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'Ruby', a survivor of slavery from the Philippines
'Ruby', a survivor of slavery from the Philippines

40 Million Reasons to End Slavery

Monday October 18

Today (October 18) is Anti-Slavery Day. Andy Bevan, Scotland Director for International Justice Mission UK, explores why ending slavery is such an urgent issue, and how the church in Scotland is taking action.

Did you know that today, there are more people in slavery than at any other time in history?

More than 40 million women, men and children are trapped working in brick kilns or on fishing boats, coerced into work in brothels or forced to marry – modern slavery takes myriad forms, of which these are a few examples. This year, slavery has become an even more pressing issue – according to the UN, the pandemic has caused millions more people to become vulnerable to trafficking.

Behind this huge number are people with stories to tell. People like Ruby*, who was first exploited when she was just 15. Her traffickers tricked her with the promise of a job in an internet café – but the reality turned out to be very different. She was abused by her traffickers, streamed live over the internet for sex offenders in other countries to watch. Trapped inside the house of her trafficker, Ruby became so desperate to escape that she would shout whenever a police siren went by, hoping to be heard. In her desperation, she prayed, "God, if you're real, get me out of here!" 

The very next day local police, supported by IJM, brought Ruby and five other girls to safety.

Today, Ruby is safe and supported, as she rebuilds her life in freedom. Now an adult, she’s a courageous advocate for other survivors, telling her story across global platforms in order that the realities of this crime can be better understood, and to encourage others to take action to end it.

The global church has an important part to play in supporting survivors like Ruby. In the Philippines, Ruby’s home country, churches are providing direct support for children who have been abused in this way. And around the world, churches are coming together to pray, give generously and advocate for the movement to end slavery.

In Scotland, churches have recently marked Freedom Sunday, an annual day of prayer and action. The Rev Julia Meason of Kirkwall East Church in Orkney notes that, this year, her church prayed in particular for survivor leaders including the Global Survivor Network, inspired by their, ‘courage and strength – we wondered how we can turn our painful experiences into acts of healing for the world.’ 

Banchory West Church gave over a month of Sundays to exploring, through worship, the many practical ways in which God is working for justice for survivors of slavery, as well as reflecting on God’s just and compassionate character.

Rory MacLeod, minister of Strath & Sleat Church on the Isle of Skye, described the day as: ‘the best channel for our desire to be champions of freedom, especially for those who are vulnerable and exploited.’

Individuals have been taking action, too – like Chris Dubé, from St Andrew’s Leckie Church in Peebles, who ran hill races every month in 2020 to fundraise for IJM’s work, covering almost 300km with an ascent of more than 13,000m.

This Anti-Slavery Day, if you would like to join together with the global church and survivors like Ruby in taking action against injustice, there are many ways to get involved. Why not join IJM for an evening of prayer on 2nd November, and find out more about the movement to end slavery and violence for good?

*Pseudonym used