Human Rights

Sylvia Yu 02-01-2012

Chinese churches face off against human trafficking -- and start to see social justice as part of their mission.

Elizabeth Palmberg 02-01-2012

Caught in the crossfire of army, guerrilla, and paramilitary forces, women, farmers, and Indigenous leaders in Colombia fight bravely for the right to live.

In 1961, going "back South" to form an interracial community meant facing a bitter -- and bittersweet -- history.

Marie Dennis 02-01-2012

With U.S. troops now in Africa to escalate the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army, clergy in the region express concern.

Stewart Burns 02-01-2012

What will it take to shut down "Satan's marketplace," the global slave trade? Every weapon in the arsenal of nonviolence.

Abayea Pelt 02-01-2012

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.

Stewart Burns 02-01-2012

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.

Elizabeth Palmberg 01-30-2012

Editor's Note: In a recent New York Times op-ed, Nicholas Kristof slammed Village Voice Media’s for refusing to shut down its adult services section, which has repeatedly been linked to the sex trafficking of young girls. Check out a sneak preview of Associate Editor Zab Palmberg’s forthcoming piece in the March issue of Sojourners Magazine about the faith community’s response to Backpage: 

The Internet makes it easier to sell your old bicycle — but, as a growing interfaith coalition of clergy is emphasizing, it shouldn’t make it easier to sell children for sex.

Two years ago, under pressure from anti-trafficking activists and 17 state attorneys general, Craigslist shut down its “adult services” section. Now, researchers say, the leading online purveyor of “adult” classified ads — which, as numerous criminal cases have shown, include ads pimps use to traffic children they have entrapped — is, owned by Village Voice Media.


In his column for the New York Times, Nicolas Kristof tells the story of a 13-year-old girl in Brooklyn he calls “Baby Face." She had been sent into an apartment building by a pimp to meet a customer.

But, after being sold for sex five to nine times a day and beaten with a belt when she failed to bring in enough money, she told prosecutors later she was in too much pain to be raped by a john again.

Instead, she pounded on a stranger’s door and begged to use a phone. She called her mother and then 911.

Kristof writes:

The episode also shines a spotlight on how the girl was marketed — in ads on, a major national Web site where people place ads to sell all kinds of things, including sex. It is a godsend to pimps, allowing customers to order a girl online as if she were a pizza.

Jack Palmer 01-25-2012
Tahrir Square, November 2011. Image via Wiki Commons.

Tahrir Square, November 2011. Image via Wiki Commons

Today is one year to the day since protestors massed in Cairo's now-legendary Tahrir Square. Inspired by events in nearby Tunisia, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians called on their leader, Hosni Mubarak, to step aside and allow democratic reform to take place. The country, the city, the square, were (and remain) icons for what has become known as the Arab Spring.

The protests that began a year ago brought down a government that for too long had failed to care for its citizens in a manner that was good, decent and just. But in the time since, Egypt has walked a difficult path. How are Egyptians marking this poignant anniversary, how do they feel about the changes that have occurred, and what are their hopes for the years to come?

Here’s a round-up of some of the best insights into these questions from around the world:

Jack Palmer 01-19-2012
"Freedom." Photo illustration via Wylio

"Freedom." Photo illustration via Wylio

Just how free are we?

Freedom is a word often used by politicians, economists and others in positions of power/authority as a byword for happiness. The more freedom we have, the happier we are. Whether this is actually the case, freedom is something that oftentimes may not be particularly tangible.

Freedom House attempts to help us understand what freedom actually looks like in its annual publication, Freedom In The World, with the 2012 edition published today. And their focus? The Arab Uprisings and the impact they have had, and continue to have, on the world.

From the top-line data that Freedom House has collected, the news isn’t good. Despite seeing “the most significant challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism” during the past year, only 12 countries actually recorded an overall improvement in their freedoms, in comparison to 26 countries that saw their freedoms lessened.

Lisa Williams Beautiful Layers

Lisa Williams "Beautiful Layers." Image via Living Water for Girls

An estimated 27 million people are held in slavery today, and human trafficking is expected to pass drug trafficking as the largest criminal industry in the world. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 slaves (Salvation Army), many of them children. So we sang “All creatures of our God and king lift up your voice and with us sing, Oh Praise him”, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come” (“Come Thou Fount”) and “How great is our God.”

Gyspy church. Image courtesy of Jeff Winkowski.

Gyspy church. Image courtesy of Jeff Winkowski.

When I was a kid my summer job was to sell Kool-Aid to people at my mom’s rummage sales, which she and her girlfriends held several times each summer. 

I remember overhearing one of mom’s customers complaining, saying something about being able to “Jew down” at our neighbor’s yard sale. I wasn’t sure why but I knew at age six that this kind of talk was very wrong and it was very offensive. Yet I would have thought nothing about hearing someone say that they got “gypped” at a rummage sale, car dealership, or a candy store. In fact it was not for another twelve years before I learned that Gypsies were a race of people with over 1,000,000 people in the US, and 10,000,000 in Europe, making them Europe’s largest ethnic minority.

the Web Editors 01-11-2012
Human Trafficking Awareness Day

It's National Human Trafficking Awareness Day! Photo courtesy of the Not for Sale Campaign

Today people across the nation (and the blogosphere) are taking part in National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which encourages participants to get educated and get active in the fight to end the suffering of the estimated 27 million persons living in slavery today.

In his speech declaring January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, President Obama intimated a serious commitment to the fight to end modern slavery. This year, Obama and Congress have the opportunity to make historic, bipartisan progress toward this worthy goal.

And it’s not just government that’s getting involved. Just last week, over 42,000 young Christians banded together at Passion 2012 to raise more than $3.1 million dollars to fund organizations fighting to bring prevention, freedom and restoration to those trapped in slavery.

Sojourners has long been committed to the fight to end this abhorrent evil, and the current issue of Sojourners Magazine seeks to engage the topic head-on. 

Inside, we invite you to explore our coverage and involvement in the fight against human trafficking over the past year!

Matthew Santoro 01-09-2012
Image from Passion 2012.Photo by: Kenny Hamilton, 11Alive News, with permission.

Image from Passion 2012.Photo by: Kenny Hamilton, 11Alive News, used with permission.

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? – Isaiah 58:6 (NRSV)

A pervasive criticism of modern Christians, both from outsiders as well as concerned Christians, is that people of faith are not taking seriously Jesus’ call for us to serve “the least of these.”

Thankfully, we may be turning a corner.

Last week in Atlanta, more than 42,000 Christians packed the Georgia Dome  for four days to participate in Passion 2012. Spearheaded by Passion Conferences founder Louie Giglio, Passion 2012 is another in an ongoing series of conferences intended to engage the “university moment” with Jeusus’ compelling message.

What made Passion 2012 so compelling for so many wasn’t the impressive list of popular Christian speakers, including Francis Chan, John Piper, and Beth Moore. It wasn’t the popular worship music of Chris Tomlin, the David Crowder Band, Charlie Hall, and Kristian Stanfill. Nor was it the presence of 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne.

It was the call to action — the invitation to make Jesus’ message of social justice a reality in this world.

Rep. John Lewis 01-01-2012

All of us owe Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth a heavy debt of gratitude for his willingness to give all he had to help build a more just society.

Lynne Hybels 01-01-2012

I'm grateful to the men who use their power, money, and influence on behalf of women.

Chris Hoke 12-22-2011
The Holy Family by Margret Hofheinz-Döring via

The Holy Family by Margret Hofheinz-Döring via

I noticed this Christmas season, for the first time, that not only were Mary and Joseph forced to migrate under Rome’s census; not only was the Incarnate God born into a humiliating space — but, as they fled to Egypt, they never registered in Bethlehem with the census. A dream, an angel, told the migrant father to gather his family and run from the authorities. Unaccounted for in the empire, baby Jesus’ first movement in this world was a government-evading trek through the desert by night.

I think about this as, right now, my friend Estuardo is probably crouching in the dark somewhere in the desert along the Mexican border. At the same time my wife and I hang electric Christmas lights on our tree, get out our nativity sets, and read familiar illustrated books about the stars in the sky above the shepherds. Estuardo has told me, from previous voyages across the border by night, how clear the stars are when hiding from the border patrol lights.

the Web Editors 12-14-2011

The Washington Post reports:

Nearly one in five U.S. women has been raped at some time in her life, according to new federal data released Wednesday.

In addition, one in four women has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, according the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which was conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This landmark report paints a clear picture of the devastating impact that these violent acts have on the lives of millions of Americans,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement accompanying the release of the results.

Gary M. Burge 12-12-2011

Ridiculous. Ignorant. Racist. Dangerous. 

These are just a few of the terms that flew out of the Middle East this weekend following Newt Gingrich’s unwelcome remarks about Israel and the Palestinians on Friday.

As the Republican front-runner, Gingrich was speaking to the cable TV Jewish Channel and hoping to curry favor with its conservative pro-Israel constituency. 

What did he do? He described the Palestinians as an “invented people” and lumped every Palestinian under the terrorist umbrella. There is no difference between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, he said.

On Saturday night during the ABC Republican debate, Gingrich doubled-down: “They [the Palestinians] are all terrorists.”

A few of the other candidates looked, well, alarmed.