Justice United, a partnership between Christian charities International Justice Mission, Tearfund and Compassion, is urging people to see how the World Cup can be used to raise awareness about exploitation. Will you join them?

Even if you are not a fan, it’s hard to deny the impact football can have on a global scale. Especially the World Cup, when even the less enthused football fanatics from around the world are drawn to attend or watch on the big screen with friends and family for weeks on end, or at least until your favourite nation is kicked out’ of the tournament. 

However, despite what should be a unifying tournament of all nations around the world, preparations for this year’s World Cup have shone a light on the ugly side of the beautiful game, with reports of trafficking, forced labour and unjust working conditions affecting workers in Qatar, the host country.

The situation in Qatar is not an isolated one. According to recently released figures from the International Labour Organisation, 28 million people around the world are now trapped in forced labour, an increase of 2.7 million since 2016.


The world is at a critical juncture in the journey towards eradicating slavery, with the situation rapidly getting worse.

"28 million people around the world are now trapped in forced labour."
IJM stock image 2

Real lives, real crisis

Alisha (name changed) from Nepal, was sold into slavery into an Indian brothel when she was still a child, having been tricked into thinking she was getting a good job offer. She did not realise she’d been taken to India and was told she couldn’t leave until she’d repaid the brothel owner. Her abuse continued for a year and a half until she was rescued by police. Back in Nepal, she was discriminated against because of her experiences, and still had to contend with poverty. Tearfund’s partner the Shanti Foundation helped her, and she said this was her turning point in life’. Shanti helps people like Alisha build skills and confidence, advocate for their rights and integrate back into society. Today Alisha is a board member of the Shanti Foundation, has the skills and experience to support herself and her daughter, and is respected in her community.

When Chandrabati took a loan out to put her eldest daughter through school, she had no idea it would trap her family in slavery in a brick kiln. She spent backbreaking hours moulding and firing heavy clay bricks in gruelling heat, with no water or pay. Even her five-year-old daughter was forced to work. The owner’s men would constantly threaten that they would give us electric shocks and remove our skin if they see us not working, and we lived in constant fear,” Chandrabati remembers. South Asia, where Chandrabati was exploited, is also a top location for the recruitment of trafficking victims who are brought to Qatar.

With International Justice Mission (IJM)‘s support, authorities found Chandrabati’s children and brought 61 people to safety, arresting the kiln owner and two of his associates. Finally free and able to return home, IJM’s aftercare team supported Chandrabati’s family with housing, education and opportunities for her daughters, so they could build a better future as a family. Today, Chandrabati is a leader in her community.

David Westlake, CEO of International Justice Mission UK, commented: We’ve seen amazing progress in the movement to end slavery, with reductions of up to 86% in places where IJM has worked — but even as the anti-slavery movement grows, factors such as the pandemic, conflict and climate change mean that the problem is getting bigger. To truly stop slavery for good, we need everybody to get involved — which is why we’re delighted to be teaming up with Tearfund, Compassion and churches all over the UK. Through Justice United, we hope to help churches enjoy the World Cup together whilst taking a stand against exploitation and understanding more about the problem. Together, we can make a real difference.”

What can we do?

Even as we enjoy the matches and cheer on our teams, we can still unite together and cry out for justice. During this men’s World Cup (20 November-18 December), we are calling on the church to get involved to raise awareness and fundraise:

  1. Host a watch party at your church – invite your local community to watch a game together at church. You can make this a great event, serving refreshments and bringing your community together.
  2. Host a PlayStation or Xbox football tournament – invite your community to join you for some competitive fun and see who will be crowned as champion.
  3. Donate – get your whole church involved in a Sunday service and raise money that will help stop exploitation around the world.

These events will also act as conversation starters to help churches understand the issue of exploitation.

Tearfund’s head of church and supporter relations, Ruth Tormey, is encouraging churches to sign up: Not only will hosting Justice United events help churches offer the fun and fellowship of football fever’ to a wide range of people, it will also give them a natural way to open up conversations about some of the injustices highlighted in the run up to this year’s World Cup.”

We at the Evangelical Alliance pray that these events will help to raise awareness and funds in the plight against exploitation around the world and bring about change and dignity for all.

Details of how to get involved can be found at jus​tice​u​nit​ed​.org​.uk