[Guest Post from my sister]
It was my senior year at Southern Wesleyan when I first heard about human trafficking. I don’t know if you remember the first time you heard about the fact that slavery still exists in our world. I don’t know if it struck you the way it struck me. Maybe this is the first time you are hearing of the enslavement of millions of people who are made in the image of God. If so, read on! If you know about modern slavery and you feel paralyzed by the overwhelming statistics, my hope is not to drill more statistics into your head so that you feel even more discouraged, but rather empower you to feel you can do something.
Maybe you don’t care. You have more pressing issues in your life. I know. I don’t understand where you are or what you’re going through. When you are hurting, it is so hard to even begin to hurt for others. As a counselor, my deepest desire would be to walk with you from point A to Z, to be with you on your journey of healing. If this is your place, maybe you can find someone to help you heal. Because being a part of redeeming the lives of those participating in and victims of injustice is, I dare say, the most fulfilling work on the planet. And I don’t want you to miss it.
My journey began in the spring of 2003 when I had lunch with Dr. Joanne Lyon, the executive director of World Hope International. I was a psychology major and I really wanted to do counseling. I felt drawn to women and children in distress, victims of violence and abuse. Dr. Lyon began to tell me about Cambodia and the problem of commercial sexual exploitation. She talked about the need for mental health professionals to work with these girls after they had come out of prostitution. I wept that night. It was the first time I had heard about modern slavery. A little over a year later, I boarded a plane for Cambodia. My assignment was to assist in the set up an assessment center–the first place children rescued from slavery would be brought. The first rescue of three little girls took place in June 2005. Today, the center has served hundreds of girls who are victims of rape or commercial sex trafficking.
Worldwide, there are nearly two million children in the commercial sex trade (UNICEF). Human trafficking is the world’s third largest criminal enterprise, following drugs and weapons (U.S. Dept of State). Slavery is particularly lucrative because while a drug may only be sold once, a human can be sold over and over again. There may be as many as 27 million slaves in the world today and it is believed that half are minors (U.S. Dept of State). And slavery isn’t some third world problem. The U.S. is currently home to an estimated 175,000 slaves.
So what will you do? How will you be an abolitionist? Would you choose just one item from the list below? Something you could do to spread awareness, stop the trade, redeem a life?
Talk to your friends, your children, or your co-workers about modern slavery. I know it isn’t light conversation but haven’t we all had enough of that?
Hang anti-trafficking posters in your business, church, or local community boards. Victims, potential victims, and those who may know them can see the victim hotline with instructions in their language. Posters are available for free download here.
Blog about human trafficking.
Teach youth and young adults about the link between the sex industry and slavery. Adults Saving Kids offers a complete curriculum for youth.
Ask your legislators what they have done to stop slavery in your state. If they haven’t done a thing…offer to provide information. Give them a nudge.
Serve as a volunteer. Organizations like FAAST welcome volunteers who can do research, write, design, organize, or staff events. Or use your skills to serve vocationally–either short term or long.
Buy “slave-free” goods. Buy rugs carrying the Rugmark symbol. Buy coffee, tea, and cocoa labeled “fair trade.” Ask stores to stock these items. Encourage your church or business to serve fair trade coffee. Provide your faith community with info about coffee campaigns.
Do something. Become an abolitionist. It matters.