Anti-slavery day: How people around the world are being rescued by Christian faith in action

Children being rescued from slavery on Lake Volta by by IJM GhanaInternational Justice Mission

Right now, 40 million people are in slavery worldwide. And one in four of them are children. Today, as we mark Antislavery Day, there are 40 million people waiting for rescue. International Justice Mission (IJM) shows us what the church taking action looks like.

Anita Budu, from IJM Ghana, anxiously watched from the deck of a boat as the horizon began to lighten with the sunrise. Much more time and her team might be noticed by the fishermen enslaving children in the area. Much more time and they might miss the opportunity they had so carefully planned for: to rescue children who had been forced to work as slaves on fishing boats on this massive lake.

Her colleagues in the rescue boats disappeared from Anita's sight around an island that loomed between her aftercare boat and the fishing area. She again lost contact with the rescue team, signal blocked by a small mountain on the island.

After the longest silence, her radio crackled.

'Children's boat: please prepare to receive 10 children.'

As little children stepped into her boat, Anita and her team welcomed them one by one. On being rescued, one sweet 10-year-old voice burst out with song:

 I've got joy, joy down in my heart

 I've got joy, joy down in my heart

He was soon joined by the rest of the children, singing their new truth.

 Look what the Lord has done for me

 Jesus has come to set me free

 I've got joy, joy down in my heart

IJM Ghana, in partnership with Ghanaian police, rescued over 30 little children from slavery on Lake Volta that day. Then IJM lawyers in Ghana got to work to make sure that traffickers who tried to steal the lives of these little children didn't get away with it.

In the days that followed their rescue the children slept, ate warm meals, played, and shared their stories. They began to understand that they were free from the life of abuse they had known.

International Justice Mission

It's 210 years since the faith – and persistence – of William Wilberforce and hundreds of grassroots supporters moved what seemed to be an impossible mountain: the end of Britain's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.

Today, 210 years later, it is Anti-Slavery Day and another seemingly impossible mountain lies ahead of us: the end of slavery, for good.

There are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in history. In fact, there are more slaves right now than there were during the entire 200 years of the slave trade put together. It's time, once more, for the church to put its faith into action. And we're already seeing that when the church acts, slaves are set free.

In September, over 400 Ghanaian churches prayed for an end to slavery in their nation and around the world as part of Freedom Sunday. The number of children rescued from lake Volta in Ghana seems to be increasing the more the Ghanaian church is praying.

And it's not just the Ghanaian church either. Last November, Christians in the UK joined together in London for IJM's National Prayer Gathering where they prayed for breakthrough in Ghana. Since then, more than 100 children have been rescued from slavery on Lake Volta alone.

The list of answered prayers goes on – UK Christians amongst others prayed for more convictions in South America and two significant cases were brought to justice the following week; people prayed for difficult rescue operations in Asia and that week we partnered with local police to rescue an amazing 88 people from slavery over eight days.

The global church is beginning to rise up. It's lending prayer and resources to fight one of the world's greatest evils and it's starting to have a real impact. The Anglican Church has its own anti-slavery organisation, the Clewer Initiative, and the Catholic church's Santa Marta group is fighting slavery too. That's not to mention organisations like IJM and other NGOs founded with Christian faith at their core.

Wilberforce showed that ending the transatlantic slave trade required prayer, awareness and funds. If we're to follow in his footsteps and conquer the even bigger mountain of ending slavery for good, we need the church to take action now and get stuck into the fight.

So today, why not use Anti-Slavery Day as the nudge you need to act. Together with our God of justice, it is possible to see the end of slavery in our lifetime.

David Westlake is chief executive officer of International Justice Mission.

This year's IJM National Prayer Gathering is at St Paul's Hammersmith on Saturday 4th November, book tickets here and help end slavery for good: Find out more about IJM: