a strong sense of community that outsiders are easily recognized.
The sale of people as commodities, whether as domestic servants, as sex workers or as bonded labourers is happening in both Zambia and Scotland. In spite of laws to the contrary, people are still keeping their fellow human beings in economic and physical bondage. This will only change when the welfare and needs of people take precedence over the economy and profit.
It is good to see the Church supporting the campaign to eradicate this modern-day slavery. Link: http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/speak_out/social_issues/human_trafficking Human beings have been created in the image of our God and are loved and seen as having equal value by our liberating God. Therefore, for a Christian, it is sinful to do nothing while fellow human beings are being sold as just another commodity on the market.
It is also good to see the Scottish Parliament taking steps towards a Scottish anti-human trafficking strategy, making human-trafficking a specific crime and providing support for victims and survivors. Link http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/crimes/humantraffick
But as the Church of Scotland points out, to succeed this measure requires cross-party agreement and Scottish opposition to slavery has a long and distinguished history from St Patrick to Livingstone and the Scottish Abolitionists including Brougham and Rev Andrew Thomson.
Livingstone’s last words on the matter were: “All I can add in my solitude is, may Heaven’s rich blessing come down on everyone, American, English or Turk who will help to heal this open sore of the world.”
And today in Scotland’s Parliament that means, Conservative, Green, Independent, Labour, Liberal and Nationalist.