I am a modern-day abolitionist. I know, cool title, right?! While I love my job, I still find myself shocked at the reality that there is a need in the world for people like me. There is a need for thousands, maybe millions of modern-day abolitionists. Modern day slavery is rampant in our world…our 21st-century slavery-illegal-in-every-country world…the best known number of slaves counts there are more slaves today than at any other point in human history: 30 million. That is 30 million individuals who are living and breathing, who have the image of God stamped on their souls, and who have (or had) hopes and dreams for their lives. Instead of experiencing freedom in all of those things, they are in bondage and forced to work for someone else’s gain.
Why am I shocked? Don’t we become numb to terrible realities that are put before us everyday? Yes, we do usually, but I am regularly made aware of new terrible realities. Here are a few: Law enforcement in St. Louis reports they could rescue at least 4 girls everyday from being pimped out but they don’t have anywhere safe and equipped to send them. In a neighboring town a mother is pimping out her son and her daughter so she can buy drugs. Young people are wrapped up in pornography and deceived into thinking they are loved by a guy, when in actuality they are being set up to be pimped out. A restaurant in a neighboring town is moving young Hispanics from work site to work site giving them no freedom and extremely little pay. All the major clothing brands I could buy for my young son (Oshkosh, Carters, Garanimals, Just One You, etc) have known slave labor in their supply chains. My shock, and perhaps better described as my heartache, continues and grows with each new reality I encounter.
The US Department defines human trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age--OR-- The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. Human traffickers are garnering $32 billion each year off the individuals who meet this definition in their everyday life. When I began working and ministering in this field, human trafficking was ranked 3rd among top grossing international organized crime; recently it has been moved up to the 2nd place position. Why? Because drug traffickers are using their incredibly networked system to move people instead, after all, people are a renewable resource whereas drugs, once used, are gone.
The Set Free Movement is committed to collaborating with first responders and key stakeholders to ensure communities are ready to help victims when their terrible reality is made aware to us. We are moving toward being a Zero Tolerance (for slavery, for injustice) Community. YOU are a key stakeholder in this community, in your community, and in our world.
This Friday, May 10, 2013, The Set Free Movement is hosting a training session where we will learn about slavery’s realities. From Assistant US Attorney, Monica Stump, we will be equipped to recognize the signs and indicators as well as be provided explanations of the laws that surround human trafficking in America today. JeffOthic is a special investigator for Homeland Security’s Immigration and Custom Enforcement Division, and he will review the process of investigations within human trafficking cases. We will also hear from CleoTerry, Coordinator of the Rescue and Restore Coalition of Southwestern Illinois, who will be giving in-depth explanations on how to work with victims of human trafficking.
I recently found myself amidst a group of college students committed to pray around this issue. The prayer that came from my own lips was about Moses. Moses, the first abolitionist of our faith, was terrified to do what God called him to - he was called to free his community. And with that first call, I believe God put abolition in our spiritual DNA. The rest of my prayer was for the traffickers, that they would find plagues heaped upon them and be destroyed. There is a way to end modern day slavery, but it will only be accomplished by thousands, maybe millions, of abolitionists. We must be willing to heed the call, one that will break our hearts and shock our “safe and quaint” communities. We must be willing to change the way me make purchases (start with www.free2work.org) and buy ethically sourced goods. We must educate ourselves (find out more about the Set Free training event here) as much as possible. We must move in three directions: Prevention, Rescue, and Restoration (check out the Set Free Primer).
I will end with the prayer of five year old Mariah: “Dear Jesus, Thank you that we are free to walk and run and ride our bikes. We are sad because you are sad that there are kids that are not free. Please help those kids to know that you are near to them and you can be in their hearts. Help them to not be too sad and help them to be free too.”
Thank you to Chrisy, Megan, and Wick who graciously invited me to guest post on their blog. If you have further questions or want to join the ranks of abolitionists around the world, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.