With the observance of Ash Wednesday on February 18, the 40-day season of Lent began. During Lent, Christians focus on fasting, prayer and alms giving. For me, Lent is a time in which to make my life more in tune with God, and to learn about what breaks his heart so that I can make it a matter of prayer and restorative action as God leads.
During Lent we learn to bring everything in our life together. Rather than compartmentalize the spiritual, familial, career and activity portions of our lives, we learn to make life more fluid. As we do this, we find that internal conflicts - and perhaps outward as well - cease, or become less severe, and we begin to act in ways that show what we actually believe. With the Holy Spirit's help we can become more like Jesus. We become more compassionate and caring. We want to help, to make a difference.
This year I have become more aware of the issue of human trafficking through a project sponsored by Not For Sale, a campaign that seeks to end human trafficking through providing safety and stability, empowering with life skills and job training, and creating sustainable futures with dignified work. My denomination, along with more than 5,000 other churches, is involved in this emphasis. I happened to get involved through an email from Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, which I forwarded to my pastor. He responded by telling me to get the information in the bulletin and that he wanted me to do a couple of things in the service on that day.
Because of the importance and urgency of this issue, I wanted to tell my readers about this as well.
So, what is human trafficking? The Department of Health and Human Services says, "Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women."
Through my reading on the subject, I have learned that there are between 20 and 30 million slaves on the planet today. Most sources say there are 27 million and some say that is a conservative number. All say that there are more slaves in the world today than ever before. Eighty percent of these people are forced to work in the sex industry and 20 percent are forced to work as laborers.
Last year slave traders made an estimated $32 billion - more than Nike, Google and Starbucks combined*.
Human trafficking is not just an international problem. It is a problem in the U.S. as well. From the Rabbis for Human Rights North America, "Human trafficking, according to the Polaris Project, is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Worldwide, most slaves are forced to work in agriculture, mining and prostitution."
The Office of Refugee Resettlement says that they also work as domestic workers, in hotels, restaurants ("What is human trafficking?")
. Also, the production of certain goods that Americans enjoy, such as coffee, chocolate, and cars may be traceable to slave labor (Facts About Modern Slavery).
Here is an interesting video about the subject:
*25 Painfully Disturbing Facts About Human Trafficking
If you would like to help, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries is accepting donations here:
Of course groups like the Polaris Project and Not For Sale will also appreciate donations for their work in releasing people from captivity. If you know someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center has a 24/7 hotline to help people identify victims.
Isaiah 61: 1 - 3