This post was written by Phil Lane, director of Oasis Belgium.
As I write this, I’m in Taizé, a famous Christian community where during the course of one year, more than 75,000 people gather from all over Europe to worship, meditate and reflect on God. I would say that they come here for peace and quiet, but this is the Youth week, and so there isn’t quite so much quiet, despite people roaming the site with signs saying “Silence”! Perhaps thousands of young people weren’t designed to be silent.
I’m here to speak alongside the CEO of Stop the Traffik, Ruth Dearnley, about how to stop human trafficking. There is a role for all of us to play. We must, on the one hand, make sure that those who have been trafficked can find a way to safety, but we must also try to make people less vulnerable to exploitation in the first place and that means that we have to engage with all sorts of activities, from the helpline we run at Oasis Belgium for women who are experiencing violence at home, which, in the case of the Thai women we work with, is often a precursor to being trafficked into the sex trade, to welcoming immigrants into our community, so that nobody is left without support. It also means making sure that we ask questions about the products we buy to ensure that there is pressure on producers to keep exploitation out of the factories they source from.
More than that, and this is the focus of Stop The Traffik, we must share the information we have about human trafficking. That may mean things we see as we walk to work, or on holiday. It might mean all the information we know from the many cases we work on at Oasis Belgium. You might be in a job, as a taxi driver, or a cleaner at an airport, which means you see things that others might miss. You can call your local police, a local NGO and also download the Stop The Traffik app (https://www.stopthetraffik.org), which helps to collect data so that we can see a bigger picture of what’s going on.
We all have a role to play. The biggest response today came when we spoke about the importance of women’s rights and zero tolerance towards violence against women. Hundreds of young people sitting in the sweltering heat of France today, from all over Europe were completely committed to women’s rights. Times are changing and we need to be at the vanguard of bringing equality to all. There are many things in the news which are depressing and might make us feel like giving up, but at the grass roots level, there is a new wave of activism coming and the old attitudes of misogyny and xenophobia are being challenged. Populist politicians may have the upper hand right now, but this isn’t the end.
If you would like to donate to the work we do to prevent exploitation and help people to freedom, please go to https://oasisbe.com/give/