As I reflect on all the Lord has taught me about social justice, I distinctly remember a visit to Yangon, Myanmar during the summer of my sophomore year of college. My parents served with Operation Mobilization, teaching English to students after school. During one week of our stay, we had an opportunity to visit a safe house for young girls rescued from human trafficking in Thailand, Myanmar, and neighboring countries. An excerpt from my journal during that time recalled:
This morning we visited a safe house for girls rescued from the red light district of Yangon. After just opening up from over 60 years of military rule and civil war, the developing economy has brought a sharp increase in traffickers who pray on the poor and vulnerable. I learned that kingdom work sometimes looks like sitting and coloring with a 12-year-old girl while local team members convince her traffickers to let her go; sometimes the kingdom is moving in a hidden fourth-floor flat where girls who just escaped from being trafficked across the border call home. A missionary told me that some of these girls still go out onto the streets on the weekend to make money, and statistics agree– many women and children rescued from sex trafficking return to their old lifestyle within a few months. But isn't that the spirit in all of us, really? Constantly running from the light, from justice and what's good for us. How big is grace, that it covers red light districts in our hearts and in our world?
As an American college student, I felt empowered to use my voice to stand up for the needy and oppressed, but somehow this experience reminded me of just how reliant we are on Christ in our own slavery to sin– we cannot undermine the power that spiritual warfare plays in oppression in this world. Since that time, I've learned many practical ways to fight the human injustices that occur in our world each day.
My own ignorance to supply chains in the United States was drastically challenged when I traveled to Myanmar. I didn't realize that the cost of cheap products was cheap labor, perpetuated by unfair working conditions, abuse, and neglect of employees. I found the following resourced extremely helpful in my search to make informed purchases:
Slavery Footprint: Figure out how many slaves work for you by taking a short quiz about your purchase habits, belongings, and lifestyle.
Project Just: Project JUST empowers you to make informed and thoughtful decisions about the clothes you buy, so you can align your purchases with your values
Fair Trade: Make informed purchases when you buy products at the grocery store, and ensure that you're supporting fair wages and ethical supply lines.
While we may not be able to become full-time missionaries, or change the behaviors of others, our influence as Americans