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More than 27 million live as slaves in 21st Century

By Catholic Online
August 3rd, 2010
Catholic Online (

According to Kevin Bales, co-founder of the organization called Free the Slaves, 27 million people live in slavery in the world today. Speaking at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) 2010 conference, Bales says that figure, according to the National Geographic, is "more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Think about this for a minute and let it sink in. It's not a joke. Civil wars and ethnic conflicts create destitution that turns to desperation, which is easily exploited by underworld criminals looking to make a healthy profit off human chattel. The enormity, grotesqueness and audacity of this problem elicit in me a single, visceral response: Oh my God," online journalist Katherine Gustafson writes.

"Oh my God, at least 14,500 slaves are trafficked into the US each year. Oh my god, the average cost for a slave, taking the entire globe into account, is a paltry $90. Oh my god, slaves may well have prepared the restaurant meal I ate last week or picked the produce I bought on my last trip to the grocery store or cleaned my hotel room on my last vacation," Gustafson adds.

An ugly story, but one with a silver lining, activist Bales says. Slavery can't compete with the free enterprise system and as such sows the seeds of its own destruction.

"The price of human beings has plummeted. Slaves go for as little as $5 in India and you can secure one for a mere $3,000 in the U.S. As Bales puts it, people are now like 'Styrofoam cups. You use them then throw them away.' The good news hidden in this depressing sentiment is this: The contemporary slave trade is not all that profitable, putting it, in Bales' words, 'on the precipice of its own extinction.'"

It's estimated that the world's slaves could be freed for $10.8 billion, which is a small price when once it is considered about the enormous suffering it would end. However, simply buying slaves' freedom is not an option. As Ruchira Gupta, another anti-slavery activist points out; their empowerment is as much a factor of their freedom as their physical emancipation.

If everyone could do their part, it's estimated that human slavery could be eradicated in the world in 25 years.

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