Earlier today, a groundbreaking interfaith initiative, the Global Freedom Network, was announced. A collaboration between the Vatican, the Anglican Church and the grand imam of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, the renown seat of Sunni Islam learning, this project aims to fight against worldwide through government and business initiatives.
Worldwide, it is estimated over 30 million people are in slavery. To put that in perspective, that’s over 30% more than the entire population of Australia.
It’s fitting than that this initiative has its roots in Australia. It is the brainchild of Andrew Forrest, an Australian mining magnate who is ranked 270th on Forbes’ list of the worlds richest people. He’s also the founder of the Walk Free Foundation, which publishes a yearly Global Slavery Index.
Unfortunately, slavery is still alive and well in the world today. As much as we’d wish it were a dark phantom of the past, even with its 134th place rank in the Index, the United States is estimated to have 57,000-63,000 enslaved people today.
Lisa Kristine‘s powerful photography and story bring living, human faces to this near-forgotten mass of humanity.
As a 16 billion dollar a year industry, human slavery has a higher gross than the GDP of 74 countries in the world.
Faced with these numbers, it can seem a near-insurmountable task to tear this evil out from the world. What is one to do? How can one single person make a difference.
So, I have one more story to tell, and it starts with Lisa’s photography. It’s the story of a little girl named Vivienne.
Visiting an art gallery with her parents, nine-year-old Vivienne Harr came face to face with Lisa’s photography. A picture of two young boys about her age with large slabs of rock strapped to their heads particularly grabbed her attention. These children should be playing, not risking their lives to haul slate down a steep mountain.
This image in particular seemed to haunt her. She had to do something.
Compassion is not compassion without action.
~ Vivienne Harr ~
So, she decided to do something. But what could she do?
She opened a lemonade stand with the initial goal of freeing 500 of the estimated 18 million children in slavery. Later this grew to a goal of ending childhood slavery throughout the world.
Her story so far has been captured in the documentary #standwithme, which just had its premier last month and is currently touring the US and Canada.
Her big, audacious goal has caught the attention of others, as she has invited them to stand with her and to give what is in their hearts towards this cause.
As Lisa pointed out in her TED talk, it is very difficult to ignore this evil when we can see the human faces associated with it. They are, after all, our brothers and sisters. How can we let them languish in slavery and we not care?
What Vivienne teaches us is that even a nine-year-old can make a difference.
The Global Freedom Network shows age-old enmity being put aside to fight for this noble cause.
What part are you willing to play?
Can you give what’s in your heart?
We will only truly be free when those in bondage are finally free.
~ Desmond Tutu ~
Be one person: Vivienne Harr at TEDxFiDiWomen