Thursday, 5 June 2008

Trapped: thoughts flowing from Celtic Imagination No 3

The image of lobster pots released a wellspring of reflection in my mind which I would like to share with you. In sitting with this image I was mindful that it is 200 years since the ‘Abolition of the Slave Trade’ Act. As we have recently bought the DVD of 'Amazing Grace' the life and faith-driven activism of William Wilberforce was fresh in my mind, hence the connection with the photo. I totally agree with the reviewer on Amazon who said of 'Amazing Grace', "I would place this film amongst the most powerful I have ever seen in a long life of cinema going." Its such a moving portrayal of what putting the kingdom of God into practice looks like and why, for Christians, inaction is not an option.

All of this led me to ponder the question, "who is trapped or enslaved today?" As I looked at the lobster pots three groups of people came into focus: migrant workers, prostitutes and people imprisoned and tortured for their political and religious beliefs.

In Lincolnshire our economy relies on migrant workers, with  peak demand for casual and temporary labour in South Lincolnshire and Boston reaching up to 15,000 migrant workers per day. Across the UK stories of how migrant workers are exploited and abused are all too common. Here in Lincolnshire we take a pro-active approach to these issues. Lincolnshire Chaplaincy Services employs a Migrant Workers Chaplain, who together with our Agricultural Chaplain (see Integration Lincolnshire), seek to address the main causes for concern. Local churches offer hospitality and seek to advocate the welfare and well-being of migrant workers in their communities, which for towns such as Boston is a pressing matter. We resolutely oppose racism in all its forms. What are the issues where you live? Who is trapped? Who is being exploited? What can you and your church do about it?

The second lobster pot group of people I thought about are those caught up in prostitution and sex-trafficking. David Cronenberg's powerful film 'Eastern Promises' deals with this. The media made much of a fight scene in a Turkish bathhouse involving the actor Viggo Mortensen naked.  The most chilling, provocative and harrowing scene in the film did not get a mention: that set in a brothel where a sex-trafficked Ukrainian woman is forced to have sex. Chaste (Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking Across Europe) is a very helpful resource for addressing the scandal of women trafficked and trapped in this way. Of course for many of the women trapped into street prostitution their plight is linked inextricably to drugs. Drug dealers and pimps enslave them. This video on Youtube shows the human face of this misery. It is so profoundly sad and almost unbearably moving. Each of these women is beloved and cherished by God, yet they are vilified and stigmatised by society in a way which traps them in a lobster-pot stereotype. How are they to know the love of God in a way which sets them free? What action can we take to support those who are vulnerable in this way?

The third group of lobster-pot people are the ones for whom Amnesty International exists, those imprisoned and tortured for their political and religious beliefs and actions. For a daily comment on what's in the news regarding human rights abuses take a look at this blog from the Amnesty International  UK media team. As Amnesty say of themselves: "We are ordinary people from around the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect individuals wherever justice, fairness, freedom and truth are denied."  This is something we can all get involved with.

So thinking about the theme of those who are trapped led me naturally to reflect upon the question, 'what can I do?' Channeling our righteous indignation and godly outrage is essential: as I have said before, being inactive is not an option for Christians.  Whatever lobster-pot people you thought about, there will be something you can do to set them free. For instance you could become a Backyard Abolitionist here in the UK, where you live and work, by taking to heart and putting into action the 'Not For Sale' campaign from the USA. Their blog flags up stories of local action from across the world. As they say:

"It is no longer enough to think about change.
It is no longer enough to talk about change.
It is time to shift gears; marrying movement with intelligent action.

Our collective challenge is simple, stand with those who are enslaved, work together to free them, and empower them in their freedom to break the cycle of vulnerability."

All of this from one picture of a row of lobster pots. Our imagination is a place where God can really get to work in our world.

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