Better Way insists on method to save enslaved women: The free market

print

This image is from a video about Freeset, a group that emancipates women in India from sexual slavery. (Photo Betterwayimports.com)

By David Tulis

The rescue Monday of three enslaved women in a run-down Cleveland, Ohio, house is exciting because it is a picture of salvation and redemption. What strikes me is the thought that the duration of the trap — 10 years — may be at least partly attributed to  an internal slavery that prevented the three victims from using every means at their disposal to escape.

Is it really possible, I wonder, for no one to have had outside contact in a decade?

Amanda Berry’s call to the dispatcher and her quote gives a thrill in reading the news, but did defendant Ariel Castro and his two brothers bind their souls by deception, threats, promises of love, vows of security or passion? Were their tethers, in other words, upon the soul as well as (at least occasionally) on wrist and ankle?

The question of slavery is a real one for anyone considering local economy. The concept, borrowing as it does from Christianity, conceives of slavery in several areas, all of which require a diligent and prolonged combat. Economic and political slavery exist today, as much of it perhaps a matter of fear in the soul as actual clanking chain. But chattel slavery and sexual abuse are in view in the Castro case.

Local economy vs. a worldwide problem

Two young women in Chattanooga insist the free market offers a genuine way to “combat” sex slavery and sex trafficking, which afflicts millions of people, mostly women, who are shunted into prostitution and pornography and used up by their owners. So concerned is God about sexual purity and the integrity of a person’s body that He makes rape a capital offense (Deut. 22:23-39).

Heather Sneed

Better Way Imports, headquartered in Zeeland, Mich., is a B corporation employing 80 in the U.S. It has about a dozen representatives in the Chattanooga area. One of its three directors is Jency Shirai, who ran the World Next Door fair trade retail shop in the city. The profit-seeking company is motivated by a desire to create markets for women who are seeking a way out of sexual oppression, or who have escaped their thralldom and need a means of supporting themselves by the work of their hands. Women in filthy brothels such as those in Mumbai are kept in cages, and some victims of slavers are girls age 5.

“Christianity believes that God wants to create man in His own image,” representative Heather Sneed of Chattanooga says. “That means, in part, He wants us to go out into all creation and put his stamp of creativity, joy and renewal and order where there was once chaos after the fall. Also, we believe that every single human being has dignity because we are created after the image of God. We were created for relationship. We were created for work. God worked. God got dirt under His fingernails when He made made man in the garden because He put him together from the dust of the earth. So therefore since work happens before the fall, work is a good thing. We want to restore the dignity that each person has from being made in the image of the Lord, as Christians, and we want to make that to continue to happen, and a lot of that is what Better Way does and its partners do.”

Better Way Imports has 12 partner organizations in seven countries, says Mrs. Shirai of Chattanooga, a director in the business. They are India, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos and two in the Middle East. It aids its partner organizations to give women real work, and real rest eventually (in God’s providence).

Work done in a Freeset factory in India provides goods sold in Chattanooga and around the country by Better Way Imports.

A long process

“A lot of them are considered subhuman by their cultures,” Miss Sneed says. “When we want to come in and try to give them an opportunity to do something that will have dignity and will also be in a context where they can receive medical, and spiritual counseling, and all sorts of transformation in their lives, all to bring them back to an awareness of who they are as a human being.”

The process of redemption and cleansing takes time, and the slavery in their hearts and minds may take years to expunge. That happened with the Israelites. “It took them hundreds of years to get that out of their system. That’s why the Lord gave them lots of instructions.” Better Way is teaching women how to fish and is not just giving them a fish, she says, quoting an adage.

Mrs. Shirai hands me some of the goods sold by Better Way at living room events for women. Jewelry, coin purses, journals, notebooks and blankets. Sarifari is a brand out of Calcutta that makes a colorful blanket; it obtains materials in that local economy. “Even the person who grew the cotton got a fair wage,” she said. Some tags identify the maker of the handbag or other item. Mutki, Miss Sneed says, in Bengali means freedom, and the appearance of that word on a tag indicates the woman worker is just beginning her journey to liberation. Miss Sneed shows me a necklace called the “Abolitionist”; its 27 beads represent the estimated 27 million people in the world who are enslaved (not sure if this estimate includes the 218,687 people in U.S. federal prisons).

The company needs ready and regular buyers. Better Way Imports is not a charity, but operates on the profit. Miss Sneed says business relationships with the local “safehousing” middlemen are essential to sustain the work of redemption, and that dropping piles of donated money into such situations would not work.

In other words, market ‡ and not just mercy is key.

‡ We live in a day in which the free market is badly understood and misunderstood by common folk. We’ve been trained in public schools to misrepresent the free market, the system having taken its cues in the 1930s from the likes of George Counts of Columbia Teachers College. He proposed “fundamental changes in the economic system” and goes on to slander the marketplace. “Historic capitalism, with its deification of the principle of selfishness, its reliance upon the forces of competition, its place of property above human rights, and its exaltation of the profit motive, will either have to be displace altogether, or so radically changed in form and spirit that its identity will be completely lost.” Now the good doctor wants a “coordinated, planned, and socialized economy” something like what surrounds your hometown today.

The coordinated economy decapitalizes its people. Daily, the imposition of external force into the free market slashes at the value of the commoner’s capital and that of the entrepreneur and risk taker. Coordination, if we use that euphemism, makes dealing with evils such as possible almost impossible.

Source: Paul W. Shafer and Paul Howlan Snow, The Turning of the Tides (New Canaan, Conn.: The Long House Inc., Publishers, 1962), p. 19

One Response

  1. Heather Sneed May 13, 2013 Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.