January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Human trafficking may seem like an abstract topic. But millions of vulnerable people are bought, sold and kept in captivity all over the world — even in your city. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.
As image bearers of the God of justice (Isaiah 30:18), we reflect his heart for the oppressed. It’s our responsibility to be aware of the plight of captives and labor for their freedom.
This month social media and news outlets are sharing statistics and stories aimed at drawing your attention to the presence of human slavery in our world today. While awareness is critical, it’s just the beginning of our fight to end the global slave trade.
International Justice Mission (IJM) president, Gary Haugen, says, “Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern-day slavery, but nothing will ever happen until we are.”
Awareness of Human Trafficking
First, we must awaken to the crisis. Proverbs 4:7 says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom; and whatever you get, get insight.” Educating yourself about the global slave trade is essential to engaging the problem wisely.
Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry. The Global Slavery Index estimates there are over 45 million slaves in the world today. Anyone can become enslaved to human traffickers, but women and children are the most vulnerable, especially orphans and refugees. Impoverished people living in unstable political environments are at great risk as well. Desperate people become easy prey for human traffickers.
Vulnerable people are often tricked or forced into captivity. Desperate to believe the promises of a better life, they unknowingly enter a highly organized industry of traffickers willing to illegally transport them across country borders. An unfamiliar environment further magnifies their vulnerabilities through isolation and difficulty communicating.
Any passports or identification is stolen from them, making escape next to impossible. Once enslaved, they are treated poorly and often physically or sexually assaulted. They are forced into various forms of labor, including domestic service, manual labor, sweatshops and sexual commerce. It is not uncommon for sexual slaves to be raped ten times per night by different johns — men who pay for sex.
In the US, vulnerable teen girls are lured into relationships by pimps posing as doting boyfriends. They will shower the girl with attention and affection, all the while isolating her from any family and friends who might rescue her. Eventually, they reveal their true nature to the unsuspecting girl as she is forced into a life of prostitution and dominated by fear of her pimp.
Fashion empires and other industries are built upon the backs of trafficked children forced to work eighteen-hour days in sweatshops for little to no money. They are abused and barely fed. They are enslaved to grow the financial kingdoms of others, and we benefit from their slavery by buying cheap clothing without thought of how they are made.
Human traffickers benefit from this lucrative business with little risk of consequences. They exploit vulnerable people living in desperate situations with minimal interference from law enforcement, which in many cases, aids the traffickers for their own financial gain. In many countries, sexual slaves are treated as criminals instead of victims, further helping traffickers operate with little risk of their slaves escaping.
This multi-billion dollar industry which enslaves millions of people made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) exists in our time. We cannot accept this injustice. Our awareness of modern day slavery should lead to action.
Action Against Human Trafficking
Being aware of millions of people living in slavery and merely regarding it as a tragedy is not sufficient. Our silent acceptance of human trafficking is deafening to those enslaved and to their oppressors. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
God’s people do justice (Micah 6:8). We speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8). We are not silent towards injustice; we do not accept that people can be held as the property of another. We seek justice. We fight for freedom.
We know that slavery exists in our time, and like the great abolitionists of the past, we must fight for freedom for those being held against their will.
God was not indifferent to us in our suffering. He sent his son. In the book, You Can Change, Tim Chester writes, “Jesus was God getting involved with us.” Ending the global human trafficking crisis requires your involvement.
Consider the Following Ways You Can Fight Human Trafficking
- Be a prayer warrior. Fight on your knees. Pray for those in bondage. We worship the chain-breaking God.
- Speak up and raise awareness. Millions of slaves are suffering every day. Now is the time to inform others about this crisis and teach them how to help. You have a circle of influence. Leverage your influence to advocate for slaves.
- Support those on the front lines. Research local and international anti-trafficking organizations and financially partner with them.
- Plant churches. Make disciples. Shine the light in the darkness. Train up Christian leaders around the world to disciple believers in their communities.
- Fight for families. The Homeland Security website says, “Traffickers prey on victims with little or no social safety net. Children and young adults without safe, stable family relationships are uniquely vulnerable.” Walk alongside the struggling families you know and help them persevere together.
- Embrace foreigners. Welcome them into your homes and your networks. Connect them and surround them with a support system.
- Avoid pornography. Pornography fuels the sex trade, and eliminating demand for pornography is one way to fight human trafficking.
- Create jobs for people in poor countries and support those who do. Spend your vacation in third world countries to provide job training to keep people from becoming easy prey for traffickers. Share your skill sets with those who will benefit from them.
- Seek judicial justice. Let your elected representatives know you want laws created and enforced to protect victims. Fight for more harsh penalties for human traffickers.
- Be a discerning consumer. Shop ethically and buy fair trade products. Create a demand for them. Take the extra time to track the supply chain of consumer products to determine how they’re produced. Don’t use the resources God has given you to endorse unjust working conditions and exploitative employers.
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We don’t accept evil; we fight it.
Our fight against modern-day slavery begins with our awareness of the global slave trade. But awareness is just the beginning. Our awareness must progress into action. We fight against human trafficking through our actionable obedience to God’s good command to, “seek justice and correct oppression (Isaiah 1:17).”
Consider your role in the fight against human trafficking. Consider how you will give account one day for your response to oppression. The great abolitionist, William Wilberforce, said, “Let it not be said that I was silent when they needed me.” Millions of people need you to speak up. Will you be silent, or will you take action?
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