Guest Post: Fighting Modern Day Slavery
A little more than ten years ago I began serving as the youth pastor at Pascack Bible Church in Hillsdale, New Jersey. Over my tenure at PBC I had the pleasure of serving an amazing group of students… one of whom was Joyce Raphail. It has been fun to watch Joyce grow into a Godly woman who is passionate about her God, and social justice. She recently graduated from Siena College, having majored in political science and a minor in globalization studies, and is currently preparing to put her education to use as she expands God’s Kingdom (you REALLY should hire her). I asked her to share a little bit about a topic that is close to her heart: human trafficking.
When Matt asked me to write a guest post about human trafficking I was glad for the opportunity and wondered if he knew what he was in for! Ask any of my friends and family and they will tell you that when someone asks about trafficking I find it hard to stop… Some sheepishly apologize for not knowing enough and others soak up the new information. But too many times I am confronted with the blank stare of defeat that means my audience sees this issue as too much to overcome. So in 750 words or less (roughly…) I will try to talk about why it is so important for Christians to pay attention to this issue, not only for what we can do to combat it, but for the lessons this crime teaches us about the needs of others.
As children we are taught that slavery ended with the Civil War in the United States. But the figures show otherwise. Estimates range from 10 to 30 million people trapped in forced labor, sexual slavery, child labor, and other forms of slavery around the world. This means there are more slaves in the world today than ever before. We also tend to think that trafficking only happens abroad, but the truth is it is very much present in the United States. Whether it is the 600 Thai laborers trafficked into Hawaii last year, or an eleven-year-old child named Danielle picked up by Port Authority police, trafficking victims are all around us.
This is usually the part of my spiel where I see those blank stares I described. But the truth is many Christians have taken a strong interest in this issue and it is encouraging to read story after story of victims stumbling across church buildings and confiding in those inside. But if I could choose one factor that the church could deal with best it would be to tackle this issue at its root – the desire to feel loved and the hope for a better life.
Runaways, outcasts, the innocent and impressionable, the poor and marginalized – these are the common denominators found in too many trafficking victims especially in sex trafficking. Traffickers use baseless guarantees of wealth, cheap gifts, fake jobs, imaginary affection, and the false promise of a place to call home to enslave people. The story becomes all too familiar the more you learn about this issue and the simple truth that people want to have a future and to be loved becomes all too evident.
Sadly, this is a truth that traffickers understand well. While every story is different, traffickers understand that exploiting these desires for love and a better life allows them to lure potential victims into years of slavery. One of my favorite verses, James 1:27 says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” We must constantly strive to embody this pure form of religion not simply by giving donations but also by looking for opportunities to reach out to those searching for the hope we have in Christ. Whether it is through outreach designed for at-risk youth or simply reaching out to the stranger who wanders curiously into church one Sunday, we need to have the kind of love that shows people that they are accepted in Christ – no matter where they came from or what they have done.
It sounds simple – loving people – but it is one of the most important things we can do. We can sign petitions, push for better anti-trafficking laws, raise money or learn more about trafficking (all crucial things we should do!) but if we do not take the time to reach out to those in our community who need to understand how unconditional God’s love is we may be missing an opportunity to be God’s hands and feet. Ask yourself, what would that look like in your church? Who are the ones that do not seem to belong? How can your members, your youth group, your leaders reach out to these people and give them an alternative? We must be willing to love them and one another with God’s full and unconditional love so that they may see their worth and be protected from those who seek to exploit them. Loving someone may not end human trafficking, but it’s a start and it is the very essence of what the church was made for.
How are YOU working to prevent trafficking?
Additional resources on human trafficking:
- If you would like to learn more about sex trafficking in the U.S. and about the incredible individuals fighting it I HIGHLY recommend Rachel Lloyd’s new book Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale: A Memoir
- Polaris Project
- State Department Trafficking in Persons Report
- GEMS: Girls Educational & Mentoring Services
- International Justice Mission