This Month's Cover

Sojourners Magazine: February 2012

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It’s almost impossible to read historian Stewart Burns’ compelling article on the global slave trade in this issue without being moved—if not to action, then at least to tears. Burns, as well as authors Sylvia Yu and Abayea Pelt, describes the unmitigated evil of modern trafficking, telling the stories of young children and adults—mostly female—who are cruelly exploited, often over many years, for the pleasure or profit of others.

But in some ways it’s the sheer magnitude of the evil that makes it so hard to confront. That’s true in numerical terms: Millions of people around the world suffer as sex or labor slaves or child soldiers. But perhaps even more daunting are the spiritual and psychological obstacles—the understandable temptation to avoid the pain of facing this kind of inhumanity by denying the horrible realities or by turning our attention elsewhere.

In the midst of this stand the inspiring stories of people—from China and Cambodia to the streets of Washington, D.C.—who refuse to acquiesce to this injustice, and who are taking concrete steps to make a difference in real people’s lives. They’re engaged in everything from direct rescue efforts to public policy work to “preventative education” for girls who might be susceptible to the lies that lure innocent people into lives of horror.

The stories in this issue represent numerous ways to confront trafficking. These various efforts—and many others—are absolutely needed because, as Burns explains, defeating this demon will take every nonviolent tool available and every contribution possible. As Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, put it, “So often we think we have got to make a difference and be a big dog. Let us just try to be little fleas biting. Enough fleas biting strategically can make a big dog very uncomfortable."


In 1961, going "back South" to form an interracial community meant facing a bitter -- and bittersweet -- history.
Chinese churches face off against human trafficking -- and start to see social justice as part of their mission.
Caught in the crossfire of army, guerrilla, and paramilitary forces, women, farmers, and Indigenous leaders in Colombia fight bravely for the right to live.
What will it take to shut down "Satan's marketplace," the global slave trade? Every weapon in the arsenal of nonviolence.
Human trafficking happens around the world -- and right down the street. A Washington, D.C. organization works to save girls from dangers close to home.


Nonviolent resistance will be key to freedom and independence in Palestine.
With U.S. troops now in Africa to escalate the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army, clergy in the region express concern.
Is it possible to live without violence and without weapons?
A Quaker community in North Carolina reaches out to its Muslim neighbors.


The apostle writes his letter to folks who are feeling anxious, worried, insecure, and unsettled. They don’t know what the future holds for their lives, the church, their well-being, their community. Sound familiar?
There are many things they seemed to hold in common, not least an instinctive nonviolence, contrasting so sharply with the police, who so often let the logic of force drive their actions (they found out, as often in history, that the logic that works with criminals doesn’t really apply to idealists).
My new approach this year is not to promise better behavior or new experiences, but to simply look back at the mistakes of last year and avoid repeating them.
When, as is true today, the richest 10 percent own 85 percent of the world’s wealth and the poorest 50 percent live off the crumbs of 1 percent of the total global wealth, you’ve created a market where slavery will thrive.
Evangelicals run the political gamut from conservative and moderate to progressive and decidedly liberal. To suggest that most evangelicals reside on the far right is simply not true.

Culture Watch

No Sympathy for the Devil: Christian Pop Music and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism, by David W. Stowe.
Hugo, Take Shelter, and The Mill and the Cross have little in common on the surface other than their quality; look deeper and you may find love-filled, theologically profound, hopeful invitations to live better.
In a country where parents lit their wounded daughters on fire, women lit themselves on fire to escape. I couldn’t shake the image of a young girl stepping into flames with a despair so profound that she would rather scorch her own flesh than face her own future.
Widow, Queen, Lover, Warrior; Faith in the Struggle; The Message; ‘Do Not Cast Me Away.’
Liberating Biblcal Study: Scholarship, Art, and Action in Honor of the Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice, edited by Laura Dykstra and Ched Myers.
Why sometimes life can seem like one big road trip.
Thirty-four years later, nearly two decades into the Internet age, the September 2011 break-up of the rock band R.E.M. reminded me just how right Bangs was. R.E.M. was one of the last traditional rock bands still doing relevant work.


Certainly it is questionable for our government to be keeping contract soldiers in Iraq behind our backs (“A Stunning Victory,” by Phyllis Bennis, December 2011). But I nevertheless find Bennis’ arguments disturbing.
Soong-Chan Rah’s article on “Salt, Light, and Social Change” in the November 2011 issue was of special interest. I take no fault with it, save this: It is a mistake to use “evangelicalism” as an all-encompassing word.
Reflections on the Common Lectionary
Jim Wallis packed a lot of ideas into “An Open Letter to Occupy Wall Street” (December 2011). I’m hoping he will expand on his final statement that we need to think in terms of a new spirituality. To me, that means basic changes in our everyday lives.
While he was in jail, two policemen / came to his apartment, took / all his books, sat at his kitchen table / drinking his coffee, and cut out / the forbidden words: kitchen / was first to go;

Web Extra

In “’Humankind’s Most Savage Cruelty,’” I describe how it will take every weapon in the arsenal of nonviolence to end the global slave trade. Here are some resources for getting started on this most vital mission.