Monday, January 11, 2010

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Like many of you, I have known that human trafficking & slavery still exists in various forms around the world, but I have recently been on a journey to dig deeper in understanding this tragic reality and I want to share some of my findings with everybody.

These injustices do not simply "still exist"... they are thriving. To put things into perspective...

"More slaves are in bondage today than were bartered in four centuries of the transatlantic slave trade."

-Not For Sale by Batstone(6)

I'll start with a basic definition for Human Trafficking -
the dislocation of someone by deception or coercion for exploitation, through forced prostitution, forced labor, or other forms of slavery. (source: Steve Chalke - Stop the Traffik)

It is estimated that the total number of individuals enduring this nightmare is in the realm of 27 million. 27 million human beings like you and me. 27 million collections of abilities and aspirations. 27 million hearts.

We talked a bit at our gathering yesterday about "compassion fatigue" as Jamie termed it, and this is yet another example of an issue that can easily overwhelm us to the point of numbness and inaction. But I have a growing hope and cause to believe that this doesn't have to be the case. More on that in a moment...

Here are a few more of the key statistics to build a fuller picture of what's happening around us:

- Over 150 countries in the world today serve as a source, transportation route, and/or destination for human trafficking, with the least developed nations being the most gravely impacted. (US State Dept)

- Of the 27 million individuals held captive today, 80% are female and 50% are children (US State Dept)

- Approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked yearly. That amounts to one child every 30 seconds... (UNICEF)

- Worldwide, traffickers generate a revenue stream for themselves upwards of $10 billion, while the trafficking trade in all its forms generates more than $32 billion when also accounting for the activities and goods produced by the victims. [These figures are only rivaled by drug trafficking and the illegal arms trade for the largest global crime] (International Labour Office)

- Here in the United States, approximately 17,500 individuals are trafficked into our country every year for forced labor and sexual slavery. (US State Dept)

So what can we do?

Like I mentioned yesterday with regard to these issues of injustice that need to be addressed, I think a "both/and" approach will ultimately be the most transformative, i.e, foster the ongoing creation of the kingdom of God. By this, I mean that those of us who are able to give financially towards local & global efforts that directly affect the problem should do so [check out a few recommendations of organizations below], AND there's also a component of individual action beyond financial donations that we are each called to explore.

This first natural step in individual action is to heighten our awareness of the issues [some reading and viewing recommendations are below]. But this awareness must necessarily lead to a tangible output. Or in the word's of Stop the Traffik and Oasis founder, Steve Chalke, "Expressions of outrage and sympathy without action are useless. Becoming aware, informing ourselves, is only the first step" (Stop the Traffik, 103).

The next step is to identify if/where we are unknowingly entangled in the massive web of human/trafficking. Again, Steve Chalke:

"We need to find out whether what we buy has a history, and whether that history is exploiting vulnerable people" (107).

Some of the more blatant industries where trafficked labor is widely used are the chocolate, coffee, cotton (clothing), and tea trades, among many others. As we've heard numerous times, we truly have the ability to "vote" with our dollars. Each of our purchases, whether intentionally or not, reinforce certain systems at play in the world's supply chains. Again, it can be overwhelming as a born-and-raised American consumer to sift through our hundreds of purchases & possessions, but I agree with this view:

"A traffick-free lifestyle is worth working at. Make one choice at a time. And it won't be just your life that is changed" (Chalke, 109).

I'm currently checking out the Free2Work website and exploring ways to become a more conscious and deliberate consumer. Another cool resource is

As we think about what else we can do as individuals and as a cohort, this challenge strikes a chord in me:

"Take Advantage of Your Access to Power for the Sake of the Powerless" (Batstone, 281).

Facing up to this challenge can take so many forms: political advocacy, commercial boycotting, volunteering with organizations that reach out to victims, raising awareness among the masses, and on and on. I'd love to brainstorm more ideas collectively sometime.

Anyhow, I wanted to at least get this information out here for our community to wrestle with and to highlight this day of awareness. Let's see where we can go with our action...


- The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking & Slavery by Kevin Bales & Ron Soodalter


- Frontline: Sex Slaves [additional resources HERE]
- Trade [also currently available for instant viewing for Netflix subscribers]


... among many others...

*Photo Credit: 2009 Trafficking In Persons Report (US State Dept)

No comments: