‘a people robbed and plundered…trapped in holes and hidden’

I must admit that the list of national observance days and months is overwhelming and often tedious if not down right ridiculous. For instance, January sports National Fresh Squeezed Juice Week and National Handwriting Analysis Week. This month is National Get Organized Month, Oatmeal Month, and National Polka Music Month, among many others. (Ok, my father-in-law would have loved that last one!)

I sincerely hope that today is not one of those days. Today, January 11, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and January is also National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Through my church, with my family, and as an individual, I’ve been talking about human trafficking – and working to end it – for several years. We’ve partnered with organizations both international and local (see my list of Abolitionists on the right-hand sidebar). We’ve looked at both sex slavery and labor slavery. We’ve hosted speakers, founded projects, screened films, and shared many inspiring, informative links. But in all this time I’ve been disappointed by the small number of projects and stories regarding modern-day slavery by the United Methodist Church.

The main exception to that lack has come from the United Methodist Women. And they didn’t disappoint today either. Check this out from their website:

A major myth about human trafficking is that most trafficked persons are taken against their will…snatched off the street, thrown into a van. Or that they are runaways or drug users, exhausted of options, of money, and of hope.

Most, at the beginning, are leaving home to pursue a good job abroad. Then they find they have been sold, they owe tens of thousands of dollars and will have to buy themselves back.

Remember that for every victim of sex trafficking worldwide there are nine forced labor and/or domestic servitude cases.

Then UMW offered words of trafficked women, imploring readers to “imagine what that journey must be like.” Take a moment to read their stories.

UMW also shares good information. Here’s a taste:

Why does human trafficking happen?
Our current global economic system continues to reward wealth and exploit the poor. Sexual trafficking is connected to the feminization of poverty. Seventy percent of the world’s poor are women and girls, most of whom live in developing countries with limited options available to them. Women comprise 56 percent of the 12.3 million trafficked adults and children according to the Trafficking in Persons Report.

Trafficking of women, children and men
Trafficking of women, children and men (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why do we care so much about this? Here’s one reason… In his first public declaration, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me…He sent me to tell those who are held captive that they can now be set free… He sent me to liberate those held down by oppression.” (Luke 4:18)

Clearly, the victims of modern-day slavery/human trafficking need to hear the good news that God is with them. They need to hear the good news that God’s dream for their lives is for them to be free.

There is always more to learn and more ways to engage this issue. Two of the best anti-trafficking efforts locally are the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation and the Salvation Army PROMISE program’s Anne’s House.

Anne’s House is still the only local long-term trauma based residential program for victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

Today, CAASE released their latest research into those who buy sex in Illinois. It is a disturbing read. But important. Here’s why:

CAASE believes that this research can inform more effective ways for law enforcement and communities to address the demand for prostitution. “If we want to adequately and effectively reduce the demand for paid sex, and thus reduce violence against prostituted people, we need to first understand what motivates men to purchase sex,” said Rachel Durchslag, Executive Director of CAASE. “Lara Janson’s report highlights, through johns’ own words, how specific law enforcement responses to prostitution do deter men from purchasing sex.”

The words of Isaiah often inspire work for justice. The title of this post comes from some of those words:

But this is a people robbed and plundered, all of them are trapped in holes and hidden in prisons; they have become a prey with no one to rescue, a spoil with no one to say, “Restore!” Who among you will give heed to this, who will attend and listen for the time to come? —Isaiah 42:22-23

I hope you’ll join us as we continue on this journey. I hope you’ll join us in this modern-day abolitionist movement.

My list of abolitionists is pretty good, I think. But I know there are many more organizations engaged in this work. Who am I missing? What are your stories of fighting modern-day slavery?

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