206: WARNING: Looking into the face of a slave on ABC will transform your heart

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T
his is a serious warning.
    This is journalism that would make Edward R. Murrow proud.
    Tonight at 11:35 p.m. on ABC’s “Nightline,” a special report on modern slavery will transform your heart on this issue — and that’s potentially troubling, because you just might find that you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get involved in modern abolition movements.
    If you’re interested in taking further steps — read our “Care-to-Read-More?” ideas below for helpful resources (including a link to a Tuesday Quiz on slavery).
    This is a network news program, and that means there’s rarely an opportunity to review such reports in advance. But, in this special case, ABC hurried a full copy of the video report to ReadTheSpirit, so we could review it for you.
    Watch it.
    Record it to use in small discussion groups in your congregation.
    I did not expect to find my own heart so deeply touched. And, clearly, reporter Dan Harris didn’t expect that his story would move in the direction it rapidly took.

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    The report starts with a challenge by modern-day abolitionist E. Benjamin Skinner, the author of “A Crime So Monstrous,” to create a video report demonstrating the ease of buying slaves in the modern world. Dan Harris sets off from Manhattan at 7:10 a.m., boards a jet to Haiti and — within 10 hours — is posing as an American customer, looking for slaves. He quickly finds two different slave traders who eagerly come to his hotel, offering humans for sale. In one case, the trader offers to sell a child slave for only $150.
    That’s shocking stuff — especially when the waiters at Harris’ hotel overhear what he is doing. Instead of alerting police authorities, the waiters believe that he is, indeed, an American in the market for slaves and soon are vying to help him buy other humans — as long as they get a cut of the deal.

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    Then, Harris’ story changes dramatically. He has proven Skinner’s claim that buying and selling slaves in the modern world is so easy that anyone can do it in less than a day.
    But then —
    Then — Harris begins to realize that slaves are everywhere in Haiti. In fact, he finds out that there are 300,000 slaves in Haiti. So, Harris drops his focus on the traders themselves — and sets out to find and interview slaves. As it turns out, this also is fairly easy.
    That’s when we meet Ti Soeur, the little girl pictured with this story. She’s 11 and her own Mom sent her into slavery, because this Mom lives in an impoverished rural area of Haiti with an abusive husband — and succumbed to a common myth in Haiti that sending children into the city will improve their lives. On the contrary, Ti Soeur immediately became a slave, cooking and cleaning for a family who beat her and prevented her from going to school.
    Slavery is so common in Haiti that, during the ABC report, Ti Soeur’s owner proudly talks with Harris on camera. She claims Ti Soeur’s life has been improved under slavery. And we might actually buy this argument until Harris and an investigator assisting him finally examine Ti Soeur’s arms and uncover evidence of the whippings with an electrical cord that the owner uses to keep the girl under her control.
    There’s a lot more — quite a heart-wrenching drama unfolds in the 20-minute documentary report — but it’s meeting Ti Soeur, her owner and her family that will transform your understanding of slavery. This isn’t a Hollywood actress playing a slave in a historical drama from 150 years ago. This is now. This is a little girl scarred for life by slavery — who lives just a short distance from U.S. shores.
    Watch it.
    But heed our warning: You won’t be the same after you see it.

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CARE TO READ MORE?

    QUIZ YOUR GROUP: Earlier, we published a Tuesday Quiz on slavery. It’s a great discussion-starter for small groups. Feel free to print it out and share it with members of your group or class.
    JOIN MODERN ABOLITIONISTS: We also provided — in that same Tuesday story — links to two of the biggest abolition groups working from the U.S. today.
    ABC OFFERS TIPS, TOO: Dan Harris himself provides links to anti-slavery groups, including some with specific interest in Haiti.
    COME BACK ON WEDNESDAY TO MEET A TOP ABOLITIONIST: Our Conversation With Dr. David Batstone on Wednesday will open your eyes to the many ways that ordinary Americans can get involved in the abolition movement. Formerly the head of Sojourners Magazine, Batstone now is devoting himself to building one of the major grassroots organizations that is freeing slaves now.

NOTE ON ABC SHOWTIMES: We are a global Web site. Outside the U.S., you’ll need to check ABC’s Web site for more on Nightline’s schedule where you live. Within the U.S., the 11:35 p.m. showtime is the same in all American time zones.

PHOTO CAPTIONS: Thanks to ABC for these photos from the Nightline report. At top, we see Dan Harris, at right, interviewing Ti Soeur. Next, Ti Soeur stands beside her slave owner, as her owner talks with Harris. Next, Ti Soeur’s scars from whippings with an electrical cord are visible on her forearms. Finally, in the fourth photo, she is briefly reunited with her mother.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK, PLEASE. Click on the “Comment” link below. Or, you can Email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm directly. Or, visit us on Facebook, where the best meeting place at the moment is our new OurValues Facebook group.

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