This morning I was forcibly struck by the relevance of ancient Hebrews writings (the Psalms) to a communication I received just yesterday in the post.
For some time, we have supported the work of the International Justice Mission. I confess to not always reading the circulars and updates I receive from charities but something made me pick this one up yesterday and put it by my chair with the intention of reading it first thing this morning which is the time of day I try to read and pray.
This report was heart-breaking (I’ve just cut and pasted it – see below for links)
New Office in Ghana: Expanding our Fight Against Slavery
15 Sep 2014
In recent years, IJM has helped to rescue thousands of people from slavery. But through IJM’s growing expertise, we are now addressing slavery in other, new industries. This year, IJM is continuing to draw on its experience and expand this work by opening a new office in Ghana. After conducting an investigation on Ghana’s Lake Volta, we confirmed boys as young as 4 are enslaved and being exploited in the country’s fishing business.
Below is an account by an IJM investigator that highlights this desperate need in Ghana and why it is so important that someone stands up on behalf of these boys. By opening an office in Ghana, we will be able to go back and free these boys from the nightmare in which they live.
Ghana: Children on Lake Volta
“When I went with IJM to investigate child slavery in Ghana last year, I was wholly unprepared for what I saw: children suffering all around us, with no one at all to protect them.
We were on Lake Volta, the world’s largest man-made lake, where tens of thousands of boys (some as young as four) work on fishing boats during peak season. For 16 intense days we lived undercover to reveal the truth about the children working there.
Talking to the boat masters, we learned how they operate. They said they go to far-off villages and buy very young boys, because the youngest are easiest to control. The slave owners convince families that their boys will be educatedand receive work. But these children are not paid and they are not educated or cared for. They are trapped.
Soon it became quite easy to spot them. Those boys wore torn, dirty and ragged clothing; many had no clothes at all. Most of the boys had distended stomachs, skin diseases, hair falling out, and open sores and wounds. They would barely look us in the eye; some of their eyes were simply vacant of emotion.
Ghana: Child on Lake Volta
We were amazed at how these children could wrestle huge fish into the boats and pull up massive fishing lines. Their arms and bodies are left deeply scarred from fish with sharp teeth or spikes. And if a net gets stuck, they are made to swim down and untangle it. Many little boys drown as a result.
This was my single hardest assignment with IJM. To drive away from that reality, from such a desperate and dire need for rescue and relief, and to leave these little children to suffer – it tore against everything in my soul. My only consolation was that we will be going back for these children.”
Feeling very sad, I turned to my reading for the day, it was Psalm 10 which begins ‘Why O Lord, do you stand far off?’ So often our first response is to blame God for his inaction. But the question ‘what are you doing about it?’ cuts both ways, from us to God and from God to us.
The psalmist could have been writing about the actual report I’d just read:
verse 2: ‘in his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak‘
verse 8 and 9:’he lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent… he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net’
By verse 15 the Psalmist was as angry as I had been reading the report from Ghana ‘Break the arm of the wicked man, call him to account for his wickedness’
The psalm ends with an assurance that God does in fact see and hear and will call to account. He is the ‘father of the fatherless’, he defends the oppressed, in order that man, who is of earth, may terrify no more’.
God hears the cry of the poor. The question is ‘do we?’