...for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke's words serve as a solemn reminder that we have a responsibility to be an advocate for those without a voice. The issue of human trafficking is more than a political, regional or religious problem. Human trafficking is a "human" problem. We are all affected and impacted by this violation of human rights, whether we know it or not. Currently, approximately 27 million slaves are at work in the world today. "Trafficking in persons" is a $99 billion dollar industry as well as the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.
According to Polarisproject.org, over 100,000 children are estimated to be introduced into the sex trade in the United States each year. In light of the previous statement, it is no wonder that the average age of entry into prostitution is between 12-14 years old. Whether they are born in the US or elsewhere, they are being bought sold on a daily basis. This happens in your cities and your neighborhoods.
Human trafficking which equates to modern day slavery exists when people are coerced, forced, and/or manipulated to do commercial sex acts or labor services against their will. Whether they serve as a prostitute at a truck stop, a "masseuse" as an asian massage parlor, a maid for a wealthy family, a brick maker in India, or are forced to work on fishing boats in Southeast Asia, they are victims of exploitation.
In the face of such a global evil, what can we do?
On April 27th, 2013, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion for pastors and church leaders which was aptly named "Let My People Go." The name of the event comes from the demand of Moses, God's spokesman, to Pharaoh who refused to release Israel from slavery. In a similar way, these pastors were challenged to stand and demand that those trapped in slavery today be set free. The goal was to equip these pastors and church leaders with the knowledge to equip their churches to fight human trafficking. The event featured three expert panelists, who are some of the top abolitionists in NYC; Jimmy Lee of Restore NYC, Diana Mao of Nomi Network, and Jonathan Walton of New York City Urban Project.
During this discussion, we wrestled with the nature of human trafficking and where is it found globally and locally. We also delved into where is slavery found in NYC, and how are we a part of the problem. Finally, we explored ways that the local church can be a positive force in the fight against the global slave trade.
In the next several articles, we will walk through several ways that Christians can practically fight human trafficking. We will learn that we don't have to wear a cape or have a Phd to be an advocate for the weak and vulnerable. As Christians we simply have to be disciples. Ultimately, true biblical discipleship fights trafficking. I will tease this out more in the articles to follow, but to put it succinctly, when we stand on the Gospel, we will naturally stand against injustice.
You may find this hard to believe. You may be struggling to read this article because your eyes keep rolling back in your head. You are saying to yourself, "What can I do? This problem is too big. Why should I even try?" Edmund Burke, who stood for the cause of the American colonies as a member of the British Parliament in the late 1700s, understood the need for freedom, even when it was not popular. He explained that "nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." Regardless of your age or your occupation, you can do something. Remember that the only thing necessary for us to fight human trafficking is our willingness to do something... no matter how small it may seem.