Justice for Women Working Group
By the Rev. Ann
The National Council of Churches’ Justice for Women Working Group is calling on people of faith to become more aware of the scourge of human trafficking, and engage in collaborative actions that will end this exploitation.
January 11, 2008 was observed as Human Trafficking Awareness Day by a concurrent resolution of the U.S. Congress.
But the concern continues daily as people worldwide are coerced into bonded labor, bought and sold in prostitution, exploited in domestic servitude, enslaved in agricultural work and in factories, and captured to serve as child soldiers.
While estimates of the numbers vary widely, the U. S. Government recently reported that 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year; 80 percent of them are female and almost half are minors.
These figures do not include the millions who are trafficked into labor and sexual slavery within national borders. The International Labor Organization (ILO) – the United Nations agency charged with addressing labor standards, employment and social protection issues – estimates there are 12.3 million people in forced labor, bonded labor, forced child labor, and sexual servitude at any give time; other estimates range from 4 million to 27 million. (United States Department of State, “Trafficking in Person Report”, June 20007, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/82902.pdf)
These numbers are overwhelming, almost too large to comprehend. Yet each of these numbers is a person – a child of God. Each of these numbers has a story to tell – a story we need to hear.
14-year-old Jenny left her native Nigeria for the United States to work in the home of a couple, also originally from an African country. She thought she would be paid to look after their children, but the reality was very different. For five years Jenny was repeatedly raped by her employer and his wife physically assaulted her, sometimes with a cane, and on one occasion with a high-heeled shoe. Tipped off by a local NGO [non-governmental organization], law enforcement officials rescued Jenny and prosecuted the perpetrator. US State Department “Trafficking in Persons Report”, June 2007)
As Christians, we believe that “all human beings are made in the image of God, that every person is of intrinsic worth before God and that every individual has a right to the fullest possible opportunities for the development of life abundant and eternal (NCC Human Rights Policy Statement, 1995).
Human trafficking denigrates the values of human life, exposes victim to serious health risks, endangers the mental well-being of victims and impedes the ability of victims to reach their full God-give potential.
At the beginning of Jesus public ministry in his home town synagogue, he read the powerful words of Isaiah that proclaim release from oppression (Luke 4:16-18). But Jesus did more than talk; he followed up the message by ministering to all with unconditional love and mercy.
As our awareness of this modern day captivity of Human Trafficking is heightened, we are also called to move into action. Actions to end this injustice will be most effective when done in collaboration with each other across faith communities and in relations with governmental and international organizations. The fact that our partnership and collaboration is valued by our government is heard in these comments of Mark P. Lagon, Director for the US Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person:
The church and people of faith as a whole have historically served as powerful agents of change. The faith-based community moves beyond advocacy and policy--critical components--and on to protective care, support and ultimately healing. We have seen faith communities fill a desperate need when it comes to victim identification. They are often the first line of defense, encountering victims long before traditional law enforcement or even social service providers. (http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/rm/07/94468.htm)
Many of the NCC member communions are already doing outstanding work in the area of awareness and programming to end Human Trafficking.
An extensive but not exhaustive list of links and resources is available at the conclusion of this article. Pastor Ann Tiemeyer, NCC Program Director for Women’s Ministry comments that “In February when the members of the Justice for Women Working Group meet in New York City, we will recognize the work already accomplished throughout our communions and begin to strategize about how we can work together to effectively fight this crime against humanity and sin against God. We will seek to find new ways to assist each other in moving beyond a Day of National Awareness to a witness of collaborative action.”
Links to other resources on Human Trafficking:
The Episcopal Church
information and ideas for action:
For a hared copy folder of general resources on Human Trafficking (including DVD entitled “Look Beneath the Surface: Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking in the USA”) prepared for the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the USA by the Committee of the Status of Women – e-mail request to email@example.com.
Church Women United
Excellent Education and Action Resource with in-depth background information and additional resource links http://www.churchwomen.org/human-trafficking/overview.asp
American Baptist Women’s Ministries
Breaking the Chains – Slavery in the 21st Century Campaign. Includes background information, information about the American Baptist Campaign, Bible Studies, stories of current projects and links to additional resources. http://www.abwmbreakthechains.org
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
of articles and links regarding Commercial Sexual Exploitation
A Day Full of Light: Ending Commercial Sexual Exploitation http://www.womenoftheelca.org/resources/dayfulloflight.html
This eight page introductory resource from Women of the ELCA includes background material, action steps, worship resources, and additional resource list. Materials can be used to plan a Day Full of Light Sunday to be observed any time of the year.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
The following is a list of newsletters, articles, and resolutions for action from the Presbyterian Church documenting the commitment to actively seek change that will end “Human Trafficking”. The winter ’07 issue of Thread of Justice is a valuable resource addressing the topic in a variety of ways.
A four session study guide from Thoughtful Christian (online publishing of adult ed curricula) on sex trafficking. This study explores the scope of the problem and provides definitions of various aspects that contribute and have led to the spread of sex trafficking. Session 1 is an overview of the issue and contains important distinctions and definitions of the various aspects involved. Sessions 2 through 4 discuss ways individuals and groups can respond. In addition to the Participant Handouts and Leader’s Guides, an interdenominational resource sheet is provided, which has been put together with the help of various mainline denominations that provide their members with resources on the issue. Guide is authored by Martha Bettis-Gee. http://www.thethoughtfulchristian.com/Main/ProductDetails.asp?txtProductID=5054
Other articles and documents:
United Methodist Women – Women’s Division
Recharging Social Action Batteries by Courtney Jones is a powerful personal account about how awareness and education regarding Human Trafficking can lead to action.
Church World Service
Church World Service – articles that focus on Children, protection of children and work against human trafficking:
"In the Dominican Republic, Caminante Walks with Children Who Tread a Difficult Path," February 13, 2007 at: http://www.churchworldservice.org/Educ_Advo/partners/2007/pichardo.html
"Washington summit puts focus on children's rights," May 23, 2006 at: http://www.churchworldservice.org/Educ_Advo/news/2006/childsrights.html
Immigration and Refugee links on
Resources on Trafficking:
Faith Trust Institute
Winter 2008 “Working Together” Newsletter
ECPAT-USA – End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking
The mission of ECPAT-USA is to protect all children from commercial sexual exploitation. They aim to do this through education, advocacy and the passage and enforcement of strong laws. ECPAT-USA is a children’s rights organization. ECPAT-USA is part of the ECPAT global network of organizations and individuals working together for the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. We seek to end the sexual exploitation of children trafficked to the USA, American children trafficked within the USA, and children exploited by Americans abroad. Several member churches on NCC have worked with ECPAT on their campaign against child sex tourism.
DVD by Maryknoll – Lives for Sale
Lives for Sale is a documentary on immigration and human trafficking produced by Maryknoll and Lightfoot Films in association with Faith & Values Media. The DVD also comes with a study guide.