By Paul Stack
This article is the writer’s own and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Concordiensis or its staff.
Over spring break, six Union students and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) staff worker, Caleb LaRue, attended a service trip called New York City Urban Project (NYCUP). The purpose of the trip was to examine areas of social injustice and understand how God empowers us to love those dark places.
It’s difficult to summarize the incredible things that happened to us throughout the week, so I will instead focus on the portion of the week that dealt with fair trade and modern-day slavery in the chocolate industry. Fair trade involves the purchase of goods with the assurance that the producer is receiving a living wage.
We watched a documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolate, which explored how children are coerced or kidnapped from Mali and brought to work in the Ivory Coast to harvest cocoa beans. The children often work for over 12 hours a day and may never see their parents again. These cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast supply global corporations.
Afterward, we discussed our reactions to this issue, which included sadness with the situation, anger at the companies for not addressing the issue, and the desire to hop on a plane and go rescue the children.
NYCUP Director Jonathan Walton provided two ways in which we can get involved. The first was by “investing in freedom.” When we purchase fair trade goods, we’re rejecting industries that rely on slavery to maintain cheap input costs and are supporting companies that care about the condition of their workers’ lives and their freedom.
The second was through prayer. In prayer we asked God to continue to work in organizations like International Justice Mission, which actively fight human trafficking by rescuing and rehabilitating enslaved children.
We prayed we could recognize that this issue is bigger than we are.
Most mainstream clothing and food companies, including Forever 21 and Nestlé, employ slave labor, and it is nearly impossible for every purchase to be a fair trade one.
However, God is bigger and can renew these companies by renewing their leaders.
We also prayed that God would transform the way we spend our money so that we look beyond our instant gratification and budget constraints to purposeful spending that allows us to love others deeply with the purchases we make.
Note: Please contact Peter Donnelly ([email protected]) if you are interested, Christian or not, in learning how you can be a part of abolishing modern day slavery. We can provide websites and resources.