The pastor and congregation of Liberal First United Methodist Church sensed an escalating problem in their southwestern Kansas community – a growth in human trafficking, whether in the sex industry or undocumented immigrants seeking employment.
“We know we’re in an area where trafficking could be a problem,” said the Rev. Keith Anglemyer, the church’s pastor. “We thought it was time to really make an effort to do something, especially to raise awareness.”
The church will host “Hidden in Plain Sight: Human Trafficking Symposium” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at Liberal High School. Registration is free, beginning at 8:15 a.m. A one-hour lunch break will be taken.
The seminar is open to the public. Schools, hospitals, churches and other groups have been invited to attend.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Hidden in Plain Sight” human trafficking symposium
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12
WHERE: Liberal High School, 1611 W. 2nd St., Liberal
Anglemyer says U.S. Highway 54, which runs through Liberal, is the busiest two-lane highway in the country, and the recent addition of a truck stop has heightened concern about sex trafficking. Southwestern Kansas also has a large number of undocumented immigrants working in the meatpacking industry, he added, making the labor issue a concern.
“We felt something more ought to be done. We want to keep it from happening, or ever getting started,” Anglemyer said. “We also want to set the leadership for The United Methodist Church and the Great Plains Conference.”
Anglemyer praised the letter last year from Great Plains Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. about the trafficking issue, and said the symposium is the logical next step.
Speakers for “Hidden in Plain Sight” will be Karen Countryman-Roswurm, founding and executive director of the Center for Combatting Human Trafficking and associate professor of social work at Wichita State University; Risa Rehmert, director of program development at the center; Jennifer Montgomery, from the Kansas Attorney General’s Office; and Kimberly Becker from the Central Kansas Dream Center, a ministry and women and children’s transitional shelter. Another speaker will be someone who has experience in human trafficking, Anglemyer added.
Kansas, Anglemyer said, is considered an “originating state,” partially because of its central location, that lures young people into trafficking.
“Victims are being pulled from Kansas. That’s frightening to us,” he said. “We’re concerned that this problem doesn’t seem to be going away at all.
“We really want to raise awareness and become an educated society out here,” Anglemyer added.
The Rev. Don Hasty, Dodge City and Hays district superintendent, praised Anglemyer and the church for spotting the problem and deciding to do something about it.
“Keith identified, with the people of his congregation, that there was an issue in the area,” Hasty said. “They decided this was how they could plug into their community.
“It’s become a passion of Keith’s and a passion of the congregation,” he added.