Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Human Trafficking: The Silver Lining

Can you imagine trying to eat tacos without a mouth? Or do the hula without hips? Or sing opera without a throat? Sometimes that's how the Body of Christ tries to function because so many of us are too busy looking for feel-good experiences to get involved with the fight against evil. So the few who care enough about this battle to do something are left without crucial skill sets.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired . . . and the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,'  . . . on the contrary, it is much truer that the members of  the body which seem to be weaker are necessary (1 Cor. 12:17-22).
Every believer in every sphere of society is necessary to fight an evil as pervasive as human trafficking. Whatever skill set a person is equipped with (administrative, technological, artistic, mechanical, educational, hospitable etc.) can be employed for abolitionist efforts. And that doesn't necessary mean taking on additional responsibilities.

An Escalating Problem
Trafficking is on the increase throughout the world. The U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO) released a report in May 2014 stating that slavery and forced labor business generates $150 billion in profits a year, and $99 billion of that comes from sexual exploitation. That number is staggering.

At this rate, many of us are likely to either know or at least see someone ensnared in this travesty. What if your daughter was tricked into being a sex slave by a new boyfriend? Or went to a party with a new girlfriend and was gang raped, then sold as a commodity? What if your son responded to a job advertisement posted on a telephone pole, then disappeared enslaved to work 12-to-16 hours a day, seven days a week for little or no pay? Not one person should have to experience such trauma, yet many parents, youth pastors/pastors, and educators turn a blind eye to these problems and don't even know how to educate those most at risk.

Still, several events this past two months fuel my hope that the Body of Christ is rising up in Southern California to address the issues involved. In February, Slavery No More co-hosted a global forum that included a faith-based breakout session facilitated by the leaders of C.A.R.E. 18. This 18-month collaborative followed up with a meeting at L.A.'s Dream Center.


Coming Together
The Christian business people leading C.A.R.E. 18 are engaging people from all spheres of society to fight human trafficking throughout Los Angeles County. To date they've raised almost $1 million for this effort that involves Communication, Advocacy for victims, Recovery services, and Engagement. This group includes graphic designers, videographers, law enforcement, government officials, health-care workers, faith-based groups working with survivors, nonprofits, anyone who wants to abolish human trafficking.

On April 25th at 10:00 a.m. C.A.R.E. 18 is calling upon every church in L.A. County to participate in FIAT--a faith initiative to abolish trafficking. An appropriate name, fiat means "let it be done." This meeting will equip and connect existing ministries, as well as provide mentoring and support for those looking to get involved.

Though C.A.R.E. 18 started last August, it is an outworking of the ideas promoted by the "Together LA" conference held at West Angeles Church a little over a week ago. African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Whites from different denominations came together to learn and partner with each other. This event was a little taste of heaven in terms of unity as the Body of Christ came together to work on issues such as the homelessness and poverty that contribute to human trafficking.

A few day's ago Vanguard's Global Center for Women and Justice hosted the "Ensure Justice" conference. Dr. Sandra Morgan and her team promoted collaboration and coordination to build capacity in a way that will conserve resources and expand expertise. Believers from a variety of churches, nonprofits, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, and other organizations as well as interested individuals and students were equipped in ways that will make a sustainable difference. (Future posts will include some specific details from this event and from Together LA.)

Though the events differed in their focus on the issues, one message remained constant: every believer is necessary in the battle against human trafficking. No one should be cut out of this picture. Too many children need help. Learning how to identify trafficking victims and where to report suspected activity is a good first step. Sharing in casual conversations what you learn with others is a good second step. And seeking God about how He'd use your area of expertise is a right thing to do. Suppose you are gifted at hospitality, maybe you (or your church) could host the showing of a film or bring in a speaker to raise awareness. If you know a single mom, you might offer to fix her car or help her with her yard. That kindness, without any expectation of help in return, may be all she needs to keep her from turning to survival sex under the tutelage of a trafficker who cunningly offers the same type of help and the potential to make "easy" money. Efforts like these shine a light in the darkness and turns it into a tremendous opportunity to reach out into your neighborhood and community to build relationships. Ultimately that's the way to win this battle--by being personally transformed in ways that transform our communities.





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