Panel discusses modern slavery

Sponsored by the Periclean Scholars and the Liberal Arts Forum, a panel discussion on modern slavery was held Wednesday afternoon.


By Jack Dodson ’12

Human trafficking and slavery — two issues that Kevin Bales suggests are connected but are separate problems — may not be on the list of polling issues this year, but for four researchers, they are critical human rights issues that are more pervasive today than they ever have been.

Elon University’s Periclean Scholars program held a symposium as part of a week-long awareness campaign about human trafficking and contemporary slavery. On April 11, a panel discussed the issues in LaRose Digital Theater, detailing their findings from research and urging a younger generation to take note of the issues and push for an abolishment of the modern slave trade.

The panel included Bales, president of Free the Slaves; Helen Grant, professor and clinical director for Elon’s School of Law; Tony Williams, director of World Relief’s affiliate office in North Carolina; and Richard Smith, a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Bales started off the talk, arguing the importance of slavery awareness in the international system. He said there are about 17,000 new slaves in the United States every year — though he pointed out that true numbers are difficult to measure.

“But you can’t actually say that there’s any place without slavery, with the possible exception of Greenland, or Antarctica,” Bales said.

He said contemporary slavery is at the edge of being extinct, pushed to the edge of society beyond laws, but the acknowledgement of its existence, awareness and push to abolish it is limited.

“The resources are so minute considering the size of the problem,” Bales said. “We could make this a slave-free country. It might take a billion or two, but that’s less than the cost of a submarine.”

The panel was part of the Periclean Scholars’ Human Trafficking Awareness Week and was the central event of the week’s activities. On Thursday, April 12, there will be a movie night unveiling student-made videos about human trafficking at 7 p.m. in Irazu, and on Friday, April 13, there will be a benefit concert featuring Elon a capella groups at 7 p.m. in Oaks Commons.