Yesterday in church, Alan preached on the parable which we usually call ‘The Good Samaritan’ (you’ll find it in Luke 10).
He pointed out that the background to the parable is that a lawyer was trying to put Jesus to the test so he asked Him: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”. That was, in fact, a great question. But Jesus threw the question back at him: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” A great answer.
But then the lawyer – “desiring to justify himself” – asked a further question: “And who is my neighbour?” This led to Jesus telling the story of the Good Samaritan:
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ ”
Jesus asked the lawyer: “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?”
The lawyer said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
In the end, Alan said, the question is not “Who is my neighbour?”. The question is “Who does God want me to be a neighbour to?”
I found that thought extremely challenging. Here in N.Ireland we are hearing a lot these days about the whole issue of Human Trafficking. Several organisations are working hard to raise awareness and people are hearing more and more about the scale of the problem:
The most common kind of human trafficking in the UK is forced labour, but in NI, it is sex trafficking.
It is thought that at any one time, there are 170-180 victims of sex trafficking available to be bought for sexual services across the province (note: this does not include other people involved in the sex trade).
Forced labour has been found in many industries, including the fishing and fast food industries.
Human trafficking is happening here. In Northern Ireland. Where you live. On your doorstep. It has a face. It has a name.
It is easy to think ‘Well, there are people who are passionate about that particular issue. That is their thing. I will leave them to get on with it. Maybe I’ll give a pound or two to the cause – but I won’t get involved. That’s not my thing. After all, I can’t get involved in every cause I hear about.’
I confess that I have been guilty of such thinking. But how different is that from the thinking that must have gone on in the heads of the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan? They were probably guilty of very similar rationalisation. Someone else will do it. I can’t get involved. This is not my thing. I don’t have time.
When I attended a recent event about Human Trafficking, one of the things that struck me most was the comparison which was made between Human Trafficking and the Holocaust. We can choose to turn a blind eye. We can say it is not our thing. We can say it is someone else’s responsibility. And allow millions of people to suffer in unimaginable conditions. Today in the 21st century. Here in N.Ireland. And all over the world. Don’t let us be guilty of that.
- Conservative estimates place the number of people currently enslaved in the world today at 27 million. (Anti-Slavery International).
- People are enslaved all over the globe; and these people come from all over the globe.
- Someone becomes a victim every 30 seconds. (UN)
- Over half of victims are women and children. (UN)
- Human Trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world (after drug trade). (UN)
- 98-99% of victims are not rescued. (The A21 Campaign).
Let us not be priests and Levites. Let us not turn a blind eye. There is something each of us can do.
Who can you be a neighbour to? Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the extent of the problem. It is enormous. But each of us can make a difference. Like the little boy throwing starfish back into the sea. A man told him it wasn’t worth it, it wouldn’t make any difference, there were so many of them swept up on the shore. The little boy continued what he was doing and as he was throwing one back, he said, ‘Well, it made a difference to that one’.
The important thing is to start. Get informed – and then get involved.
Here is a good place to start:
NO MORE TRAFFIK ON OUR STREETS is a major event taking place in Belfast, in May 2012. “It aims to raise awareness about the problem of human trafficking among the general public, and to provide long-lasting help for victims. We expect several thousand people to take part in this exciting event. During the festival, our partner organisations will put on a variety of fantastic cross-community satellite events including concerts, seminars, lectures, street shows, fashion shows, art exhibitions etc. on the subject of human trafficking. On top of these events, all of the partnering organisations and their volunteers will join together in creating the biggest possible impact during two high-profile flash mobs on the streets of Belfast.”
12-20 May 2012 in Belfast. All of the events are listed here, as well as a lot of information on the whole subject of Human Trafficking and how you can get involved. Jesus said, “You go, and do likewise.”