Take action in January to stop human trafficking

1/3/2018

The brutal institution of slavery did not end with the American Civil War. In fact, slavery – known today as human trafficking – is a burgeoning industry that requires not just education to stop it, but action from people of faith in Jesus, the Christ, who sets the whole person free toward an abundant life.
 
Indeed, human trafficking is a worldwide epidemic that has claimed more than 21 million victims, many of them young girls sold into the sexual slavery industry (http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html). And it can be deadly. Some sources say deaths due to human trafficking rank second only to illegal drug use.
 
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In the United States, when most people think about human trafficking, they think of far-away places such as India, Nigeria, Guatemala and other countries. But human trafficking is happening even in our own back yards. The United Nations (UN) defines human trafficking as, “the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them.” A common way to traffic someone is by deception when there is a relationship between the victim and the trafficker. Often, victims know their perpetrators, making this a crime of relationship and manipulation.

"Human traffic is a hidden crime," Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. said. "It is the second largest criminal industry in the world, after drug trafficking. Trafficking is fueled by desperate social circumstances that compel vulnerable peoples to search for a better life, the devaluation of women and children, the demand for cheap labor, and the lure of great profits for the traffickers.  People who are trafficked have difficulty coming forward with information because they fear arrest and deportation."
 
Our General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) calls on all United Methodists to “denounce and condemn any form of slavery, including human trafficking for any purposes.” We should instead proclaim faith in God, who sends Jesus to set all humanity free and who comes to give abundant life. Human trafficking robs our children of abundant life that scriptures talk about. GBCS notes, “Human trafficking denies the sacred worth of God’s children and destroys the fabric of our communities. Victims endure psychological trauma, physical injury, economic hardship and stigmatization that can create lifelong scars and barriers for full participation in one’s community” (http://main.umc-gbcs.org/issues/human-trafficking).
 

Why does this concern us?

As a Great Plains Conference – through our United Methodist Women (UMW), the Cabinet and our churches – we have promoted awareness through the umbrella campaign in collaboration with the national UMW. We support the work of organizations that assist victims by restoring them and accompanying them in their journey to wholeness – organizations such as Methodist Health System in Nebraska, which helps victims by treating them escape and recover from abusive situations, and ICTSOS in Kansas, an organization that serves as a liaison for local professional groups that work with victims. And many of you may remember the 2016 campaign using photos of individuals and groups with umbrellas on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to draw attention to the serious concerns regarding human trafficking.
 
There is more we can do. We can talk more about this issue in our churches and with our family members, and we can advocate for the enforcement of the existing laws and even the development of stricter laws in our respective states, nation and our world. Last year, legislatures in Kansas and Nebraska both enhanced penalties for people convicted of human trafficking.

"United Methodists care about the plight of trafficked persons because we affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God.," Bishop Saenz said. "Our congregations are encouraged to engage in initiatives that help defend and protect victims of human trafficking, in their struggle for human fulfillment."
 
Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has popularized the African concept of Ubuntu, which means at the core of our beings is the reality that we are all humans and that there is no way to prove one’s own humanity without acknowledging the humanity of others. Ubuntu starts from the stance that the fibers of our being – what makes us humans – is connected one person to another. This implies that we are all victims of sexual and forced labor trafficking through our Ubuntu with the girls and boys, women and men who are trapped in trafficking. We ought to be part of their journey of returning home to Ubuntu and rediscovering their own humanity.
 
The anti-trafficking campaign should be everyone’s concern, not just UMW, or our sisters. We should all work hard to end human trafficking near and far and bring God’s reign of freedom, restoration and wholeness to those affected by any kind of trafficking.
 
Please talk about this issue in worship, Sunday school classes and in small-group settings in the month of January.
 
To learn more about what you and your church can do, visit:
https://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/ht/issue-handouts
https://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/ht/factsheet
 
Report suspicious activities you think may be human trafficking and find more rsources:
https://humantraffickinghotline.org/state/nebraska
https://humantraffickinghotline.org/state/kansas

The Rev. Kalaba Chali is the conference coordinator for mercy and justice ministries. Contact him at kchali@greatplainsumc.org.


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