Preparations for this year’s World Cup have shone a light on the ugly side of the beautiful game, with reports of trafficking, forced labour and unjust working conditions affecting workers in Qatar, the host country.
In response, International Justice Mission (IJM) UK, Tearfund and Compassion have teamed up to launch Justice United, an initiative encouraging churches to help protect people at risk of exploitation everywhere – not only in Qatar – and to take positive action to stop it.
Whilst the World Cup has put a spotlight on exploitation in Qatar, the reality is that slavery happens everywhere. It’s rife in the supply chains of the clothes we wear and the smartphones on which we check the latest scores.
28 million people around the world are now trapped in forced labour, an increase of 2.7 million since 2016 – an increase which the International Labour Organisation attributes to the combined effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, and climate change.
Forced labour is a form of modern slavery which includes forced work in construction, hotels and other industries.
One key driver of slavery is poverty, as it makes people vulnerable to offers of work, which traffickers use to trap them in exploitative situations. Worryingly, for the first time in decades, the number of people living in extreme poverty globally is increasing, meaning that now is a crucial time to intervene and protect them from exploitation.
Three leading charities have joined forces and are calling on churches, gamers, and football fans to unite against injustice.
Together, they will help families through the global food crisis and empower communities to lift themselves out of poverty so that they are less vulnerable to traffickers; bring people trapped in slavery to safety, and see perpetrators brought to justice so that they can’t harm others.
They are calling on churches to sign up to host Justice United events, with different options for how to fundraise, including Playstation or Xbox football tournaments and World Cup watch parties.
Mark Preston, Senior Director of Partnerships at Compassion UK, commented: “Hosting or taking part in a Justice United event is a fantastic way to enjoy the men’s football world cup, knowing you’re joining gamers and football fans in your community, uniting with churches across the UK, and standing with Compassion, IJM and Tearfund against injustice.”
Raphael is a Compassion Project Director on the outskirts of Lomé, the capital city of Togo.
“Child labour is real in my community,” he says. “My daily journey to work reminds me of how hard I must defend children. From the mere age of seven they are sent into workshops as apprentices. You can also see them working on building sites or gravel extraction sites.”
Forced labour destroys childhoods. Children take on work their young bodies aren’t equipped for, and it denies them opportunities for play and education. Yet many parents are unaware of the damage it does, or feel they have no choice.
As a child, Cephas’ father always took him to the gravel extraction site. He couldn’t go to school.
But when his father attended an awareness session at the Compassion Project run by Raphael, he realised the harm labour was doing to his son, and how it was robbing him of the chance of a better future.
Cephas is now 13 years old and is fully settled into his studies at school.
Compassion also provides equipment and fees, to ensure school expenses don’t create another burden for families.
7-year-old Ruth says, “The project helps by providing all I need for school. They pay my school fees, buy school items, and they always help us to learn. They follow up on me in my school to check on my progress. They protect me, and I don’t have to labour. I am grateful for the project.”
Cephas and Ruth now have the chance to enjoy their childhoods and to gain skills and knowledge for the future.
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Compassion UK Christian Child Development, registered charity in England and Wales (1077216) and Scotland (SC045059). A company limited by guarantee, Registered in England and Wales company number 03719092. Registered address: Compassion House, Barley Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 2UT.