“I had no idea! What can be done? Get those slaves out of there!” No doubt about it—the horror of slavery stirs within us the urgency to rescue a victim. That is exactly what International Justice Mission and others do so well. Exciting moments indeed, BUT hardly the entire story. Ending slavery and aiding victims is so much more complex than that. Focusing only on the rescue is like focusing only on the wedding ceremony when we think of marriage, without regard to all the relationship building that led to that moment or the lifetime partnership that follows.
Rescuing victims – snatching them away from the trafficker or slave master --is an important step in the process of freedom, and someone does need to do that. But, frankly, this is not an effective strategy to end slavery. When one victim is rescued, traffickers bring in 2 more. Rescue is vital in the same way that emergency medical workers are vital in an epidemic. And I’d say that the #2 and fastest growing crime on the planet is indeed an epidemic, wouldn’t you?
To truly make a long term, effective difference, we must step back and think past the exciting media sound bite moment. Slavery is a complex issue requiring multi-faceted action. We must hack at the roots of poverty and empower those without social clout; those most vulnerable to enslavement. We can prevent slavery by warning of trafficker’s tactics and finding ways to dry up the demand that makes this business, like any business, thrive. We need to train those likely to encounter victims, so they recognize the suspicious signs for what they are AND know how to help. We need to make good people everywhere aware of the atrocities in such a powerful way that they cannot go on with life as usual and, consequently, develop such a groundswell of outrage that, by sheer numbers, they influence politicians, media, companies that use slave labor and other change makers. And more.
So let’s keep cheering and supporting the rescues, just as we celebrate a wedding ceremony, all the while rolling up our sleeves and doing or supporting the long term hard work it takes for the marriage of justice and mercy in our world.