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Planting Churches to End Human Trafficking

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03 March 2015

According to the United Nations, at any given time, there are over 2.5 million people in forced labor, including the sex industry.  This slave trade affects 161 countries around the world.  The average victim is between 18 and 24, but it is estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year.  Women are the primary targets of trafficking averaging two out of every three people enslaved.

The global poor are especially vulnerable to human trafficking.  Often they are tricked into captivity with promises of job opportunities.  Frequently, they are sold into slavery to pay family debts or provide money to care for other family members.  I have personally seen news reports of a case in Brazil where poor Paraguayan families gave their children to Brazilian traffickers believing they had wealthy European families who would adopt their children.  In reality the traffickers took the young girls across the border into Argentina and put them to work in a brothel.  

While sex trafficking understandably gets most of the media attention, forced labor is also a real issue.  We must acknowledge that many of the inexpensive goods we enjoy as American consumers are the direct result of slave labor.  I recently met a Thai Christian who works for a major US clothing company.  His job is to visit all of the factories manufacturing clothing for this particular company to ensure that they are treating their workers fairly.  One practice he shared with me is that some factories in Asia will “hold” the passports of their immigrant workers, which effectively makes them slaves unable to leave the job for fear of arrest.

As Christians we can no longer turn a blind eye to this issue.  This is not only a problem for the rest of the world.  Many of the victims of human trafficking are brought into our country.  Just read the news reports every year around major sporting events like the Super Bowl, and you’ll see countless stories about women and children being smuggled into the host city to be exploited sexually.   Even our own citizens often fall prey to this horrific practice; many, if not most of them, are children.

Advocacy is important.  Sin and exploitation thrive in the dark.  We need to shine the light on this issue and bring it to the world’s attention.  A quick look at social media will reveal that many people are doing this, and it’s good and necessary, but by itself this is a very shallow response.  Surely slaying this kind of monster will require much more sacrifice than a few tweets and blog posts.  What more can the church do in the face of so great an evil? 

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This blog was originally published here by Living Bread Ministries in December 2014. It is an excerpt from their free e-booklet, Planting Churches to End Human Traffificking.