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Anti-Slavery Day 2018: time to think outside the box?

“Creativity and entrepreneurship can help end modern day slavery,” says Christine Gilland Robinson

Creativity is a word we use a lot, but which we rarely stop to think about properly. What does creativity really look like? Is it just the preserve of a special and enlightened few? Is creativity just a nice, fuzzy concept, maybe a little insular, a little privileged, confined to esoteric artwork in galleries and the occasional weekend pottery class? And what on earth might it have to do with modern slavery?

Creativity is a word we use a lot, but which we rarely stop to think about properly. What does creativity really look like? Is it just the preserve of a special and enlightened few? Is creativity just a nice, fuzzy concept, maybe a little insular, a little privileged, confined to esoteric artwork in galleries and the occasional weekend pottery class? And what on earth might it have to do with modern slavery?

The act of creating is far more simple and yet far more profound than our society’s usual, narrow definitions. Creativity, in its simplest form, is the act of bringing something out of nothing – breathing life where there was none before. It’s the act of seeing beauty and potential where no one else does. It’s pioneering, innovative and meaning-making. And because these things, this drive to progress and innovate, are instinctive to human nature, so too is the drive to creativity. It’s in all of us. 

It’s part of us because it’s from God Himself, our Father, that we have the mandate to create and to pioneer. But this is not just a neat, Sunday-school answer of a truth; we’re not just talking about God as painter of the canvas of heaven, or composer of birdsong, or any of the other things that we may think about when we consider creation. Those things are true, yes, but look at the awe-inspiring nature of the creative act of God, in Genesis 1:2: Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the face of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

The earth was without shape. It was barren, perhaps even chaotic. It wasn’t just a nice blank canvas; it was dark and void. And dark voids are usually places that we humans try to avoid. If we’re honest, we even find them repellent, in others, in ourselves. The Germans have a word for the feeling we get when faced with these sort of spaces: unheimlich (uncanny). The void speaks of the underbelly, the subconscious, the dark and murky places that we as humans fear to go.

It’s part of us because it’s from God Himself, our Father, that we have the mandate to create and to pioneer.

And yet, it is here, in this void, over this deep darkness, that God’s Spirit chooses to hover. It is here that His Spirit begins to imagine, dream and create. It’s here that finally, in verse three, He breathes life and begins to speak. Could it be that, unlike many of us, God’s Spirit is actually drawn to darkness and disorder? That He is instinctively attracted to the brokenness and darkness of our world? That as He watches all of our comings and goings, it’s the broken and the desperate and the hopeless places – in our societies, in our communities, in us – that He comes to rest on? And if so, how then do we respond as His children and heirs, as those to whom He’s given the command: Fill the earth and subdue it?” (Genesis 1:28).

Fill it with what, exactly? Subdue it how? Father, where are you at work? Where do you most long to break in with your fullness, and goodness and wholeness? What is in my hand to do? I have no idea what that might look like for you. I have no idea where, when you ask those questions, the Holy Spirit may lead you, or, perhaps more to the point, who He may lead you to. But for many of us, the issue of modern-day slavery presses and weighs heavily when we consider this world we’ve been given to nurture. We feel the weight and the call of God’s Spirit hovering over the darkness of human trafficking.

On Thursday, 18 October it will be Anti-Slavery Day. No one knows exactly how many people are currently living as slaves, but the Global Slavery Index estimates that there were 136,000 people living in modern slavery in the UK on any given day in 2016. Modern slavery can look like forced labour, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation or forced criminal activity. But it always looks like desperation, chaos, hopelessness and deep, deep darkness. So again, what should our response be? What can we do in the face of an issue like this? 

As we ask this question, there may be those who may feel the Spirit of God say: This is where I want to move”. There may be those who have a tiny glimpse of just how much God longs to bring the full power of creativity and innovation – God’s own pioneering spirit – to bear upon the crisis of human trafficking. More and more, there are those who are discontent with the way things are, who want to step out and speak to that void, bringing life and hope and creativity to the empty and broken places in our world.

Creativity is intrinsically linked to the gritty work of entrepreneurship and innovation: both dare to enter the wonder of creating something where nothing existed before. Both refuse to simply define themselves by what is, instead choosing to always ask the question, what could be? It takes creative imagination to consider how the darkness of human trafficking can be eradicated. It will take all our ingenuity, innovation and boldness to see it through. But I believe that the Spirit of God is here, in just these broken places, in order to bring His fullness and restoration. The question is, will we have eyes to see what He’s doing? Will we watch for where His Spirit is resting, and join Him in this work?

Christine Gilland Robinson is one of the co-founders of HOLOS London, an ethical kombucha company created to support survivors of human trafficking.

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