This weekend Ike and I attended three (count em, THREE) different churches! It was crazy! We’re trying to check out as many churches as possible so that we can choose one and settle down quickly. It was pretty insane, but it was also really good. Every church we visited was really terrific! We met a lot of wonderful people and there’s a part of me that hates that we can’t go to all of their churches. It’ll be sad to turn some down. Gosh, it’s kind of like we’re on “The Bachelor” for churches!
One particular church that stood out to me was a campus of Willow Creek called North Shore. The worship was great and the sermon was incredible, but that’s not what I’ll remember most. As a part of their time for announcements, they had a Q&A time with a staff person from Shared Hope International who talked about fighting the practice of human trafficking. As their website explains, Shared Hope “exists to rescue and restore women and children in crisis. We are leaders in a worldwide effort to prevent and eradicate sex trafficking and slavery through education and public awareness.”
I don’t know about you, but it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve been made aware of this problem. Before then, I assumed slavery was a relic of the past, an ugly artifact of our nation’s history. I didn’t think it was around anymore. And I especially didn’t think it existed here in the U.S. This morning I learned that between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are currently enslaved in the human trafficking industry. This statistic does not, by the way, account for all the children shipped into the U.S. from abroad. I also learned that 1 in 5 pornographic images are of minors. The industry is obviously alive and well in the States!
After being bowled over by these stats, I went home and did a little more research. According to the Polaris Project,
- It is estimated that there are around 27 million individuals currently enslaved by the human trafficking industry worldwide.
- Of those, 1 million children are exploited by this practice each year
- The average age for entering prostitution is 12 to 14
This last statistic is an important one. Our speaker made a point about the importance of our language in speaking about this issue. It is common to see an article that includes a description of a “12 year old prostitute” as if she somehow chose the profession. Clearly, 12 years olds do not choose prostitution–they are forced into it. So rather than hear a similar story and conclude from it, “Oh the kids are just getting wilder and wilder these days!” it’s important to see through that language–the child was probably kidnapped or sold off. Child prostitutes are victims, and our advocacy for them begins with using the appropriate language.
Human trafficking is an insidious sin. It’s hard to understand the mind of a man who would go to such dark and dirty lengths for sex, but it’s very much present in our culture. How, then, are we to respond?
Unfortunately there aren’t that many volunteer options for men. Given the sensitive nature of the situation, men can’t do a whole lot in the way of working with these women. However, they can advocate and raise money for the cause. And more importantly, they can challenge other men to stand up and fight this practice. The demographic that is fueling this industry is men, so the ultimate solution should begin with men.
For women, it’s a little bit easier to find a way to get involved. I found one website, HumanTrafficking.org that lists various service opportunities and organizations, such as volunteering at a home for rescued girls. I’m looking into volunteering at one here in the Chicago area.
Slavery is literally happening in our backyards. It is right under our noses. We drive the same routes as human traffickers when we go to the beach or drive to another state. With such an evil industry flourishing so close by, it’s hard to sit still and do nothing. I pray God will raise up more and more Christians to fight this war and rescue the innocent victims from it.