Since this is a continuation of yesterday’s Guest Post Wednesday, be sure to read Human Trafficking, Part 1, before proceeding. Yesterday’s post briefly outlined the problem of human trafficking in the world today; below Jonathan suggests some solutions to help get you thinking about the issue from a new perspective.
And now we come to the question, what can we do about such a huge problem? Indeed, modern day slavery is a profitable ‘business’ worth almost as much as the illegal arms trade (and rapidly approaching the drug trade), but in general is far less dangerous for its practitioners.
I have three suggestions, and all of them (aha, now we get to why this is on Schmexas!) involve community.
First, every organization, from Not For Sale to the International Justice Movement, that currently fights the modern day slave trade, started because somebody realized in an intimate and personal way that he or she was in community with slaves. David Batstone, the founder of Not For Sale, tells the stories of Annie Dieselberg, a missionary’s daughter who got to know the prostitutes of Bangkok and founded NightLight in 2005 to give them an alternative line of work if they could run away or be bought out of slavery; of Gary Haugen, who founded IJM after friends in aid organizations admitted that they didn’t know what to do about the corrupt officials and mafia who took their children and enslaved them; of Lucy Borja in Peru, who allowed two young street children to sleep in her office one night because they were afraid of being kidnapped and told them that they could bring their friends, then found more than 600 children asleep in her office and changed the mission of her life. We are all in community with these children and these slaves, if we only have the eyes to see them. They make our clothing, they pick our food, they clean our hotel rooms; they are the victims of our pornography addiction and the underbelly of the global drug trade. Our wealth is built on their crushed bodies. It is time that we see them as part of our community and allow them to commune with us as full partners in our wealth, our lives, and our love.
Second, the church is the paradigm for all communities: the sacrament and symbol of God’s triune oneness made out of many and the body of Christ on earth. No recent major social movement in the West, from the original abolition of the slave trade in Britain under William Wilberforce to the abolition movement in the US under Lyman Beecher to the Civil Rights movement under Martin Luther King, Jr., has gained any momentum without the movement of the church. Until churches in America begin to care about today’s slaves by changing their purchasing habits (buy Fair Trade!), getting involved in efforts to end slavery here and abroad, and demanding political and social action against the exploitation of children, wherever it occurs and by whomever it is done, slavery will not end. The body of Christ must be the hands of Christ, and that means being the hands of love and justice for the oppressed, for the widows and the orphans in our midst today.
And finally, only a strong community that cares for the least of these among us can prevent slavery in the first place. Right now, there is no end to the supply of slaves, because there is no end to desperately impoverished families, women, and children for traffickers to steal, buy, and coerce. In the United States, most of our slaves are not trafficked from elsewhere, they are our own daughters, at risk because of bad home situations or absent parents, who have no community to stand between them and the predators who steal and sell them. It is estimated that a run-away girl in America will be approached and propositioned by a trafficking pimp within 48 hours of running away from home. I was speaking with Dr. Jeff Barrows, the founder of Gracehaven, a home for minors rescued from sex trafficking in Ohio, and I asked him what the number one thing is that Christians can do to help prevent minor sex trafficking in the US. His answer surprised me: become a foster parent. Our foster care system is broken, and the children in it are the forgotten orphans of our communities. What they need is a loving community that will watch out for them and hold them in safety.
So where does this leave us? Certainly, at the very least, we are called to ask ourselves some difficult questions.
What steps can I take to reorder my life in such a way as to consider how I, my family, my purchasing decisions, and my communities are impacted by human trafficking? What steps can my local church take to rethink this problem and become the hands and feet of Christ? And lastly, what might I be called to do to work toward preventing human trafficking from happening right in my own neighborhood?
As a starting point for finding more information about the scope of human trafficking, companies working to combat it, and ways you can re-order your purchasing habits to be more mindful of “the least of these,” head on over to the Resources page at Texas Schmexas. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it can get you headed in the right direction.