Slavery Then and Now…

(Article by Steve Helm, Executive  Director,  The Crescent Project) It is hard to believe that it has been only 159 years since the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced, marking the “beginnings” of the end of institutional slavery in the United States. It is estimated that between the 17th and 19th centuries more than 13 million individuals were captured and sold as slaves. That is equal to all the people living in New York City and Houston, combined! Since that time there have been many advances, yet we have miles to go to ensure that, “all men are created equal,” is not just a collection of hollow or meaningless words.

Slavery in every form is an evil stain on humanity that dates to the earliest recorded civilizations. Conquerors enslaved the conquered, plundering their wealth, taking their land, and destroying as much of that culture as possible, including their genetic and familial distinctives.

Regardless of all the laws, proclamations, protests, and actions, slavery still plagues our world with an estimated 40 million who are enslaved in many forms at this very moment. Gary Haugen, CEO of the International Justice Mission said there are more people in slavery today than were extracted from Africa over 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. (Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Testimony, 2-4-15)

Here are some astounding numbers to consider:

India ranks first (11,050,000 people in modern slavery) followed by China (5,771,000), North Korea (2,696,000), Pakistan (2,349,000), Russia (1,899,000), Indonesia (1,833,000) Nigeria (1,611,000), and Bangladesh (1,162,500). *

Categorically, enslaved persons are mostly women or girls, 75% are 18 years or older, while 25% are under 18 years old. Half of those enslaved are in “debt bondage,” finding it impossible to pay back even small loans taken due to desperate needs for their families. Many of these are children surrendered by their families to satisfy a family debt. The roles of those enslaved range from housework, agricultural work, brick kilns, sexual exploitation and more.

Why is addressing today’s human slavery important to Crescent Project?? First, God placed eternal worth within every person. The Gospel proclaims this value in the image of Jesus’ life poured out on the cross on behalf of every single soul. Second, as we have prayed to discern how best to transmit the ‘Good News” throughout the 107 countries we now impact, God put on our hearts to plant churches in four of the eight countries listed above. Nearly 50% of all the world’s Muslims live in one of these four countries: India (211,000,000 Muslims), Indonesia

 (241,500,000 Muslims), Pakistan (225,000,000 Muslims) and Bangladesh (155,000,000 Muslims).**  Our research has led us to conclude that we cannot only assemble people into worshipping groups and “call it a day”.  We must also address the pervasive and systematic persecution of Christ followers, often leading to martyrdom. One would think, when seeing how Christ followers are mistreated, that these tactics are ripped right out of the pages of the antiquity, -things like mobbing and destroying Christian homes and churches, forced (“convert or die) conversions to Islam, non-Muslim girls coerced to marry (much older) Muslim men, denial of educational access, limited work and economic opportunities relegating Christians to the lowest and most menial jobs. This is the tip of the iceberg!

Our work to address these has already begun in part, but much more effort is needed. We are seeing amazing early results among our 150+ church plants throughout India that we began nearly three years ago. Where we have planted new churches in India, there are afterschool programs for children not only extending and supplementing education for children, but also teaching Muslim (and Hindu) children about Jesus and powerful stories from the Bible. Literacy, numeracy and small business training for women accompany these church plants, empowering women and girls previous taken advantage of in the marketplace to now have their own small businesses. We are on target to see approximately 100 more new churches in India by the end of 2024 with so much more promise for the years ahead. 

Two years ago, our research efforts turned toward Pakistan—an extremely complex place, where more than 96% of the population follows Islam and where Christians are treated as less than human in many cases.  We have had one of our precious staff couples on the ground there for nearly a year, which has advanced our process greatly. As our research phase ends and implementation begins, we sincerely need your prayers. The danger level for work in Pakistan is much higher than any other effort we have, yet the Christian leadership on the ground is so ready to engage with us. We will share more about these efforts in the days to come!

Your gifts, your belief in us, your intercessions on our behalf, especially at this time, mean the world to us- literally!  All that we shared above would have been impossible without your partnership and generosity. Because of you we are reaching Muslims in some of the hardest places on earth!  The vision is great. The need is great, and we know, by God’s grace, the harvest will also be great! To learn more about Crescent Project’s dynamic outreach to Muslims globally and to give to their worthwhile projects, please visit:

Making Jesus Famous,

Steve Helm

Executive Director,

The Crescent Project