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On Sunday, Blue Dragon’s Rescue Team set free 4 children from slavery in sweatshops.

Two girls and two boys, aged 11 to 13, had been trafficked from their homes in central Vietnam 6 months ago. Living in extreme poverty in a rural village, their families were easily deceived when some kind women came to their home offering training and education in the big city to the south.

I can’t post photos showing their faces; if I did, you would not believe that they are aged 11 to 13. They are tiny.

But of course, when they actually got to Ho Chi Minh City there was no training and education. Just constant work in home-based garment factories, all day and well into the night, 7 days a week. There wasn’t even any salary: after all, this was “training.”

When we found them, they were tired, dirty and hungry. One of the boys has a bad cough and a bloody nose – he hasn’t had any medicine or a trip to the doctor. No care at all. The only concern has been whether his illness might slow down his productivity on the sewing machines.

Now the 4 children are safe. They spent Sunday night sightseeing through the city where they have been held captive, and on Monday they are heading home. Soon they will be back with their families, who we’ll support to re-enroll their children in school and see what else we can do to make their lives better. Things are looking good for a happy ending.

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Set free: Leaving the factory. 

And yet, a ‘happy ending’ is an odd thing. The children should never have been trafficked in the first place. Their families should never have had to make the decision to send away their children; they should never have had to face such hardship that this could even seem like a reasonable thing to do.

The 3 factories that enslaved the 4 children also should never have considered the idea of taking these little boys and girls away from their families, deceiving them into thinking they’d have a better chance in life, and then treating them like soulless machines.

Even if the story ends well, there’s something wrong with the world that any of this ever happened.

There are many wrongs in world, many crimes. It’s tough competition for the title of ‘the worst,’ but human trafficking surely is a contender. Trafficking a person – be it a child, woman or man – is forcing them into constant abuse. Trafficked people are not exploited several times; their lives are taken from them while they still live, and every breath belongs to someone they never chose to give it to. The damage done to the psyche is deep and long lasting.

As if that’s not enough, human trafficking impacts the natural world as well. These 4 children were being held in garment factories; do we think those factories upheld good standards of environmental protection? Did they have a sustainability policy, use renewable energy, and dispose of their waste thoughtfully? The hell they did. If they’re happy to exploit a child, they couldn’t care less about the earth.

This article, which appeared recently on CNN, makes the powerful point:

“If slavery were a country it would have a population of some 35 million people and the gross domestic product of Angola, in global terms a small and poor nation… [and] it would be the third largest emitter of CO2 (2.54 billion tons per year) in the world.”

Slavery is killing our world. It may be illegal in every country, but it thrives across the planet. This is a problem of ‘wholeness’; people, animals, and the whole of our world’s ecosystem are being damaged.

This is a problem for all of us, whether it happens in our backyard or not.

Today, 4 children are free from slavery. I hope that with some care and assistance, this terrible experience really will just become a memory. And for all those other children, teens and adults who are yet to be found: it’s our duty as humans to commit ourselves to setting them free, too.

There has to be a happy ending for many more people yet. The stakes are high; this is about saving the world.

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