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Slavery and Fair Trade: Topics I Can’t Get Away From

BY Sarah Reinhard

| Posted 11/5/13 at 10:26 AM

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When Catholic blogger Lisa Hendey went to Rwanda recently, I followed her status updates and blog posts with both trepidation and intrigue.

A few days ago, she posted about slavery. She writes that the Vatican’s hosting a seminar entitled, “Trafficking in human beings: modern slavery. Destitute peoples and the message of Jesus Christ.” I’ll be watching for more about this and what comes from it.

I have been mulling the reality of slavery since I read Refuse to Do Nothing earlier this year. It’s the result of two moms who couldn’t stay quiet, were changed by the knowledge of slavery, and relentlessly pursued it.

Does it even matter? Can we make a difference? Isn’t evil so big and large and overwhelming that one person can’t hope to make an impact?

Hendey sums it up in a way that I second:

Can more mindful purchasing make a dent in this crime against humanity? I believe the answer is yes if we begin to work together to educate ourselves, to CARE.

No sooner did I nod to that statement than I found out that Colleen Mitchell has started a series of blog posts about how exactly we can be more mindful in our spending. In her recent post, she writes,

It’s been a while since I blogged about human trafficking here on the blog. I think as Christmas approaches time to take up the reminder again. The frenzy of Christmas, especially in America, can lull into a sort of coma about the justice issues in the world around us. There is just too much happy to be had. We begin feel the pressure to buy and to make and to gather and to sing. “What can we do about child sex slaves today? Forget about it. Grab another peppermint latte and sing ‘Joy to the World’”.

But the truth is, there is much we can do to reduce the demand for slaves around the world with our purchasing power.

I’m heartened to see these thoughtful responses, especially after reading that, among the $6.9 billion Americans spend on Halloween, there’s now a whole segment for dog costumes:

Americans are expected to spend $6.9 billion on Halloween this year, with participants spending 54.7 more than they did in 2005, according to the National Retail Federation. Consumers will spend $1.04 billion on children's costumes and $1.22 billion on adult costumes.

Pardon me for a minute, but I can’t even wrap my mind around that. The article continues and names a number: $330 million. On dog costumes.

So what’s a mom to do?

First, I’m reading more about this. I’m making the small changes I can now, and keeping my heart open for the larger changes I know I’m going to have to make at some point.

Though I’ve already made some small changes, I feel like I’m being called to more. I’m not sure what that more looks like, but I’ll be exploring it more in the coming days and weeks.

There’s a great listing of practical things you can do today, right now, over at Patheos. The listing includes places you can look for slavery and signs that someone might be a victim of human trafficking. There are numbers you can program into your phone so that you have them if  you ever need to use them.

Colleen Mitchell has put together responsible shopping links that include gift selections and ways to approach your shopping. She also includes this bit of wisdom:

It takes time and energy to think and shop this way, and sometimes, as I can attest, you just need to run to Target (or PriceSmart) and get the job done. I beg for grace to be an intentional consumer if the times when I must simply purchase or consume for the sake of our collective family sanity.

But I am totally inspired by these links I have shared and I do hope that at least one of these links will inspire you and allow you to make a purchase or a donation that will serve your needs in a way that is good for your moral spirit.

I’ll also be tapping into Catholic Relief Service’s Fair Trade site:

Who knew that creating new opportunities for disadvantaged producers abroad could be as easy as shopping?  Whether you’re doing your Christmas shopping, looking for a meaningful baptism or communion gift (check out the Gifts of Faith Collection), or want a unique work of art to spice up a room, by choosing to do your shopping through Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade you’re helping skilled artisans and farmers maintain their craft and improve their lives.

CRS and our nonprofit partner, SERRV, work together to offer you the chance to buy high quality, fairly traded handcrafts and gourmet food items from struggling farmers and artisans all over the world.  With every purchase SERRV will make a generous contribution to the CRS Fair Trade Fund.