Just because William Wilberforce brought British slavery laws crashing down in the early 1800s, we assume slavery has ended. Not so.
Slavery comes in many ways, but be assured, the steel chains that shackled Africans in boats on their way to America and held them in bondage are just a more primitive form of the "chains" that enslave children today.
Meet Arti. She and her family are migrants from Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India. Living now the village of Shadipur, her mother picks rags and her father begs.
Arti used to only beg too. Past tense.
Her chains of unrelenting poverty are being broken. Today she is in school – in grade three thanks to World Vision's Delhi Child Restoration Project. It's straight forward. Teach street kids in Delhi's slums how to read and write. For Arti it's a remarkable shift in what she does and how her life is being transformed. Added to that, her family never could save any money. In fact the idea was foreign to them. But her parents are beginning the process of lifting themselves out of the prison of poverty, one saved rupee at a time.
See how the two programs reinforce as they merge, bringing transformation for Arti and her family. She is in school – which changes her sense of value and opportunity for the future. Now her parents can now look beyond their daily, desperate survival. A plan has been born and the future is now seen through a lens of hope.
However the story hasn't ended for thousands of other kids like Arti.
Children as young as six are forced by their impoverished parents to go into the streets and press anyone to give them money. What parents lack in work they excel at in teaching their employable children the art of the sale. Some children are forced to carry their newborn brothers and sisters into traffic, zigzagging between stopped cars in traffic jams while pleading for small change.
Sadly some of these children never make it back home due to misfortune. Others get picked up at traffic stops by sick individuals who pay the children for the kind of services that are any parent's worst nightmare. Still here is the glimmer of hope: kids like Arti now can dream. Arti can see herself beyond the bars of poverty. Hope is now a word that makes sense.
It is for the Arti's of this world that Abolition Sunday is June 9th, just a few days before the International Labour Organization's World Day Against Child Labour. It is one thing to support programs like those Arti and her parents benefit from. But it also takes changes to government policy and business practices, as in the days of the 1800s abolition. The Abolition 2013 petition calls on the Government of Canada to take leadership in promoting transparent supply chains – an important first step we can take in addressing child slavery.
There aren't enough donations in the world to lift everyone from poverty. But together, between our support for programs like the ones that Arti and her parents benefit from and our support for systemic changes, we can be the new abolition movement. Together, there is enough solidarity to bring hope to a child, letting them see their value in God's eyes. And from that vantage point, to realize they are meant for more than a life of begging on some street corner of some urban world.