Everyday Heroes

•March 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The average age of children forced into the sex industry in the United States is 12.

What do you feel when you read that statement:  pain?  fear?  outrage?  numbness?  It’s not what we feel that counts, but what we do!

Truckers Against Trafficking is taking the lead in helping ordinary people become heroes.  Noting that truckers are the “eyes and ears of America’s highways”, Truckers Against Trafficking is providing them with concrete ways to respond to the paralyzing, disheartening things they see.

Men and women are becoming agents of transformation in an environment of exploitation!  Watch this video and learn how they are turning emotion into action…and how those actions are rescuing American teens trapped in sex slavery.

Of all the things we could do…

•March 7, 2011 • 2 Comments

There are so many ways to prevent and combat human trafficking!  The good news is that this multi-faceted problem presents us with many opportunities to respond in redemptive ways.  The bad news is that we seldom seize them.  Of all the things we could do, the thing we do most often is NOTHING.

I’m convicted this morning.  I’ve just read – and watched – a news piece on human trafficking from CNN (Sex slavery a family business).  It’s brutal, gripping, and horrible.  I’m sure you’ve come across stories like this.  Extreme brutality; women and girls tricked, trapped, raped and killed.  It make come to us in a slick format, but it is not an invention of the media…it is the reality for millions of people in our world today.

How can we stand by?  With so many things we could do, how can we do…nothing?

In a superb article in Cardus, Laura Bramon Good addresses this issue with clarity and compassion:  for the women, men, and children who fall victim to this evil, and for the believers who are meant to be the hands, face, and voice of Christ in the world.

“New abolitionists always tell me they want to do something real. They want to get their hands dirty—but, I often find, not too dirty.

It is a peculiar disappointment to watch their faces deflate when I suggest that what would really help human trafficking survivors are loving foster parents, faithful friends, and honest employers who offer good wages and health insurance. Unfortunately, nobody gets paid very well for any of that work. Nobody gets famous for it, either.”

But there is hope, Good indicates, for all of us.

As we “…confront the issues of integrity and addiction that plague our private hearts…we begin to understand the intuitive, even personal link between pornography and sex trafficking, or the thin line between rage and exploitation, or how thoughtlessly patronizing everyday machines of consumerism and cheap food keeps labour trafficking alive.

If we see ourselves more clearly, we are able to see human trafficking survivors more clearly, too, and to accept them not as victims or foreigners or trophy, token friends, but as human beings who long to meet Christ in the integrity of lives lived with joy, and in the interplay of forgiveness.”

There are so many things that we can do.  Today, let’s DO SOMETHING.

Choice and ‘sex work’

•March 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“If you had to choose between eating rotten, maggoty food and starving to death, would you call that food a meal?

If you had to choose between sleeping under a plastic sheet on a rainy night and sleeping exposed to the rain, would you call that sheet a home?

If you had to choose between marrying your rapist and being stoned to death (as in some traditional Muslim cultures), would you call that rapist a husband?

Can we honestly call any of these acts–eating rotten food, sleeping under a sheet, marrying your attacker–“choices” in the sense that this word is commonly understood?

Kristyn Komarnicki, editor of PRISM magazine, has written an extraordinary opinion letter (responding to columnists Amy Ernst and Nicholas Kristof) on the issue of sex work.  As she unpacks the life circumstances surround this “choice”, Kristyn challenges our understanding of the issue – and the language we use to describe this horror.

“Work implies a level of dignity and choice that is completely absent from these women’s lives,” she writes.  “The people who have choices are the johns and the traffickers, and the choices they make every day are deadly to the world’s most vulnerable people.”

I’ve reprinted the letter below.  Please take a moment to read this; to be challenged; and to pray!

“…In your article you write about “sex work,” saying “I’ve realized it’s not a job, it’s a desperate last resort.”

I’m an editor, and words are my meat and potatoes. You and Kristof are writers, so you will understand what I mean when I say how important, and how powerful, words are. They either point to the truth, or they obscure and mislead. With this in mind, I really struggle with calling these women ‘sex workers.’ Work implies a level of dignity and choice that is completely absent from these women’s lives.

If you had to choose between eating rotten, maggoty food and starving to death, would you call that food a meal?

If you had to choose between sleeping under a plastic sheet on a rainy night and sleeping exposed to the rain, would you call that sheet a home?

If you had to choose between marrying your rapist and being stoned to death (as in some traditional Muslim cultures), would you call that rapist a husband?

Can we honestly call any of these acts–eating rotten food, sleeping under a sheet, marrying your attacker–“choices” in the sense that this word is commonly understood?

I take issue with calling prostitution “work.” I take issue with lots of things I read in the newspapers, as in the all-too-common headlines announcing an arrest for “having sex with a child” (that’s actually called “rape,” and for good reason). But when people like you and Kristof, who clearly CARE about these women, use the wrong words, it really makes me mad.

In his video “The Madonna and the Whore“, Kristof uses the word “whore” to describe a woman he only seconds before says was lured by a promise of legitimate work before being trapped and held against her will in a brothel–that’s called kidnapping and sexual trafficking.

Calling victims derogatory names or calling the pitiable situations they are forced into “work” is wrong and does a disservice to us all, because it puts a legitimate sheen on criminal oppression and sends the unconscious message that these Congolese women–or any of the world’s downtrodden, prostituted women, children, and men–have choices. The people who have choices are the johns and the traffickers, and the choices they make every day are deadly to the world’s most vulnerable people. PLEASE align your words with what your heart already clearly believes.

Thank you,

Kristyn Komarnicki

editor,

PRISM magazine


The wrong side…

•February 4, 2011 • 2 Comments

I’m guessing that many of you have seen video footage of the recent sting operation on Planned Parenthood in New Jersey.  The office manager is filmed giving advice to a “pimp”  on how to obtain services for the underage, foreign girls he brings in for the sex trade.  The overwhelming response I’m hearing says that they are on the wrong side of the law.

Well, I’m going to move over to what you might consider the wrong side of the issue.

I don’t support the sting action. I don’t support Planned Parenthood either…but I do understand the desire of the clinic to provide health services and support to girls in a terrible situation who might otherwise go unserved.   These girls can be difficult to reach, and the last thing I want to see is groups refusing to help them because they are afraid of getting ‘stung’.

On this side of the Atlantic, Christians are being set up in this type of sting to expose their views on things like helping homosexuals who wish to leave the lifestyle…views which are then resulting in legal action against them.

Do the ends really justify the means?  You may answer “yes!”  I … really don’t know.

The REAL heroes of Super Bowl XLV

•January 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Devin Wyman and Jay Ratliff may not be playing in this year’s Super Bowl.  But as far as I’m concerned, they are heroes.

At a time when Super Bowl greats like Lawrence Taylor make the news for purchasing sex from minors, Wyman, a retired New England Patriots Super Bowl player, and Ratliff, a Dallas Cowboy and 3-time Pro Bowler, will be participating in a Tail Gate rally in Texas to create awareness of the issue of human trafficking, and to “show the world that…we have zero tolerance for the buying and selling of American children!”

I don’t know much about American football.  To be honest, I didn’t even know who was playing in the Super Bowl until I googled it (Packers vs. Steelers).   But I can tell you something YOU might not know about the Super Bowl.  It’s an opportunity that traffickers use to sell young girls for sex.

There’s a campaign to ask the organizing committee to do something about that….and Change.org and Traffick911, a Christian organization based in Texas, are heading up the drive!   Click here to read and sign the letter.

Check out Traffick911’s website for more resources, and click here to access their Super Bowl prayer calendar focusing on victims of trafficking.  Their faith-based awareness tool-kit, also on the site, provides some exceptional ways for churches to engage anytime.  Check them out here!

I want to be one of them…

•January 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Today we celebrate the inspiring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his long fight for justice.

If you ever feel defeated in your OWN efforts to ‘do justice and love mercy’, take a moment to be encouraged by the example of King and others who have gone before us – and listen to this great song by Sara Groves, “And When the Saints”.

“…and when i’m weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

i think of paul and silas in the prison yard
i hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
i see the shepherd moses in the pharaoh’s court
i hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord

and when the Saints go marching in
i want to be one of them”

Unite to Wear White – Human Trafficking Prevention Month

•January 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Happy “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month”!  Well, to all of my American friends, anyway.  It’s not catchy, but it IS a important initiative!

So – what is this new ‘holiday’, and how can we celebrate?   President Obama shares a few words:

Our Nation was founded on the enduring principles of equality and freedom for all.  As Americans, it is our solemn responsibility to honor and uphold this legacy.  Yet, around the world and even within the United States, victims of modern slavery are deprived of the most basic right of freedom.  During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we rededicate ourselves to preventing and ending human trafficking, and we recognize all who continue to fight this serious human rights violation.  (Read the rest of the Presidential proclamation here.)

Now THAT’S something to celebrate!  Let’s make it a ‘holy day’ in the best sense.

End Slavery Tennessee, together with other NGOs in the region, has a timely idea for raising awareness and encouraging commitment.  (And I’m sure you can think of many more…like buying slave-free goods, sponsoring organizations working among vulnerable populations, etc.)  Read what they and others across the USA will do on Tuesday:

“Across the nation, more and more people recognize that human trafficking is a huge domestic problem that needs to be addressed. To help raise awareness on 1-11-11, National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, eight Tennessee NGOs have pledged to wear white, to show a united front and be a light in the darkness for all those trapped in sex and labor trafficking.

…Concerned citizens, churches and organizations from 25 states…have pledged to wear white on Tuesday, January 11.”

The group has asked people to send and post photos of themselves wearing white on Tuesday.  Click here to learn more about their initiative, where to send YOUR photos, and how to get more involved!  (Additionally….if you send ME your pic, I’ll post it here and/or on my Facebook page.)

What could you do to celebrate in a month dedicated to ending human trafficking?  Think about it.  Share it.  Do it!