Over the last few days it was great to undertake a series of engagements, lectures and talks in Philadelphia, organised by Matt Pinto and Ascension. These included talks on heritage and identity, at the Collegium Institute, and others on human trafficking and global religious persecution. The students of Martin Saints Classical High School in Oreland give me a wonderfully warm welcome.
During the talk on modern day slavery I described the work of Arise, a brilliant charity which works to combat human trafficking and modern day slavery. I said that “ Arise works to free the staggering 40.3 million people who live in slavery today; its networks target the most vulnerable populations in developing countries, many of whom end up trafficked and exploited as a result of their poverty. And the majority of these people in the U.S. — people from Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand, Haiti, and India — are women, something like 8 million. Many of them are also children, about 4 million.
It is an outrage in the 21st century that slavery is still an ongoing issue, and Arise works with networks around the world to bring it to an end and help the most at-risk populations. It works with many different faiths and communities to end modern-day slavery.”
In talking about lost identity and contemporary forms of persecution: “84 percent of people hold some kind of religious belief, and while religious impulses can be used to justify all kinds of perfidy, it’s ridiculous to say that religion causes these things. If we look back on the 20th century — a century filled with men like Stalin and Hitler — some of the most appalling atrocities were committed by men without belief in the pursuit of absolute power and totalitarian domination. Our great former chief rabbi of the UK often says “Don’t ask where God was at Auschwitz; ask ‘Where was Man?’” . That’s the haunting question for us too. It’s simpleminded to assume that removing or invalidating our religious impulses in politics will solve these things; in reality we’re replacing our hope in false gods: materialism and totalitarianism.”