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Where art Thou!

Peter Fernandes Peter Fernandes
25 Sep 2023

A genuine and painful anguish can be heard reverberating, “Where art thou?” What is this echo of torment? Does anyone care, and why should they? Without a doubt, it emanates from the dark world of deception and lies, created by the rich and powerful for their pleasure. The movie "Sound of Freedom" tries to awaken the consciousness in society about an unimaginable injustice inflicted on millions of innocent children around the world who are subjugated to unthinkable pain, loss of human dignity, and freedom through human trafficking, mainly for sex trade. 

The movie is about an incredible true story that shines a light on even the darkest of places. A former government agent turned vigilante who embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue hundreds of children from sex traffickers is an indictment on contemporary society that boasts about advanced civilization with science and technology. The shadow world of the powerful is dangerous, immoral, unjust, and inhuman, yet it thrives in every country around the world with the help of modern advancements. 

Humans have not learned the lesson from the first crime recorded in the Bible, but instead, they continue to walk the path of crime and injustice. When asked, humans provide a similar answer: Afterward, the Lord asked Cain, where is your brother? Where is Abel? I don’t know, Cain responded. Am I my brother’s guardian?

Human trafficking is not a myth but a vicious and treacherous act that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labour or commercial sex. Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. It is modern-day slavery, but it is truly an irony and tragedy for contemporary society that outwardly frowns upon slavery but remains silent on human trafficking. What hypocrisy!  

Although it is illegal under the Indian Constitution (Trafficking in human persons is prohibited under the Constitution of India under Article 23(1)), yet it is growing rampantly and is a daily phenomenon. Human trafficking has been identified as the third largest source of profit for organised crime, following arms and drug trafficking, generating billions of dollars annually at the global level. Who will understand the plight of the victims of human trafficking? Those affected are reduced to shadow existence or like dead men walking. 

Kahlil Gibran says, "Life without liberty is like a body without spirit.” Reducing humans to the state of animals through bonded labourers and forced sex workers bespeaks of the inhumanity of modern society. And therefore, who hears their cry? Should their cry be heard? Where art thou!

Human trafficking is a global pandemic, and India contributes a bigger chunk to the tally, mainly due to poverty, illiteracy, and caste dominance. While half of those affected by modern slavery are in forced labour, the second most prevalent type of trafficking is sex trafficking. The majority of the victims of sex trafficking are women and girls. The impact on their psyche is unimaginable, for they totally lose their perspective and personality, which is reduced to mere animal existence. 

Girls as young as 12 years old are sold to sex traffickers in rural communities, and some, in the most extreme circumstances, are forced to serve up to 20 to 30 customers a day. Although sex outside marriage is considered taboo in India, rape and molestation are daily occurrences. In the recent past, some gruesome crimes against young girls in India came to light, and the whole world took notice of them. Yet, the ratio with regards to sexual crimes against the so-called weaker sex has not reduced. 

The shameful parading of young girls naked in Manipur that was kept under wraps for over two months by the ruling dispensation both at the state and at the centre is an indicator of the mindset of the nation. Otherwise, how does one explain the high rate of crimes against young girls and women and how perpetrators go unpunished? And the victims cry out, “Where art thou?” 

The sexual hot-spots are everywhere, but the major cities are weaved with underworld syndicates that go mostly unnoticed. It is a terrible and diabolic system controlled by national and international mafias. The victims are mostly hijacked from war zones, natural disasters, and other calamities. Recently, it was reported that over 2,000 children have gone missing from Maui, Hawaii, after a fire devasted the town. Sadly, for those caught up in their web, escape is merely impossible, and for those subjugated, they are reduced to a mere shadow existence of pain, sorrow, isolation, and lamentation that no one wants to listen to. And yet, the echo reverberates: Where art thou? 

Who will forget Tim Ballard, a former U.S.government agent, who embarked on a mission to rescue children from sex traffickers in Colombia, on which the movie Sound of Freedom is based? It is imperative to take cognizance of the fact that the wheels of justice and the will of the politicians are marred in a quagmire of guilty conscience. The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956 says: It is the only legislation that specifically addresses trafficking and is currently pending amendment. It penalises the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation. 

Does the government care about human trafficking, which results in bonded labourers and sexual exploitation of underage girls and women, or is the government more interested in flying kisses? It is truly a disgraceful charge brought by a woman legislator regarding a flying kiss, but she is conveniently unaware of the gruesome crimes inflicted against young girls and women in India.

John Newton was a slave trader who had a life-changing experience that he attributes to "Amazing Grace", which changed him from being a wretched human being to a soldier of peace and freedom. Kailash Satyarthi, a Nobel Prize winner, is a social reformer who campaigned against child labour in India and elsewhere and advocated the universal right to education. There are millions who are waiting to be rescued, but there are very few like Tim Ballard, Kailash Satyarthi and John Newton. 

There are millions of parents crying for their children, but will their cry evoke consciousness for righteousness in this dark world? Yes, indeed, the drum beat for “Sound of Freedom” against human trafficking has to gain a momentum of consciousness in order to produce many more like Tim Ballard, Kailash Satyarthi and John Newton. The song "Amazing Grace" grew in popularity, but not because it was a catchy tune, but because the words that Newton wrote related to every human being who encountered the saving grace of Jesus Christ. This song touched many people at various stages of their spiritual walks. 

Cain heard the anguish and concern of God: Where is your brother Abel? Similar anguish and concern from God were heard by Moses: Go and rescue my people who are enslaved in Egypt. The anguish of God reverberates throughout the world, and his amazing grace hovers over creation. Who has the will and humility to heed? Human trafficking is a grave institutional sin, and this blot ought to be wiped out of our civilization for all to enjoy peace, justice, equality, fraternity, and liberty. Let there be no more crying: Where art thou?

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