Slavery is illegal but continues. Up to 30 million people are held as slaves today. Human trafficking is not only illegal – it is an evil. It degrades human beings, it tramples human dignity, and it creates untold pain and unbelievable misery.
The global awareness is rising quickly and manifestations against it multiply. But we are yet to see a major breakthrough in setting the captives free, which is more than a rescue operation. The survivors need healing and jobs with dignity. Jobs are also essential to adequate prevention to human trafficking.
To create jobs with dignity we need to understand the transformational and instrumental character of business. Johan Sebastian Bach used the organ as an instrument to create beautiful music to the glory of God and for us to enjoy. Businesses are also instruments. They should serve people, align with God’s purposes, be good stewards of the planet and make a profit.
There is a growing global movement of Christians in business who are shaping their businesses with this dual perspective: for God and the common good.
Businesses are strong transformational agents and can effectively address global issues like corruption and poverty. Example: The biggest lift out of poverty in the history of mankind has happened in our generation – through business, and especially through the small and medium size business sector.
Thus we need to recognize the importance of business people to bring solutions to global challenges, including human trafficking. God calls some people to serve in and through business. We should affirm, equip and deploy them into making a difference in the market place. And pray for them as they fine-tune their business instruments for God and people.
Loving Jesus and serving the least through business
There is a fascinating book* about Mother Teresa and her life journey. Most people know of her dedicated and commendable work among the least and the lowliest.
But fewer are aware of the intense struggle she suffered for years regarding the silence of God. She experienced immense pain when her bridegroom Jesus felt absent, far away and silent.
But she remained faithful to Him and saw and served Him in the people she met. She wrote the following, as an answer to “who is Jesus to me?”. Excerpts:
Jesus is the Joy – to be shared
Jesus is the Hungry – to be fed
Jesus is the Thirsty – to be satiated
Jesus is the Naked – to be clothed
Jesus is the Homeless – to be taken in
Jesus is the Sick – to be healed
Jesus is the Lonely – to be loved
Jesus is the Unwanted – to be wanted
Jesus is the Beggar – to be given a smile
Jesus is the Drug Addict – to be befriend him
Jesus is the Prostitute – to remove from danger and befriend
Jesus is the Prisoner – to be visited
This is of course in line with Jesus’ own words: what you have done to one of the least, lost and lowliest, you have done to me. (Matt. 25:35-40)
Human trafficking victims suffer from of the issues described above. There are many needs and not only one way to respond to these needs.
Most of the social ills and personal problems described by Mother Teresa above, and also listed in the Matthew 25 passage, are related to unemployment. People who have jobs are less likely to suffer hunger, thirst, homelessness, lack of medical care, et cetera.
As Christians in business we thus come alongside Mother Teresa, and countless others around the world, when we express our love for Jesus by starting and growing businesses. We also respond to the question: Who is Jesus to me? Jesus is the Unemployed – to be given a job. Jesus is the trafficking victim who needs to be restored and get a job with dignity.
A global think tank on Business as Mission was launched 2011. The purpose has been to invigorate the global business as mission movement, to equip and encourage those who want to serve God and the common good in and through businesses – among all peoples.
To that end we launched over 30 national, regional and international working groups. Some of these groups focused on a particular issue in the Business as Mission (BAM) movement, and others were concentrating on BAM in and from a particular region or country. The groups were asked to produce papers, analyses, case studies, tools and resource directories.
The Think Tank project has resulted in a massive global gathering of both intellectual and social capital for the BAM movement. In addition to the written materials, we have built networks and have gathered together in person at the Leaders Forum and at the Global Congress on Business as Mission, both held in Thailand in April 2013.
The global BAM Think Tank also produced a groundbreaking report on how we can combat the business of the slave trade with Business as Mission, BAM. It gives a thorough analysis of the problem as well as providing concrete and practical steps to get engaged. Business is key to prevention and restoration, but by partnering with non-profits a greater impact can be achieved.
The global anti-trafficking movement is growing, but the biggest challenge may yet be to bring business solutions into the arena. This report helps us understand how businesses can become Freedom Businesses. But this is more than a concept; it is more than an awareness campaign. This is about hard and diligent work in and through business, intentionally and with a holistic approach bringing freedom and restoration by providing jobs with dignity.
The report is called: Business as Mission and Human Trafficking: Combating the Business of the Slave Trade with BAM. These are some of the key observations; excerpts from the executive summary:
“Between 12 and 27 million people globally are currently caught in human trafficking and exploited for their labor or sexual services. To begin combating the monstrosities represented by these numbers, we must recognize that trafficking is an industry and the sex trade is a business. These are economically driven enterprises. We must intentionally and systematically acknowledge the important role of business as a strategy to fight the trade on both a macro and micro level.
Traditionally, businesses have been relegated to participating in anti-trafficking work as the funding source for the work of nonprofits. However, business as mission (BAM) entrusts businesses with much more than simply funding nonprofit work; the business itself becomes the vehicle of change. As such, both nonprofit and for-profit strategies are integral to success in anti-trafficking work.
Business and nonprofit work can come together in anti-trafficking work to focus on job creation, increasing the employability of individuals who have been victimized by human trafficking, and in their subsequent aftercare. Freedom business is a term used to describe enterprises that are involved in such anti-trafficking efforts and care of survivors. …
Beyond the general best practices of fair trade and BAM, freedom businesses must take extra care when considering the employment of individuals coming from situations of abuse. Extensive training in both technical and soft skills is often required for employer expectations to be met. While having a job with dignity is a major step in the restoration process, aftercare must be intentionally structured into the business so that individuals and communities can heal physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Creating a business that provides for individual needs while at the same time systematically attacking the larger trafficking industry is an overwhelming task for even the most enthusiastic entrepreneurs.
There are three main categories of businesses currently working in this space: businesses working for prevention, businesses creating employment for restoration and businesses working in support of field-based freedom businesses. These businesses are growing slowly, but steadily. Few have achieved profitability and most benefit greatly from subsidies of some sort. For true success to be found, freedom businesses must seek (with resolute pursuit) to be profitable, sustainable and scalable while participating in traditional marketplaces both globally and locally.
Freedom businesses are uniquely positioned to strike at the economically driven foundations of the sex trade. By combining the necessary components of economic productivity and holistic ministry, the staggering numbers of people caught in the trade can be reduced through the powerful response of freedom business.”
There were thirty leaders representing freedom businesses in nine countries who collaborated to form the think tank group on “Business as Mission (BAM) and Human Trafficking”.
Through the think tank process and subsequent BAM Congress, they identified two pressing needs which became increasingly clear: 1) Freedom businesses worldwide are in need of business planning and coaching to be more sustainable; and 2) Participation in a joint group of freedom businesses could advance their goals for impact and transformation. So they decided to form a Freedom Business Alliance, with the following purpose and objectives:
Established by a core team of strategic thinkers and a founding group of industry leaders, Freedom Business Alliance (FBA) exists to promote and equip the global community of faith- based freedom businesses. FBA aims to improve the business conditions of the freedom business industry as a whole through:
- Promoting the common economic interest of all of members
- Staying informed of members’ needs, with an emphasis on needs relating to business
- Creating tools to enhance the ongoing work of its members
- Encouraging communication and collaboration
- Providing training resources and mentoring opportunities
The BAM think tank report trumpets a new call to freedom – through freedom businesses. We must allow it to ring and be heard widely. As Martin Luther King said 50 years ago:
“When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”
PS. This is a long article, blog. You can stop here or read the continuation below. But make sure to check the links enclosed below.
Need to get organized
One can make three observations about human trafficking, which is big organized crime: 1. It is big. 2. It is organized. 3. It is transnational.
Human trafficking, modern day slavery, is the 2nd biggest organized crime in the world. It is about many billions of dollars and involves very sophisticated transnational operations.
Some estimates indicate that about 27 million people have been tricked, shipped, deployed to slave like work and who are held against their will. All over the world. It is big business. It is organized. The trafficking operations involve all kinds of professions and skills and they are connected. Think multi-national company with all levels, from janitors to highflying CEOs.
Anti-human-trafficking initiatives can be labeled as small, often local and disorganized in comparison. Unfortunately. To adequately address and combat human trafficking we need to build critical mass (become big) and build strategic alliances (become organized) and work across national borders (become transnational).
I see two major challenges for anti-trafficking initiatives. One problem is that it is mainly two categories of people and groups who are involved: 1.Legislators, policy makers, and government agencies. 2. NGOs, non-profit and volunteer based organizations. These people and groups are good and needed. They are not the problem. The problem is the people and groups who are not involved or not even invited to combat this evil.
We know that unemployment makes people vulnerable to traffickers. It is also a fact that we can’t talk about restoration of victims of human trafficking unless we can offer them jobs with dignity. Thus adequate prevention and restoration must include job creation. This means that business people must be a part of anti-trafficking networks as we try to get big and organized.
The second problem is disconnectedness. Local and national disconnected anti-trafficking measures are not sufficient to tackle to big organized crime, to initiate preventative steps and rescue actions and to restore the victims of these criminal gangs. We need to have functional transnational collaborative strategies, i.e. we need to connect various anti-trafficking groups with one another, develop strategic alliances across both borders and special expertise. Business people need to be an integral part of these partnerships. Only then can we really build bridges to freedom to those who have been enslaved.
In short: we need to get more kinds of professions and skills sets involved and we need to build international strategic alliances. Is that a pipe dream? No!
There is one very promising initiative in Europe: The European Freedom Network, (EFN). It started 2009 and now (2015) has about 200 partners in over 40 countries in Europe working together to prevent human trafficking and provide restorative processes for its victims. EFN is not the silver bullet but is definitely an important step in the right direction of building critical mass, getting organized and operating transnationally.
Strategic alliances and networks are important for many reasons. Let me give you some food for thought, some teasers:
An African proverb says: if you want to walk fast – walk alone. If you want to walk far – walk together.
Do we want to be a sparkler or a lighthouse? One is short lived; one is there for the long haul. One is easy to start; the other one takes more joint efforts and organization. One is sparkling fun for a brief moment; one is a guiding light, saving many year after year.
Why are airlines creating strategic alliances? They can serve more people, give better services, and fly more people to more destinations.
What are we as Christians to do with Christ’s prayer about visible and practical unity? This will have strategic and practical implications when we engage in anti-trafficking work and pursue justice and mercy to bring healing and restoration to its victims.
Business as Mission can be smelly
Christ talks about invasion: may God’s Kingdom come on earth, may God’s will be done in our lives and societies today. The incarnational mystery is one of engagement, living among us, sharing our lives and circumstances.
Business as Mission recognizes our calling to be salt and light in the marketplace. It is not about evacuating Christians from a sinful and corrupt commercial sphere, but rather becoming an answer to the Lord’s Prayer: May your Kingdom come in the business world. We are a part of an invasion force, as it were.
Being involved in business, shaping it for God and the common good, will never be an easy ride or a smooth sailing. But we are to pursue an incarnational witness in all our relationships and dealings in the marketplace, even in freedom businesses. And it may carry an odor:
“What is holy in our midst has something to do with the odor of dung on a stable in Bethlehem, the fruity taste of wine on the table at Cana, and the smell of dried blood on the cross at Golgatha.” (Thomas Merton)
“…the odor of dung on a stable in Bethlehem, …”
Joseph and Mary were forced to travel and make great sacrifices due to tax authorities. It was not a grand start of a relationship and family life. It was most likely stressful, disappointing, and definitely smelly. But they carried Jesus, and He transformed many lives and circumstances.
Starting and operating business can be stressful and disappointing. Dealing with tax authorities can be tough in all countries. But God’s holiness can be displayed in the messiness of the marketplace. We are, like Joseph and Mary, to carry Jesus – into the marketplace.
“…the fruity taste of wine on the table at Cana,…”
Jesus produced wine, not just any wine, but superb quality wine. At a time of celebration Jesus was not a party pooper. There is a time and there is a season, a time to preach and a time to make good wine.
We want to make good quality products, and excel in serving our customers. Sometimes our businesses prosper and we can rejoice and “enjoy the good wine”, as it were. God’s holiness can be displayed both in the smelly and dirty stable, and in the festive occasion where material blessings abound.
“…and the smell of dried blood on the cross at Golgatha.”
There was a short time between Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the mob crying ‘crucify him’. Jesus fed the hungry and healed the sick, and he was also betrayed, abandoned, put through a mistrial and killed.
There are elements of dying, of pain and hurt, even as we engage in Business as Mission. Some may sing our praises one day, and intentionally try to destroy our business the next day. Customers may steal and partners cheat. Authorities may falsely accuse you of wrongdoing.
Doing business, also Freedom Business, as unto the Lord, will have “something to do with the odor of dung on a stable in Bethlehem, the fruity taste of wine on the table at Cana, and the smell of dried blood on the cross at Golgatha.”
For further info:
* Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta. Edited and with commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk
Tags: BAM, BAM think tank, Business as Mission, Business as Mission can be smelly, European Freedom Network, freedom business, Freedom Through Enterprise, human trafficking, Mother Teresa, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, Thomas Merton