Victory! What’s next?

Thursday was a really good day.

After months and even years of delay, the U.S. House of Representatives FINALLY passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – and with it the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA)!

The General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church reminded us what The United Methodist Church says about Family Violence and Abuse:

We recognize that family violence and abuse in all its forms—verbal, psychological, physical, sexual—is detrimental to the covenant of the human community. – UMC Social Principles 161.G

The bill had already passed the Senate and President Obama has said he will sign it right away. Most of the news I saw about this focused on how the main bill protects all women, including native Americans, undocumented immigrants and LGBT women. As Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), herself a rape victim, sharply put it with a paraphrase of 19th century escaped slave and civil rights advocate, Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t they women?”

Yes. Yes, they are.

But the VAWA also included the TVPRA as an amendment. TVPA expired over two years ago; we finally have it back! What’s that mean? I’ll let two of our best anti-trafficking partners – Polaris Project and International Justice Mission – tell you.

From Polaris Project:

This bill sets important funding benchmarks, encourages distribution of the National Human Trafficking Hotline number by federal agencies, establishes grant programs for state agencies to assist child victims of sex trafficking, strengthens the ability to prosecute those who fraudulently hire individuals in foreign labor contracts, and more. [read the rest]

IJM adds that the 2013 version of the TVPRA has new provisions as well:

  • Gives the State Department authority to partner with overseas governments to stop child trafficking in targeted areas. It’s much more specific and measurable than previous programs
  • An emergency response provision helps the State Department quickly deploy teams of experts into crisis areas—like the situation in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake—where disorder and poverty can leave children or other vulnerable poor especially susceptible to trafficking.
  • New tools to help prosecute traffickers and people who exploit the poor.
  • Continued support for existing programs that support survivors of trafficking both in the U.S. and overseas. [read the rest]

After this victory, as President Bartlett used to ask, What’s next?
Time to talk hunger again, that’s what.

Our friends at Bread for the World ask, How is it possible that people in this country continue to go hungry, despite our abundance of food?

As an answer to that question, they are partners with a new film from Magnolia Pictures and its accompanying social action campaign. “March 1st marks the premiere of A Place at the Table, a new eye-opening documentary that answers the question through the lives of three people. Their stories reveal the depth of the hunger crisis in America and the factors that drive it.

Watch the trailer. But be careful, the trailer does its job – you will want to see the whole movie. Good thing then A Place at the Table is available right now On Demand and through iTunes. Find A Place at the Table on Facebook and Twitter.

I’d love to hear your reactions to the film in the comments.

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?!?

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.

“…Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan…”

“Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

“During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we rededicate ourselves to preventing and ending human trafficking, and we recognize all who continue to fight this serious human rights violation,” declared President Obama as he proclaimed January as, well, National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

You can read the whole thing here (it’s not that long):

But the money quote is:

We stand with those throughout the world who are working every day to end modern slavery, bring traffickers to justice, and empower survivors to reclaim their rightful freedom.  This month, I urge all Americans to educate themselves about all forms of modern slavery and the signs and consequences of human trafficking.  Together, we can combat this crime within our borders and join with our partners around the world to end this injustice.

Additionally, January 11 was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. I was glad to see the Northern IL Conference includes it in it’s “January Days of Note.” However, the link provided frustratingly has only last year’s information on it. And one of the links there is broken.

[Sigh]

Now, look, I’m glad our Conference is paying attention and I’m glad Board of Church & Society (the UMC’s advocacy arm) is concerned…but I wish it were concerned enough to keep their info up to date. Seriously, old info and broken links? That’s just embarrassing (kinda like going two months between posts).

January 11 also happens to be the day most committees at my church meet this month. For a couple years now, all committees that meet on the second Tuesday of the month begin by gathering all together for devotion and announcements. We do that to remind ourselves that no one group or committee exists alone, to be reminded that we’re part of a greater whole. We do that to engender inter-committee cooperation, share ideas and tasks. I think it’s a great tradition.

Since these two events (that is, committee night and Trafficking Awareness Day) collide on the same day, Pastor Jim asked me to prepare a short presentation on trafficking for the gathering time.

One good thing from the aforementioned Board of Church & Society statement (Guess that link isn’t totally useless!): “Local congregations can play a role in reversing the numbers of people being trafficked through education and action.”

My church, Woodridge United Methodist has already engaged in both education and action. But what’s next for us? That’s what I tried to offer on Jan. 11.

It is my attempt to briefly inform about the issue, review all the bold actions our church has taken together so far, and inspire our next steps in the fight against modern-day slavery.

Granted, viewing it like this loses a lot of the affect of being in a room full of attentive people. And it loses all of the additional comments, questions and responses. Most especially it loses all the gut-wrenching, heart-breaking stories that put flesh on the bones of those statistics.

So for what it’s worth, you can view my presentation here:

http://www.slideshare.net/davebuer20/slavery-presentation-6556069

Want to learn more? I offer these for your perusal and edification:

Watch this video from Polaris Project. They maintain the National Human Trafficking Hotline. I couldn’t help but notice and be moved by how young their staff is.

-Read what UMCOR is doing to fight trafficking

-Adopt 1, 2 or even 11 of these ideas

Anti-Trafficking Heroes for 2010

Trafficking in nearby Indiana

-A glimpse at how slavery grows out of poverty

-The ugly underbelly of the country’s most-watched sporting event

-What some churches are doing to raise awareness

-Prepare to be angry. Alabama Sen. Sessions blocked an important bill, thereby supporting child sex trafficking.