This week our prayers are focused on the 10 countries notorious for slavery. Which are Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Gabon and Moldova. These countries have the highest prevalence to slavery. Although, other countries have higher number of slaves like Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) and several others nations. New research in 2013 revealed this and the fact that right now there are 29 million people living in slavery.
These countries might be your own nation, or a distant land. It might be far away from you or right next door. Regardless, don’t think for one moment that slavery doesn’t touch your life no matter how far away it might be or how close.
Chocolate is one example. I enjoy eating chocolate and I’m sure I am not alone in that. In 2013 billions of dollars were made through selling chocolate. Hershey’s alone sold over 5 billion. Out of the 20 plus countries that I have traveled too all sold tasty tidbits of chocolate. And few people dislike it.
Where does a significant amount of cocoa come from? Africa, and 20% comes from the Cote d’ Ivoire. Which was named as having one of the highest levels of slavery. The reasons this country was named is because of forced child labor in the cocoa fields. But as awareness about chocolate started to be raised in 2010, companies like Hershey’s said they would make sure by 2020 all cocoa beans they buy would be ethically harvested. Through a certification process. Nestle is also creating a sustainable plan to help farmers and illuminate child labor. They have built a number of schools to help ensure education to the children in many villages.
All of this is wonderful and progress is good, but still their are an estimated 600,000 children still working in the cocoa fields of Cote d’ Ivoire. A system of slavery and generations of using child labor, hunger and poverty continue to be reasons that children are still enslaved. Solutions are not easy but we must face these issues with thoughtfulness and determined resolution to fight for freedom. To insure that the lives of children on the tip of the equator are just as important as our children. Would you let your own children harvest cocoa in dangerous conditions and not go to school?
Many people believe boycotting a product is a solution that will bring change, and many times it does. But sadly it can also make those most vulnerable even more at risk and puts others at risk as well. Expressing to a company that you want to buy only what is ethically produced. Thanking companies that are committed to supply chain transparency, and development of long lasting plans that hopes to bring change for the future of their country. Holding companies like Hershey’s accountable to the promise they made and requesting to be informed on progress towards that goal. These are solutions that can affect lasting change.
As you sit down today to enjoy your little taste of chocolate remember, from the bean to your mouth many people have been part of the process. Hopefully, none of the process involved children.
Please continue to pray for the freedom of children in Cote d’ Ivoire and all of the people that might be living in slavery in that country. And remember to hold companies accountable to how their supply chain is monitored.