A few years back, I was blessed enough to be involved with a group of people at church who care about other people. When I say other people, I do mean neighbors and friends and strangers, but I also mean other people in a global sense. They started talking about human trafficking and slavery, words I had heard vaguely but of which I never understood the implications.
The book Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone was recommended to me. I was encouraged to educate myself. So I thought, why not?
I began it before I got pregnant with my daughter, Heidi. I was prepared to read a book about “ a new generation of 21st century abolitionists and their heroic campaign to put an end to human bondage.” I was not prepared to read such personal stories of pain, trauma and struggle. I was not prepared to read about how people are treated worldwide…including children. I was not prepared to hear how thousands upon thousands of people are forced into slave labor and sexual labor against their will…and some of this happening right in my own city.
Halfway through the book, I began to have nightmares at night. I don’t have nightmares often. But I would wake up terrified that a family member was being trafficked, horrified by the things I was seeing, completely freaked that there are people out there who do this to others who are more vulnerable…and benefit from it. I began to be convinced every tinted-glass, unmarked van was packed with slaves. I eyeballed every unmarked truck, every broken-down car, every shady person hauling a trailer, completely sure slaves were being trafficked right down the highways in my town. I nearly had a hard time leaving my baby girl in her room across the hall, especially when my husband was working out of town, sure someone would sneak her through the window and kidnap her.
My husband made me take a break from the book, which was probably good. I felt traumatized by what I read, moved forever. While I lay cuddled in my bed, reading a book, healthy baby girl snoozing peacefully in the next room, other children were living nightmares day in and day out with no hope. I nearly couldn’t sleep thinking about it. It made me sick.
Here are some of the main facts and quotes that I won’t soon forget:
- Human Trafficking, or modern day slavery, is the #2, and fastest growing, crime on the planet; a $32-billion-a-year business.
- Today there are 27 million people enslaved, more than at any other time in history.
- Every minute two more children are forced into slavery; 1 million children are forced to work in the sex industry daily. At least 100,000 American children alone are used in pornography and prostitution each year.
- The average price of a slave is 90 dollars, making modern slaves disposable people.
- It is estimated that 200,000- 400,000 people are in bondage at any given time in the USA.
- Suburbs, rural areas and small towns, and normal residential neighborhoods, are increasingly popular for this progressively computer based business.
These facts are startling and sickening and hard to believe. But what’s even more difficult to stomach are the individual stories…stories about poverty forcing families to borrow money, then being forced into slavery to work off the debt that only increases every year…stories of parents literally selling their daughters’ virginity to the highest bidder when she is only 12 or 13 years old…stories about businessmen participating in the grotesque hobby of sexual tourism and using it in their business practices…stories about young girls and boys abducted from their homes, being forced to take drugs, being forced to commit awful acts of crime and being forced to spend their days as child soldiers…the list is endless.
Stories upon stories upon stories. And God knows them all. These stories sound like they come from a horror film while mine continues to take the shape of a fairy tale.
It’s completely daunting and overwhelming, but we are called to take a stand. And I can think of no better day to refocus than Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Maybe commit to ONE thing today…reading a book, watching a documentary, checking out a website. Let God stir your heart a bit and see what happens.
Also, if you live in the Indy area, you’re in luck. There is an amazing group of people who call themselves Purchased who are spearheading the abolition of slavery right here in Indianapolis. I’ve been blessed enough to volunteer with them for a few years now, and they have many opportunities for you to not only learn about the issues but to educate your spheres of influence.
Here’s what you can do:
- Get educated!!! Read, watch, attend, participate! Click here http://purchased.org/resources/ to see a looooong list of books, movies and links that will help you get started.
- Invite a Purchased team member to speak about human trafficking at your small group, church, community organization or job. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Start a book study on the topic of human trafficking with people you know (Purchased can recommend references as well as discussion questions).
- Host a movie night with people you know (Purchased can provide movies and discussion questions).
- Check out the Justice Conference, February 21 and 22, in Los Angeles. You can actually participate locally by registering for the simulcast at the University of Indianapolis! Register here: https://thejusticeconference.wufoo.com/forms/simulcast-registration-2014/
- Keep an eye out for the annual Run For One 5k that Purchased puts on each year.
- Save up your money or invite coworkers (or maybe your boss will sponsor a table!) at Purchased’s annual Illuminate dinner and silent auction to raise money and awareness regarding human trafficking. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for details.
There are lots more ways to participate, but these are just a few. I still struggle to feel like even the small things I do help at all, but it’s a start. And I think that’s all that’s asked of us. As the saying goes, we can’t all help everyone but all of us can help someone. One place I can start is to raise my kids to care about these types of issues. Where can you start?
“Life most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say you didn’t know.” –William Wilburforce
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13