Trafficking jam

It has been a very busy day in the anti-human trafficking world!

Most notably, President Obama used his time at the Clinton Global Initiative to deliver remarks about human trafficking, including new initiatives to engage the fight. As the President rightly stated, this issue is important to all of us:

It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity.  It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric.  It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets.  It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.  I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery. []

It’s a really good speech, worth your time to read in full. The President includes many stories of modern-day slavery and introduced a few survivors present at CGI today. UPDATE: I haven’t yet found a video of the full remarks, but here’s a snippet finally found video of the whole thing (h/t Holly Boardman):

Our friends at IJM responded with pleasure…and a reminder that our work continues.

Then I got a message from the good folks at CAASE. An opinion piece in Sunday’s New York Times by Noy Thrupkaew called into question the validity of the end demand movements. So CAASE responded:

Last year, Ms. Thrupakew [sic] spent time with us, and we shared with her End Demand Illinois’ multi-dimensional, survivor-informed approach to the issue. By omitting this information from her piece, Ms. Thrupakew [sic] has left readers with a distorted view of demand-suppression efforts. […]

As you may know, CAASE does great work here in IL and I’m proud to support them.

As if all that weren’t enough for one day, I’ve also discovered some push back against the anti-trafficking movement. Over at her blog, Rogue Reverend, I’ve had some enlightening conversation with Lia Scholl. I encourage you to read her stuff too. I look forward to learning more from her as our dialogue continues.

Learn more about human trafficking (aka modern-day slavery) through any of my Abolitionists links.

Am I an abolitionist?

Hi. I’m Dave.
And I have 46 slaves working for me.

Can I still call myself an abolitionist?

Back in September, Slavery Footprint went live during the Clinton Global Initiative. The demand crashed their servers.

I remember hearing about it in September and I’m pretty sure I even started through the process of calculating my slavery footprint. Somehow I never finished it though. But today I did. It takes a few minutes, and, damn, is it shocking. I don’t want 46 slaves working for me. I don’t want any slaves working for anybody.

It seems like sex slavery gets most of the press attention and all of the movies.* But according to Free the Slaves, there are more labor slaves than sex slaves. They suggest that as many as 20 million of the 27 million slaves in the world are labor slaves. Most of them buried in the supply chains of all the stuff – food, toys, clothes, electronics – we buy.

According to the site, the things that enlarge my footprint most are our electronic gadgets, toys for our kids (especially action figures), my socks and underwear (??) and our cars. Ouch. I need all those things, don’t I?!?

Slavery Footprint grew out of Justin Dillon’s Call + Response project. (Another film I’ve wanted to see for three years now and just haven’t managed to. I think I just discovered New Year’s resolution #1 for 2012: quit stalling and buy that DVD already!) Check out their tumblr blog,** get their smartphone app, go to the website to calculate your own footprint.

But don’t despair! As was said at our Almost Christmas worship service this week: as followers of God in the way of Jesus we don’t believe in hopeless!

We can end slavery. Use all the tools available to you:

  • Spread awareness. (I know, I know. Awareness-raising seems so…lame and inactive. Yet, every time I’ve thought to myself, “Self, we’ve talked about this enough. Everyone at our church must know about it by now.” someone asks what human trafficking is. Awareness still needs to be raised. Let’s just not make it all we do.)
  • use slavery footprint’s take action methods.
  • use your smartphone.
  • screen a film
  • study a book
  • use social media

And believe it or not, Google is an ally in this fight! Slavery Footprint, International Justice Mission, Polaris Project, Not for Sale and others will receive $11.5 million in grants from Google to launch new anti-trafficking projects.

My name is Dave. I have 46 slaves working for me.
But I have hope that will change. I won’t stop striving to be an abolitionist until that number is zero. For me, for you, for everybody.

No person should be for sale.

*Taken chief among them. I didn’t manage to see The Whistleblower. It comes out on DVD January 24. I will see it then.

**Evidence #2368 that I’m old: I don’t really get tumblr. But I know it’s there. That’s something, right? Right?!?

Minding the gap

That was one of my key take-aways (gotta love conference attendee parlance, right?) from the Leadership Institute at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City last week: minding the gap.

In one of his plenary addresses, Church of the Resurrection Senior Pastor, Adam Hamilton, used that phrase – minding the gap – to describe strategic planning in the church. It was one of those moments when something you already know is presented in a different way enabling you to hear the idea anew, with clarity and power.

Hamilton said look around you, around your community and even around the globe. Ask where the world isn’t as it should be. See the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be. Our task as the church is to make the world as it is more like the world as it should be. Our task is to mind the gap.

The gap isn’t hard to find.

  • An estimated 925 million people suffer from hunger.*
  • An estimated 1.4 billion people in developing countries lived in extreme poverty, or on less than $1.25 a day. (The good news is that’s down from 1.9 billion in 1981.)*
  • An estimated 800 million people don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water.**
  • In the U.S.A., 14.6 % of households struggle to put food on the table.***
  • In the U.S.A. nearly 25% of children are at risk of hunger, that’s over 16 million children.***
  • In the U.S.A. 13% of our population lives in poverty.***
  • An estimated 27 million people are trapped in some form of modern-day slavery.

We’ve been talking about one way to mind the gap on the modern-day slavery front: by telling our members of Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).

This legislation authorizes assistance programs for victims, establishes key components of the U.S. government’s efforts to stop trafficking, including the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Passing the TVPRA will extend this law for another three years. Together we can demonstrate to our policy-makers that their constituents care about ending human trafficking at home and around the world.

What’s the status of the bill?

Holly Burkhalter, Vice President of Government Relations for International Justice Mission, reports, “The House Foreign Affairs Committee reviewed the bill (HR.2830) [this week] and passed it unanimously out of the committee.”

However, “Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), the principal sponsor of the TVPRA, explained that in order to secure Committee action on the TVPRA and support from House leadership for the measure, he had to trim off some of bill’s most important features.” The reason? Cost.

“Two Senators in particular, Senator Dr. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) raised concerns about spending.” [Read the whole post.]

It’s not too late. Being in contact with your members of Congress can still make a difference.

Together we will mind the gap. Together we will abolition slavery.

*Bread for the World, Global Faces of Hunger

**Charity:Water, What is the water crisis?

***Bread for the World, US Faces of Hunger

IL Forum to Combat Human Trafficking

I was quite encouraged by the crowd present for Monday’s Illinois Forum to Combat Human Trafficking. There were several hundred people there of diverse ages and races. The speakers were passionate and informative. Opportunities to take action to combat trafficking were offered, actions that could be taken right then and there.

International Justice Mission was the main sponsor of the event, in partnership with five Chicago-based anti-trafficking organizations: Traffick Free, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), Salvation Army PROMISE Initiative, STOP-IT Initiative Against Human Trafficking, and The Dreamcatcher Foundation. Representatives from each were present to talk about the work they are doing.

So the forum was very well done. I really don’t know how it could have been better. I am proud to say that of the six forum sponsors, my church has partnered with five of them! (Dreamcatchers is the only one we haven’t connected with…yet!)

By far the most powerful part of the evening was hearing Amanda’s story.

When she was 15, Amanda was trafficked into the Chicago-area sex trade. She was held captive and abused for over two years. Hearing her describe the manner and frequency with which she was abused was truly gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. Her story is a stark and horrific reminder that modern-day slavery is all too real and all too local.

But Amanda’s story also reminds us that there is hope in the midst of this ugly evil. Amanda eventually escaped her captors. She is receiving care for the physical, sexual and emotional trauma she endured. And she is not remaining silent. Working with Dreamcatchers, Amanda is bravely telling her story, shining a light in some very dark places, inspiring people to join (or continue) the fight against human trafficking.

Ready to act?

Here (again) is a simple way to make a difference: tell your members of Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). This legislation authorizes assistance programs for victims, establishes key components of the U.S. government’s efforts to stop trafficking, including the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Passing the TVPRA will extend this law for another three years.

All you have to do is click here. Or here. Or here. Just pick one and raise your voice. Together we can demonstrate to our policy-makers that their constituents care about ending human trafficking at home and around the world.

One thing did disturb me though. If I understood him correctly, U.S. Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL), the Keynote Speaker at the Forum, said that the TVPRA likely will end up on a calendar of bills that are non-controversial.

Which makes sense, right? Who could possibly be for human trafficking?!?

So far, so good. Here’s the disturbing part: Rep. Roskam also said that funding for TVPRA will be hard to come by. It will have to fight for very limited funds just like every other bill. It sounded to me like Rep. Roskam doesn’t expect to find that funding. In fact, it even sounded to me like he didn’t think it should be funded.

I admit that I don’t know a lot about Rep. Roskam. I don’t live in his district so I haven’t encountered him or paid attention to him before. I do know he spoke passionately in support of IJM and in encouraging everyone at the Forum to engage in the fight against modern-day slavery. But if I heard and understood him correctly, my serious question is this:

What does it mean to be in favor of passing TVPRA but not in favor of funding it?

Maybe I’m wrong about that. Maybe I misunderstood. I hope so. Because that seems to me like a distinction without meaning. It seems to me that the only way to truly be in favor of TVPRA is to be in favor of funding it. Maybe we need to add a line about funding to those petitions.

It does no good to reauthorize the act without also funding it.

Reach globally, gather locally, end slavery

“Jesus said, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me… He sent me to liberate those held down by oppression.’” – Luke 4:18

Now is the time, the time is now…We need to get the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) passed through Congress and signed into law.

This week, it’s back to anti-trafficking work. Why? We are under a time crunch. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act expires September 30. Fortunately, a multi-organizational push to get Congress to pass the TVPRA is in full-court-press mode.

What will the TVPRA do? As International Justice Mission (IJM) writes:

In particular, this legislation supports the State Department‘s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP)–our government’s most important asset for combating modern-day slavery internationally. TIP’s skilled diplomats monitor slavery and press governments around the world to confront it. By providing grant funding to organizations like International Justice Mission, the TIP Office has enabled the rescue and rehabilitation of thousands of survivors of sex trafficking and forced labor slavery, and the prosecution and conviction of hundreds of trafficking perpetrators.

IJM does great work all over the globe. And they are not alone. Change.org, World Vision, and Polaris Project, just to name a few, are all helping to get this legislation passed.

Polaris Project seems to have the most detailed information on the TVPRA. Here’s a taste:

Both the House and Senate versions of the TVPRA include language that strength the following efforts:

  • Encouraging the distribution and posting of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center within Federal Agencies as well as by states;
  • Requiring stricter regulations for contractor employees abroad to work within the U.S.;
  • Strengthening enforcement of child exploitation laws against U.S. citizens living abroad; and
  • Providing assistance for minor victims of trafficking. {Read more}

The wording may differ a bit among the organizations, but each of them encourages you to let your voice be heard. I certainly hope you will! It doesn’t really matter to me which one you pick, but, please, pick one and let your members of Congress know that this is important to you. With just a few clicks you can make a difference for people enslaved all over the world. (Ok, I know that’s corny. But being corny doesn’t make it untrue.)

Digitally signing a letter is important and a good, quick, easy way to help. But sometimes a more tangible way to respond is desired. This Monday, September 19, is the Illinois Town Hall Meeting to Combat Human Trafficking. It’s 7:00pm at Park Community Church (1001 N. Crosby, Chicago).

This is a joint effort of IJM, CAASE (Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation), Traffick Free, and more. Featured speakers are:

  • U.S. Rep., Peter Roskam, IL District 6
  • Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church
  • Holly Burkhalter, IJM’s VP of Government Relations

This is a time “to demonstrate to our policy-makers that their constituents care about ending human trafficking at home and around the world.”

I’ll be there. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join us.

Mighty Waters

Greetings from warm and sunny Pasadena, California!

I am here for a conference called Mighty Waters: Preaching and Living God’s Passion for Justice.

If you know me at all, you can probably already tell why I was drawn to this gathering. I’m all about striving to understand ourselves as called to live in – to breathe in – God’s desire for justice for the world and then to act – to embody – that justice in all we do. You might say we are called to exhale that breath of God’s justice into the world!

Here’s a piece of how the conference coordinators, Mark Labberton (Director of Fuller Seminary’s Ogilvie Institute of Preaching) and Bethany Hoang (Director of International Justice Mission Institute), describe what we’re hoping for this weekend:

Our bold prayer is that God will use these days together in ground-breaking ways for both our ministries and our own lives as we seek to more fully live God’s character of justice in our world.

We believe God’s heart is fully and wholly committed to the shalom of each and of all. That is amazingly good news in a glorious but broken world.

We believe God uniquely and personally enacts this commitment through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the hope of the world.

We believe bearing witness to and being evidence of that divine reality in our living, speaking, and acting is the ministry of God’s people today. This is our daily vocation as disciples. A renewed commitment to preaching and living God’s passion for justice is essential for lives of faithful worship and effective witness. This is why it matters that we are joining together these couple of days.

We are asking God to do a great work among us. Our prayer is that this time together will deepen our lives in Christ, so that in lives of worship, our passion for justice and that of our congregations, will more nearly resemble God’s. In so doing, we may live out the call to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

Bold words! Bold hopes. But good words and needed hopes, it seems to me. How can you experience more of this gathering? Glad you asked!

I’m live-tweeting the event (that means I’m sending tweets about the conference as it is happening). You can check that out on my Twitter feed.  Or check out the Mighty Waters Facebook  and “like” it to see more.

Two examples of what I’ve heard already that moved me (both from the first night’s speaker, Mark Labberton):

God’s justice is human flourishing. We are meant for flourishing…and so is our neighbor.

A college student once asked me, ‘If I come to your church, will I meet people who are like Jesus?’

I hope you’ll join the conversation!