In Luke Chapter 17, Jesus tells his follower that “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” (v. 2) January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Talk about offending any of these little ones.
According to the Human Trafficking Search website,
“While it is difficult to quantify the number of victims of human trafficking because the crime is inherently underground, the International Labor Organization estimates that 50 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2022, that translates to nearly one of every 150 people in the world. Of those 50 million, almost 27.6 million were victims of forced labor and 22 million were in forced marriage. That is a 6.6 million increase in the number of people living in a forced marriage from 2016.”
Human trafficking, as well as modern-day slavery, is defined as the exploitation of individuals through “threat, Coercion, abduction, fraud, and/or deception.”
It is estimated that about a quarter of these victims are in forced commercial sexual exploitation, such as prostitution and pornography. The majority are in other private sector work such as factories, sweatshops, fields, and child soldiers. In addition, sometimes inexpensive clothing (to name one example) comes at a high human cost.
Even though human trafficking is across all demographics, already vulnerable individuals are often the target. Individuals who are:
· Homeless or have run away from home
· In low social=economical groups
· Political, cultural, or ethnic minority
· Victims of sexual abuse, rape, or domestic violence
· Refugees from natural disasters or conflicts
· In foster care
The earlier quote said that the numbers “translates to nearly one of every 150 people in the world.” This statement should be a wake-up call for all of us. The problem” isn’t “over there” but often in plain sight.
What to do
There is not one answer to such a dilemma. A simple solution to not be part of the problem, but how? May I suggest we personally and collectively try to turn off the pipeline at both ends. We work to end the need for such behavior by bad people. We don’t participate in consuming pornography. We are faithful to our covenants at home and away. We maybe think about where items are made and by whom. We become knowledgeable about the problem.
On the other hand, we work to keep people safe. We teach our children that “Stranger Danger” is real, especially on social media sites. May I suggest that you check online behavior? None of us would invite without some concern a stranger into our homes. So why do we allow it online?
Part of becoming knowledge, it knowing possible trafficking signs. The Department of Homeland Security sponsors the Blue Campaign (https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign). Their website lists potential indicators such as a child stopping coming to school or being fearful, timid, or submissive. In addition, DHS has created printable indicator cards in 39 languages.
The solutions aren’t simple. There is no panacea. However, there is awareness. Next, there is passion and commitment. Finally, there are actions we all can take.