Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Maple Leaf Helps

Once again Maple Leaf Alberta Projects is tackling the real issues.  With your participation in its Fifth Annual Fundraising Gala, Saturday, October 19, 2013, you can make a personal contribution to the efforts to help young people escape the human trafficking so prevalent in the Eastern European world.

On a recent trip to Ukraine, I was overcome with so much emotion for its beauty, the land, the people, the rich culture.  But visiting the port cities as we did, one cannot miss the tell-tale signs of an ominous underbelly of society, just out of reach of tourists. And visiting the rural countryside is also telling. Everywhere people are living a thrifty life, saving, working hard, with little in the way of economic gain without a particularly marketable skill, talent or a lot of education.

Imagine having wifi and internet but little modern sanitation?  Imagine being able to see all the western world enjoy simple things like make-up, pretty clothes, a fancy car - but it's just out of reach for those without ready cash.  And how to get ready-fast cash for these oh-so-desired things?  There are many exploitive influences taking advantage of innocent young people who wish for nothing more than some of the opportunities all North American teens enjoy!

 View of Kaffa from ROC church
July 22, 2013 amk
The thing is, predatory influences have had their way with Ukrainian men, women and children all through history.  One of the port stops on my Black Sea/Ukraine tour was the city of Feodosia (Theodosia), a place of Greek influence, putting the locals to work from the 6th  century BC. In time a huge heavily populated city surrounded by walls interspersed with 56 towers was Kaffa, though today only 5 towers remain.  The city existed for trade, for money making, for the purpose of gaining the service and servitude of um-teen thousands of human souls as labourers in agriculture, warfare, commercial sexual exploitation, sailors, and essentially every other job " free" people would find dangerous, difficult, or damaging.  Over time the Huns, Khazars, and then the Byzantine Empire would rule, and by 1204 Kaffa would be dominated by the Genoese, who of course purchased the town (and the valuable Black Sea ports of Sudak, Alushta, Yalta and Balaklava) from the Golden Horde.  Flourishing with the business of trade, Kaffa came to house one of Europe's biggest slave markets in history, its traders actively "enticing" beautiful, able young people from the Ukrainian steppes.  But by 1347 Kaffa had became the home of the Black Death, in one of the first cases of biological warfare where an aggressive Mongol army catapulted corpses infected with the bubonic plague over the Kaffa city wall to infect the inhabitants, causing its spread through trade of human souls across Europe.

Coin in the ROC church museum at Kaffa
July 22, 2013
 Over the course of time Kaffa was seized by the Ottomans. One of our tour guides said that during this time the Sultan issued an edict inviting families living under its rule to donate one child to the Ottoman empire, for a life-time free of tax or tribute! Ottoman vassals thus engaged in empire building, human trafficking continued, even though Ukraine's Zaporozhian Cossacks destroyed their fleet, captured Kaffa and released, men, women and children held as slaves within. Of course Ottoman control eased when the Russian Empire conquered Crimea in 1793 when it regained its ancient Greek name, Feodosia. Part of the USSR, briefly under German control, Feodosia is now part of Ukraine, as is all of Crimea.
ROC Church administration building
Kaffa site
July 22, 2013

Predatory behaviour is characteristically full of enticements and influence. I believe it is short-sighted to allow the young among us to become unwittingly ensnared beyond their means to escape. In my mind, "free will" involves "informed free will".

Thankfully for Ukraine's victims of human trafficking, a little international donor funding helps some young people in harms way receive the shelter, care, medical treatment, counselling, and support they need to acquire some economically rewarding, safe life-pursuit, perhaps a vocation or job. Saving more however requires education, exposure, and pressure on authorities to do more. Raising awareness in North America however, where our teens live a life of privilege, is an important start. Their sense about human rights, and sensibilities towards "selective justice", prosecution, protection, and prevention are complex issues when it comes to the "rights of citizens". It has to be said, however, change is happening. Whatever the political and economic issues however, there is a morality about truth, and the Maple Leaf has willing hearts standing to help.   
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