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I’m now on study leave and one of my projects is a week-long intensive course in modern slavery at Not For Sale’s Abolition Academy, conveniently held across from the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park. (If you’re interested, but aren’t close to the SF Bay Area, they also offer shorter “Backyard Academy” sessions all around the country.) I first learned about this organization when their president spoke on a radio show earlier this year, then I did more research when I was looking for an anti-slavery organization to support, as I chronicled in May, and along the way got interested in learning more from them.

I know a few things about slavery today, the first being that it’s alive and kicking: actual cases of people being locked up, forced to work, deprived of their wages, and even inheriting their servitude from their parents. Another is that it is far from a remnant; more people are enslaved right now on Earth than there were in the entire African slave trade of the 16th through 19th centuries. Tens of thousands are enslaved in the US or pass through here each year–obviously it’s illegal, but enforcement and prosecution are rare. A large component is sex slavery (the Iowa Family Leader kicked up a little dust yesterday by coming up with an outrageous euphemism for a child who was the property of the man who had produced him by raping his mother, who was also his property: “raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household”). I also know that apart from a few well-publicized cases, like the Thai workers locked in a sweatshop in Los Angeles several years back, there isn’t much awareness of the problem even among people who are attuned to social problems.

I’ve been pretty ignorant about it myself, which is why I want to learn more. The course I’ll be taking later this month is on the supply chain, following the connection from slaveholder to consumer and empowering companies and consumers to break it. A couple of reasons I like Not For Sale (NFS) is that they also train people in investigating slavery in their neighborhoods, and they do outreach to the faith community (possible future courses to take, if this one is good). I hope we Unitarian Universalists will act on our pride in our abolitionist forebears by leading the movement to (as NFS puts it) “re-abolish slavery.” I’ve already committed to preaching on 21st century slavery and abolition on August 14, so now I’ll have much more knowledge to bring to the pulpit.

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