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Nearly 46 Million Trapped in Modern Day Slavery

Credit: Rafael Ben-Ari via Fotolia

Nearly 46 million people worldwide are living in modern slavery, according to the Walk Free Foundation. This is an increase of twenty-eight percent from the group's last survey back in 2014, which concluded that the number was 35.8 million.

Slavery was defined as "situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power, or deception." Examples include forced labor in farming, fishing, and manufacturing, commercial sex work and forced marriage.

The survey was based on 42,000 interviews conducted in twenty-five countries. It found that Asian countries were home to nearly sixty percent of the world's modern slaves. It identified India as having the highest number, 18.3 million, while North Korea had the highest proportion, with 4.3 percent of the population thought to be enslaved. North Korea, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, India, and Qatar had the highest proportion of their population enslaved.


Governments taking the least action to tackle slavery were North Korea, Iran, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, and Hong Kong. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the governments taking most action were the Netherlands, the United States, Britain, Sweden, and Australia.

However, the survey results were met with skepticism. Some researchers accused the index of flawed methodology by extrapolating on-the-ground surveys in some countries to estimate numbers for other nations. They assert that certain qualities and characteristics are unique to each country and are not transferrable. Thus the reason why the forty-six million number is so much larger than the UN's International Labor Organization number: 21 million people.

Just as there is not a uniform number, there is also not a uniform slavery. It comes in many forms, bonded labor being the most common. These victims are born into slavery in order to repay a loan, possibly from generations past. Forced labor is another form of slavery, in which work is forced upon someone against their will. Under the threat of punishment, slaves either work or perform a service with little or no pay.

And then there is human trafficking, which occurs when people are taken from their communities, stripped of their identities, and forced to work against their will. Either forcefully taken, or taken under the false pretense of employment, such a victim is taken away from his or her support structure and placed in a new setting with little hope of ever returning.

Nearly one in five victims of slavery is a child. The average age a teen enters in the sex trade is twelve to fourteen years old. The average cost of a slave today is $90. Slavery generates $150 billion a year.


These 46 million people are physical slaves, but Christians know what it was like to be spiritual slaves. Enslaved to our desires and our flesh (Romans 6:18), we were naturally inclined towards evil (Romans 8:21, Psalm 14) and hostile enemies towards the King (Colossians 1:21).

But, in his grace and mercy, God sent his Son to set the captives free (Luke 4:18). As those who have been set free and are keenly aware of the shackles of spiritual slavery, we have been tasked to go and do likewise towards those who are both physically and spiritually enslaved.

Slavery thrives in chaos and fosters an atmosphere of hopelessness. In the chaotic disorder, the slave master provides a new order of being and way of life. But we are peacemakers who know of a living hope (2 Peter 1:3). We work against chaos to bring about peace and offer a message of hope (Colossians 1:27).

So how can you make heaven crash into this earth in which there are 46 million people enslaved?

Prayer: E.M Bounds found prayers to be deathless, in that they live longer than those who uttered them. "Nothing is well done without prayer for the simple reason that it leaves God out of the account." 

Reconsider the companies that you support: While you may be vocally against slavery, your decisions at the cash register may indicate otherwise. Free2Work is an organization that provides consumers with information regarding companies that utilize forced or child labor.

Consider supporting organizations that are actively involved: The slavery problem is large and solutions can at times be complex and intricate. But there are people and organizations that are effectively working to end this pernicious problem such as Traffick 911.

Peace never comes idly, but as a result of active and tenacious effort. Peacemakers are active agents who seek to reorder chaos to resemble heaven. The work may vast, but our God is great.

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