PETER MIHAERE, a member of Eastview Baptist Church and CEO of the Baptist justice initiative, Stand Against Slavery, attended the Annual Baptist World Alliance (BWA) meetings in Bangkok, Thailand, in July 2017. Here he reports on a resolution made by BWA General Council that acknowledges the issue of modern slavery and that urges Baptists worldwide to take a stand for the rights of "the least of these".
One of the privileges I have as a member of the Baptist whanau is sitting on the Social and Economic Justice Commission of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). This commission was established in 2015 and its inaugural meetings were held in Vancouver, Canada, in July 2016. Whilst I have been to a few BWA meetings and congresses over the years, this is the first time I have been invited to be part of a commission that looks at a specific area of concern.
In July 2017 the annual BWA meetings were held in Bangkok, Thailand. In Vancouver it was suggested that, given our annual meeting was going to be held in Asia where most of the world's slaves reside, our focus could be on modern slavery, what a Baptist response might be, and how we could resource ourselves in the fight for a slave-free world. Earlier in the year I was invited to lead the content of these meetings, bringing people together around this incredibly important justice issue facing the world. This was possible with the grateful contribution from the Baptist Union of New Zealand to fund my travel.
In the months of preparation before the meetings, a small group of us also began to develop a resolution to submit to the BWA General Council for consideration. The BWA have had resolutions in the past on slavery and human trafficking, but there needed, in our humble opinion, an updated and relevant resolution given how the world, and the church, has acknowledged the plight of the enslaved in the 21st Century, and the need for a global response.
It was an exciting assignment be asked to lead. When we met in Bangkok we had three sessions where a number of people presented information, story and examples of what the Baptist family are doing in abolishing slavery across the globe. We heard from the Nagaland Baptists and what they are doing in working with girls/women in the sex trade, girls/women at risk of domestic/sexual violence and abuse, and victims of trafficking. We heard from the Australian Baptists who are the creators of the Ethical Fashion Guide, which is gaining global attention as a key guide to helping people make ethical buying choices in fashion. Major retailers and fashion brands are now coming to Baptist World Aid Australia in an attempt to become better manufacturers and retailers of their products.
I was responsible for painting an overall picture of the issue across the globe and also able to share about the international work of Freeset, Love Calcutta Arts, and The Loyal Workshop, businesses specifically set up to be an economic response to slavery, on the ground in South Asia. It was humbling to share about our local Baptist justice initiative, Stand Against Slavery, and the work I attempt to do in convincing government and civil society to join together to combat slavery, human trafficking and forced labour here in Aotearoa. We are among the world’s leaders in fighting for a slave-free world, and it was a real blessing to engage this issue together.
It was also a special moment to see a unanimous vote for a modern slavery resolution during the General Council meeting. To get a resolution to the floor of the BWA is a process that takes several months and a lot of careful writing. The following is what was unanimously resolved.
Human Slavery and Trafficking
The Baptist World Alliance General Council, meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, July 5-7, 2017:
ACKNOWLEDGES that General Council has regularly reminded the global family of Baptists about the evil practice of modern slavery;
REGRETS the sad reality that slavery and human trafficking exist today within nearly every society;
LAMENTS the deep trauma experienced by fellow human beings who are held against their will and forced to participate in economic, violent, and/or other exploitative activities for the personal gain or profit of others;
CONDEMNS those who create demand for such services, which perpetuates these modern forms of slavery;
AFFIRMS all legal and societal initiatives to prevent and eliminate modern-day forms of slavery and human trafficking;
URGES global Baptists to make use of a growing number of biblical, theological, and practical resources designed for educating persons about injustice and advocating for victims of slavery and human trafficking;
CALLS upon all Baptist bodies, churches, and individuals to actively embrace opportunities for Christian ministry and witness by standing up for the rights of “the least of these,” and working toward the prevention of slavery and human trafficking, and caring for those impacted; and
ENCOURAGES Baptists to collaborate with other Christians and all people of good will who are also concerned about bringing an end to this personal, social, and economic injustice.
In our final session as a commission, following the passing of this resolution, we agreed that whilst it is good to have a resolution at the highest level of our Baptist network, enshrined for all time, it is of little use unless we commit to working diligently at putting hands and feet to this call.
Here in Aotearoa your missionary society, NZBMS, is leading the way and does that through business, through a company known as Marketplacers International Ltd. The businesses referred to above in South Asia are subsidiaries of Marketplacers. Stand Against Slavery is an independently funded charitable trust that is a joint venture of the NZBMS and the BUNZ. We are attempting to serve God in his call for us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Prov 31:8).
Story: Peter Mihaere
New Zealand Baptists