Friday, January 30, 2015

The Super Bowl and Human Trafficking

This past couple of weeks, people have sent me emails expressing concerns about the escalation of modern-day slavery during the Super Bowl. They've sent links to articles saying the Super Bowl is the largest trafficking event in the U.S. and links to other articles saying that this whole idea is an urban legend

I don't know what the right answer is about the Super Bowl. It makes sense to me that at an event as large as America's greatest football game--with thousands of people coming from out of town--traffickers might exploit the occasion. It also makes sense that if there is a huge escalation and law enforcement is aware of it, that we might see a corresponding escalation in the rate of arrests. Or perhaps the crime is too hidden and the demands on law enforcement too great to make much difference.
 Regardless I do know an important reality--that we live in a culture where many factors contribute to modern-day sex slavery, and we're all part of it, like it or not. Our behavior makes a difference. Ads like Carl's Jr au naturale cater to the hypersexualization of our society. (And, no I'm not going to link to it; suffice it to say that the ad was raunchy enough to be pulled from the Super Bowl line up by the Parents Television Council who deemed it "too hot" for television). When we buy their hamburgers, we support their advertising. Pornographic novels and movies like "Fifty Shades of Grey" are even worse because we make them bestsellers and box office hits. Many in our society have become so desensitized that we cater to our prurient interests despite a complete disregard for how these forms of entertainment degrade women and make young girls prone to becoming sex objects--ripe for traffickers to groom them into modern-day sex slaves. Only by boycotting such books and films and getting others to do the same will those who make them, stop.

There's no doubt in my mind that it's going to take a culture shift to change things. Groups like C.A.R.E. 18 have begun collaborating on how to eradicate sex trafficking and they are calling on people to step it up and get involved. As co-sponsors of the Global Human Trafficking Forum Saturday February 7th, C.A.R.E. employs a collaborative approach drawing together people from many different spheres of society to work together to eradicate trafficking. Maybe the more people become aware and get involved, the more ads like Carl's Jr's will become unacceptable and movies like "Fifty Shades of Grey" will be completely unthinkable. When people take these matters seriously and start boycotting those who pander to the degradation of women--maybe then things will change and modern-day slavery will become less lucrative for the thugs who promote it.

Until then, one of the most effective things we can do is pray to the God who can change peoples hearts and minds. Prayer Surge Now offers an opportunity to do that tomorrow morning especially focusing on the potential trafficking at the Super Bowl. Even if one girl is rescued as a result, wouldn't it be worth getting up early and spending a little time silently agreeing with the prayer leaders that human trafficking must be stopped?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Life Matters

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"
Martin Luther King

For some of us this holiday (Martin Luther King Day) is a lazy day. We can sleep in, spend time catching up at home or visiting with friends. For others it's work as usual. 

For me, it's a work day and yet my work this past couple of weeks has been related to someone who has spent his life doing for others. He's a Korean pastor who takes care of "the least of these." While writing an article about his story, I was given the great privilege of attending a special screening of the film, The Dropbox. It's a documentary to be released nationwide on March 3-5 only. And, it's about the value of every life.

Not many of us could do what Pastor Lee Jong-rak in Seoul, South Korea does. He cares for "the least of these," disabled, disfigured babies abandoned by their mothers. But all of us can spend time doing something. 

January is not only National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, it also is the month designated to celebrate the sanctity of human life. In 1984, Ronald Reagan proclaimed the 3rd Sunday in January as National Sanctity of Life Sunday and some churches still honor that. As Christians we should all be aware of it and ask ourselves what do we do to promote the sanctity of human life. 

Pastor Lee's work demonstrates the value of each life in such ways that young girls at risk can see they are not throw-away kids, even if they might feel that way. If someone cares, if someone values broken lives, someone somewhere might value them. 

So Martin Luther King's question is for us all. What are we doing for others? People who can do nothing in return for us. Isn't that what Jesus did and aren't we supposed to reflect Him to a hurting world? Maybe today is the day to think about it and put together an action plan.

If you haven't ever attended a human trafficking-awareness event, you might find out what's happening in your area this month. For those in the Inland Empire, Traffick Free Pomona is showing "In Plain Sight" this Friday, January 23. Please join us for ideas about how you can make a difference in the lives of others.

Note: My article about Pastor Lee will appear in the spring issue of Life:Beautiful magazine available at Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, What You Should Know

Did you know that modern-day slavery may have increased as much as 30 percent in the past 7 years? With no reliable measuring stick, due to the dark nature of human trafficking, the statistic cited by most abolitionists for several years was that 27 million people were currently enslaved around the globe. Yet recently some nonprofits have revised that figure. According to Slavery No More the estimate has skyrocketed in the past 7 years to as many as 35 million. (Some abolitionists now use 30 million; others are more conservative. Regardless of the exact number--a horrendous problem appears to be escalating.) And, how can it not?

Did you know that to abolish human slavery necessitates doing far more than rescuing victims of commercial sexual exploitation or labor trafficking? Conditions are ripe for traffickers to blindside male and female victims who need jobs to work their way out of poverty. Young girls desperate for family relationships are also at high risk. Instant gratification, poverty, orphans/foster care, a hypersexualized culture, the lack of self-respect and human dignity predicated on the lack of value for life itself--all create a societal climate conducive to multiplying the demand. No matter how many are rescued until the underlying problems are effectively addressed, abolitionist efforts may be a bit like putting a band-aid on a spreading cancer. While each individual set free is of inestimable worth, the underlying causes for this disease must be eliminated before it can be cured.

Did you know that every sphere of society can make a tremendous difference in abolishing slavery. Government officials that prosecute those who perpetrate abuse on victims make it more difficult. Producers, directors, and actors refusing to hypersexualize onscreen roles make a difference. Educators teaching the importance of self-respect and the traps traffickers use to ensnare victims protect those at risk. Medical professionals, hotel and restaurant owners, business execs, and domestic service agents can all make a difference if they are willing to learn about the problems.

Did you know trafficking thrives in our communities; that So California is a global hub for human trafficking? Trafficking from Mexico up the I15 corridor to Ontario's truck stop and out to Las Vegas as well as through the ports of Los Angeles and LAX, place many trafficking victims and perpetrators among us. And if you live in Kentucky or Ohio or Nebraska; they live among you as well. A girl from a seemingly "safe" state, showed up on my best friend's porch--trafficked to So CA by someone she met on the Internet. No place in the U.S. is immune.

Did you know that some young women are recruited from electronic music festivals or even from wealthy neighborhoods? It may be our own daughters/sisters/nieces or sons/brothers/nephews involved. Yes, boys are trafficked as well as girls and that, too, may be on the rise.

Did you know that traffickers have value despite the criminal enterprise they are engaged in? On January 1, 1773, John Newton preached a New Year's message from 1 Chronicles 17:16-17 in his church at Olney, England. . . . He told his church to look back at God's goodness, look around at God's promises, and look forward to future usefulness." Afterward he introduced a poem he'd written that became one of the most beloved hymns ever, "Amazing Grace." Newton was once a human trafficker--until his life was transformed by Jesus Christ. If all of today's traffickers became Christians, who love and obey the Lord, modern-day slavery would cease. So it makes sense that one of the greatest solutions for eliminating human trafficking is evangelism--valuing those who do not know how to value themselves and helping them grow in a personal relationship with their Savior.

Did you know it's important to "look back at God's goodness" to you, and recognize how precious your freedom is, then look around at God's promises and look forward to future usefulness" in the prevention of modern-day slavery? To abolish modern-day slavery, there are as many needs and opportunities as there are individuals willing to get involved. And it's not difficult.

Following is a short-list of events for January/February that are a great way to start doing your part. (Please feel free to add others in the comments.) All you need to do is choose one (or more) and participate. You can even get involved with the first and second ones from the comfort of your own home, however attending an event and meeting others who care about ending modern-day slavery can increase your awareness and motivation. By standing shoulder-to-shoulder, we can start reducing the number of lives devastated by this travesty. Perhaps someone you love will be one of the potential victims saved.

Saturday 1/10, 4th Annual National Prayer Summit Intercessory-Abolition Movement for the Ending of Human Trafficking.  6-8 a.m. PST. Numerous speakers will inform participants about what's happening and guide them in prayer during this conference call. All you need to do is dial the phone number and input the access code at the link above--then mute your phone and pray silently with the abolitionist leaders.

Saturday 1/10  Pray for Freedom 3-5 p.m. PST. Only God has the answers and power necessary to eliminate modern-day slavery--to do beyond what we can think or imagine. Coming together as the Body of Christ to pray with believers across the nation for God's supernatural guidance, wisdom, intervention, provision, and power is why the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAAST) partnered with the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University to host this live prayer event. If you can't attend in person, you can check for a simulcast in your area.

Sunday 1/11 LA Freedom Walk  1:30-3:30 PST. Raise awareness and learn how to identify victims and who to call in a crisis. Meet others engaged in this battle.

Saturday 1/23 Screening of In Plain Sight, 7:00 p.m. PST. This documentary on trafficking in the U.S. features what's happening in six different cities in the U.S. A local survivor of sex trafficking will also be speaking. Put on by Traffick Free Pomona, the evening will offer hope and inspiration and ways to get involved. Purpose Church, Claremont, CA

Saturday 2/7 The 2015 Global Human Trafficking Conference in Beverly Hills presents the opportunity to learn from expert abolitionists about what's being done to fight modern-day slavery and how you can help. ("The South Asian Girl Next Door" offers a glimpse of the 2012 conference and the type of input expected from the 2015 event.)

Participating in an event this month is the right thing to do, however if you aren't so inclined, another way you could help fight human trafficking is to donate to a group battling this travesty. You might check out nonprofits like CADE, PLUR Life Ministries and Traffick Free Pomona . Each of these groups rely on donors to support their work. Or if you aren't in Southern California, start searching for nonprofits to assist abolitionist efforts in your own area. The responsibility of our own freedom makes this the least we can do.