Ben shares his hope for justice with Norfolk church
Co-founder and CEO of Hope for Justice - Ben Cooley – fires-up huge global audiences with passion and vision as he dares to fight to end today’s slavery – a message he recently brought to a Norfolk church’s conference. Sandie Shirley reports.
This autumn Ben took to the stage at the annual Flourish conference for women run by Thetford’s Liberty Church, sharing the work of the pioneering charity that began ten years ago. It has since become a multi-award-winning operation, unifying people across the world to make a gallant assault against modern-day slavery and trafficking.
The charity began in the UK but has offices and projects in seven more countries including the USA, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Norway. It has forged links with celebrities, foreign governments and established international organisations. An ever-growing team of specialists, detectives, senior investigators, lawyers, social workers and communications and policy experts, heighten the flame of restitution and justice. And scores of voluntary abolition groups contribute via fund-raising and campaigning.
Best estimates suggest there are 24.9m people in forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude around the world - greater than at any other point in history. And in the summer of 2017, the National Crime Agency suggested there are “tens of thousands of UK victims”, including many across East Anglia.
Ben has a Christian faith that moves him to take action: “I want to live in a world where children are valued and free to be educated; where men can provide for their families and where women are valued and taught that they are princesses,” he said.
Amid brokenness, terror and exploitation, Hope for Justice has become a recognised and respected instrument for change by creating hope and bringing life. To date hundreds have been freed, thousands have been trained and millions have been informed but the fight to rescue, restore, reform and prevent continues. Hope for Justice also owns and helps resource Slave-free Alliance - a unique membership of businesses wanting to be at the forefront of the anti-slavery movement.
“Every time a person is rescued and restored we take a padlock and write their name on it and post it on our wall of freedom - a token that freedom and change is possible,” said Ben. “That person may have had a past with slavery, but now there is a bright and glorious future with freedom.”
Anna is just one former victim. She was forced to work in a factory for six months without pay and lived in horrendous conditions. Today she is happily married and working, and her traffickers are in prison. She says: “Without Hope for Justice I don’t know what would have happened to me or where I would be. Maybe, if you did not help me I would not be alive.”
Ben has owned, shared and is continuing to promote a huge mission - a far cry from his former career as an opera singer who set up various performing arts companies. As a married man with two young daughters, his life took a dramatic turn, propelling him into action, when he was devastated to hear about human trafficking.
Today he knows the reality and importance of a vision as his fervent message rallies support against what is thought to be the third biggest criminal enterprise in the world. “Tried-and-tested experience also helps resource leaders and encourages us to grasp and grow our own vision by challenging apathy with action to change lives,” he said.
His recent book: ‘Impossible is a Dare’, charts his fight for a world free of slavery from being one man with a wobbly desk to an international organisation and includes real-life stories of changed lives.
His story embraces risk and devotion - at 26 he booked Birmingham’s NEC Arena without the know-how to stage a major event, but it drew a crowd of nearly 6,000 who were willing to get involved with his heart-cry for freedom.
He hopes his book will inspire readers to fight for their own vision and see the impossible for what it all is - a dare!
Pictured: Ben Cooley from Hope for Justice.