Last night at Manchester Apollo, I was providing transport for my son, Jono, to get to "The Stand". This was an event organised by Hope For Justice, which is campaigning to end human trafficking. The statistics are scary, and slavery is a reality, even within the UK. It's clearly a huge problem across the world, and the people involved on the frontline of helping people escape and then come to terms with their traumatic experiences face real dangers.
Hope for Justice campaigns in a number of ways - awareness-raising, legal issues, rescue and support, campaigning and, of course, fundraising. The Stand 2010 was an event with video, drama, music, prayer and a hard-hitting talk from Tony Campolo.
It was very refreshing to go to something which was contemporary and had a lot of energy and passion, but wasn't about the people gathered. There was no sense that this was about having a religious experience, or that the audience/congregation were there to be receivers or consumers of stuff from the front. This was about a problem in society and the world which needs urgent action, and a key part of being faithful Christians was about working for justice for captives. There was also no sense that this was evangelism 'in disguise'. The motivation wasn't that people rescued might be converts, but that it's the right thing to be working for anyway. There was also a very positive view of working with allies, whether Christian or not. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that people in the 'sex industry' were recognised as being on a spectrum, and some are willing to provide information and evidence with regard to trafficked women and girls.
Music for worship came from Ben Cantelon and Graham Kendrick. They represent the latest and the established in the area of worship music. Cantelon seemed more at ease with the format (gig venue, high volume) than Kendrick, but the older guy can still deliver.
Tony Campolo never pulls his punches, and he spoke very passionately about justice, and also how attitudes in society towards making women 'commodities' can help to create a climate where there is demand. He gave an interesting example of common ground with a passionate feminist on this issue, with whom he had plenty of other differences.
What's perhaps the most disturbing is that this may well be an issue on all of our doorsteps.