Ian McInnes, CEO TEAR Fund, and myself were invited to address the National Church Leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand (NCLANZ) in Wellington yesterday. Ian spoke on the global perspective of Slavery and Human Trafficking and I focused primarily on the local, New Zealand, perspective. Below is the transcript of what I shared.
E te Atua, tena koe
E te whanau whanui
Tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou
My name is Peter Mihaere, the Chief Executive of Stand Against Slavery, a New Zealand Baptist Justice Initiative launched in November last year as a response to six months research looking for a missional response to slavery and human trafficking for New Zealand Baptists.
With me today is Shanna Bosley, a PhD student at Victoria University, researchingwho is dealing with the issue of human trafficking here in NZ, how are they approaching it, and why? Why are charity organizations, and in particular faith-based initiatives doing so much? What motivates them? How does that motivation translate into action? Shanna is here to observe what Stand Against Slavery and TEAR Fund are doing in regards to that. Welcome Shanna.
Last Thursday, 28 August 2014, the human tectonic plates of New Zealand shifted. Three Indian men, two in Motueka and one in Auckland, were arrested for allegedly trafficking 18 Indian nationals into New Zealand to work in the Horticulture industry.
This is the first human trafficking arrest in New Zealand and it was a landmark moment in New Zealand’s history. We shouldn’t be proud of the fact that modern slavery, exploitation, and human trafficking exists in New Zealand, but it does and it has done so for decades with many close prosecutions, and plenty of anecdotal evidence, to suggest it is alive and well in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The United States Trafficking in Persons Report, published by the State Department annually monitors what governments around the world are doing or not doing at combating slavery and human trafficking, and then grades each country accordingly. For a number of years it has suggested that New Zealand has a growing problem and is now considered a destination and source country.
That means New Zealand is an attractive place to traffic people to and it is becoming a country that is having its children stolen and sold overseas.
The three men arrested last week are a good example of destination, and these gentlemen will appear again in the Nelson District Court this coming Thursday (4 Sept 2014).
In July this year, Damion Baston was prosecuted in Florida for coming to New Zealand and Australia, posing as a music producer looking for new talent, and luring young women turning them into sex slaves in the United States. Damion was convicted and will be sentenced this coming Friday (5 Sept 2014).
So whatever our views are on the matter it is now confirmed without the ambiguity of anecdotal evidence, human trafficking exists in New Zealand.
Further, over recent months reports of the level of worker exploitation and slave like activity are also increasing and being exposed.
For example the construction industry in Christchurch has many Filipino construction workers who are being exploited with double contracts and slave like living conditions. The TV3, 3rd Degree programme highlighted these clearly and pointed to the recruitment agencies as the culprits. A few days after that was reported a further 20 Filipino workers came forward expressing similar conditions from another recruitment agency. The Salvation Army were able to provide assistance for these people.
In the Bay of Plenty is has been a poorly kept secret that over the last twenty years exploitation goes on within the casual workforce across the kiwifruit industry. In July Hardeep Singh, had had enough and came forward to an employment advocate. His story was published in a Bay of Plenty newspaper. Hardeep’s advocate has said that there are dozens more people who will tell their story if help can be provided.
The reason I bring these situations before you today is to make it known and clear that this is happening in the backyards of the communities that you serve. They are in your patch. You and I can no longer say that slavery and human trafficking is something that is out there in India, or Thailand, or Europe, it’s happening in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Last Thursday formally revealed the tip of the iceburg of our backyard. It’s finally out in the open—but I believe that as a nation we can rise to respond to this issue.
We do have to review and modify some of our laws, and strengthen the government and community agencies with the mandate to better respond to the issue—but I believe we have in place most of the mechanisms to fight this issue head on.
We need to tighten our borders, but also recognise that some slavery, exploitation and trafficking is created and developed from within our borders—but I believe we have the will to make the necessary changes that will enables us to combat this evil.
And where should we look first? I believe it is the Church. Outside of Government the Church provides the greatest level of community services in our nation, and it is mandated by Jesus to do so. We need a clarion call as the body of Christ to take in the enslaved as well as the hungry and the poor and the sick and naked and the imprisoned and the widowed. There are people trapped in physical slavery in our communities and we, as the Church, need to wake up to the reality that there are more desperate people out there that need our help. We know how to help people, and now our boundaries; our border; and our tent pegs have been extended and enlarged.
I believe without a shadow of doubt that the Church can respond effectively and I call on this body to be the leaders we need to make that happen.
We need to contribute to the plight of slavery across the globe as Ian has indicated so that we can live in a slave free world. But we also need to contribute to the plight of slavery within our borders so that we can ensure a slave free NZ.
It is cognisant on our beliefs no matter where we sit on the spiritual spectrum to help our fellow men and women.
TEAR Fund, that is The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund, is a response from the church and they can help. Stand Against Slavery is a response from the church and has been intentionally set up to be available to the whole community in New Zealand, and we can help. And there are many other organisations around New Zealand who can help.
And it is with this in mind that we, Ian and myself, would like to lay down three challenges for you. It is recognised that people have sat where we are sitting before and presented their own challenges to you and I’m certain there will be many more after us.
We can only stand on the conviction that we have to bring before the Church Leaders of this nation these three challenges, which we ask and we pray that you will take up.
<<Pull out the three pieces of foliage>>
Challenge # 1
Firstly, will you as the National Church Leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand acknowledge, as leaders of the Christian Church here in NZ, that modern slavery, exploitation and human trafficking is an issue and must be abolished in NZ and around the world?
Challenge # 2
Secondly, will you as leaders advocate within your movements the need for more effort by the Church to pull its weight in the abolishment of modern slavery, exploitation and human trafficking in NZ and around the world?
Challenge # 3
And thirdly, will you as the National Church Leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand bring this issue of modern slavery, exploitation and human trafficking to the attention of the New Zealand Government, specifically including it on your agenda to discuss with the Prime Minister?
Our Commitment to NCLANZ
If the National Church Leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand are willing to pick up these three challenges, TEAR Fund and Stand Against Slavery will commit to resource and equip you and your member church movements with whatever is necessary to advance the cause of abolishing modern slavery, exploitation and human trafficking, in NZ and around the world.
Our genesis as organisations is that we were birthed from within the Church and it’s to the Church we are advocating that we must do more and that we can help you do that.
As a gesture of good faith that you will seriously consider these challenges we have for you a gift to remind you of this meeting and material that can get you further informed and equipped to begin this important and difficult journey.
<<Pass the book out>>
Inside the book, which was written by a Pastor in South Korea, we also have our business cards and a snippet of foliage to remind your of the challenges that we have set down before you today.
An impassioned plea like this cannot finish without adding to it the words of wisdom from those who have gone before us and so I say fromEdmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [and women] to do nothing.”
And from William Wilberforce himself, “You may chose to look the other way but you cannot say that you did not know.”
And from our very own Brook Fraser, “Now that I have seen, I am responsible.”
Tena koutou, tena koutou tena tatou katoa.
Byun, Eddie. 2014. Justice Awakening: How You and Your Church Can Help End Human Trafficking.
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