Hollywood films, historical texts and countless other anecdotes and stories which have happened in the past, depict heroes in our world. Not to lessen their importance and contributions, but I cannot help but shed some light on another thread of contemporary heroes.
I recently attended the European Anti-Trafficking Day in Stockholm – an event which was hosted and arranged by RealStars, an NGO which campaigns against human trafficking in Europe.
In listening to the many speakers from both government and private organizations, and in hearing the questions and the passion from the audience, many of them young adults who are concerned about this global issue – I was impressed. If this one gathering was a reflection or ripple of the voices speaking up on just this one issue – human trafficking – then one cannot help but ponder on the many hundreds of thousands of other voices around the globe who are also demanding change and human rights to be enforced in this particular arena.
In my lifetime, there have been several heroes – the doctor who operated on me and saved my life – she probably would not consider herself a hero, but she is to me. My 6th grade teacher who inspired me for a life time – also a man of great humility who simply saw potential in a small boy and encouraged him and he has no idea how far his act of simple humanity has gone. I could name others – we all could. Heroes are all around us, and this short article is by no means an attempt to marginalize them. I am simply commenting on one particular thread of humanity which I had the opportunity to meet and who deserve to be spotlighted.
What is a hero?
By definition it is someone who is notable or distinguished in valor, courage, accomplishment, in the face of challenges or danger.
Every person who goes out of their way, who steps across their own boundaries and comfort zone, and extends themselves, their hand and their efforts to help another human being – is in fact on that very road as a hero. It is just as noble and brave to fight for the rights of people enslaved by traffickers, people who cannot fight back themselves, as it is to pull people from a burning fire. One is possibly more dramatic, but in the long run, they both save human life.
There are, reportedly, well over 20,000,000 people on this planet who are currently trafficked, like objects, most of them sold into sexual slavery.
While governments in many nations simply turn a blind eye, or even sanction this activity by legalizing prostitution (which makes it easy for traffickers to force more women and children into that human pipeline) there are people amongst us who are standing up and saying NO.
It takes a great deal of courage and a quality of character in order to take up this campaign – or in fact, any campaign in the name of human rights.
Whether it is trafficking, or the right to freedom, the right to speak one’s voice, the right to practice one’s religion, the right to be equal – human rights activists, such as those whom I had the opportunity to meet at this Anti-Trafficking Day, are truly heroes in their own right.
As a writer and a human rights speaker, I consider it an honor to be associated with this thread of humanity, these crusaders for the rights of mankind – because in the long run, they are the reason that we have the freedoms that we share today. It is heroes, such as these, who in the future will be talked about, whom films and stories will abound, but today, they are just doing what they know is right and what must be done, and no doubt, they could care less about the accolades and praise.
Réal Laplaine is an author and human rights speaker.