human trafficking

WATCH: Elizabeth Smart on Human Trafficking, Limits of Abstinence Education

 Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

Elizabeth Smart talks about her new campaign against child exploitation on GMA. Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City and held in captivity for nine months in 2002 at age 14, spoke out about her experience at a human trafficking panel at Johns Hopkins University last week. Her main focus: educating children and giving them the skills to fight back.

She recounted her own experience in abstinence education. 

I remember in school one time, I had a teacher who was talking about, well about abstinence. And she said, 'Imagine that you're a stick of gum, and when you engage in sex, that's like getting chewed. And then if you do that lots of times, you're going to become an old piece of gum, and who's going to want you after that?'

… for me, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I'm that chewed up piece of gum. Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.' 

And that's how [easy] it is to feel like you no longer have worth; you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth scraping up? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life no longer has value. 

Watch the full speech here. 

21 Million People Live in Bondage Worldwide, Says Report

Photo courtesy ChameleonsEye/shutterstock.com

Another person falls victim to forced labor every 30 seconds. Photo courtesy ChameleonsEye/shutterstock.com

Human trafficking is one of the top-grossing industries in the world, and claims another victim nearly every 30 seconds. President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a group of religious and non-profit leaders including Leith Anderson, Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, and Lynne Hybels, spent nine months mapping the scope and scale of modern-day slavery, considering possible responses, and formulating recommendations for the Administration.

“The extraordinary reach of this crime is shocking,” they write. “Our country’s leadership is urgently needed to fight this heinous crime.”

New & Noteworthy

Refuse to Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery by Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim / Thank You, Sisters: Stories of Women Religious and How They Enrich Our Lives edited by John Feister / Shadows then Light by Steve Pavey / Liberty to the Captives: Our Call to Minister in a Captive World by Raymond Rivera

Photo: Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Julie Polter is Senior Associate Editor at Sojourners.

Catholic Bishops Oppose Violence Against Women Act Over Sexual Orientation Provisions

Photo courtesy Religion News Service/shutterstock.

Five key Catholic bishops are opposing the newly authorized Violence Against Women Act for fear it will subvert traditional views of marriage and gender, and compromise the religious freedom of groups that aid victims of human trafficking.

The act, which was signed into law by President Obama on Thursday, is intended to protect women from domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, and allows the federal government to spend money to treat victims and prosecute offenders.

That language disturbs several bishops who head key committees within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that deal with, among other issues, marriage, the laity, youth and religious liberty.But for the first time since the original act became law in 1994, it spells out that no person may be excluded from the law’s protections because of  “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” — specifically covering lesbian, transgender and bisexual women.

Sorry, But God Isn't a Ravens Fan

Photo: joyfuldesigns / Shutterstock.com

Photo: joyfuldesigns / Shutterstock.com

One of my favorite views of Charm City right now is entering into the downtown area from the 395 off-ramp. Our city is painted with Ravens spirit — purple lights dancing on skyscrapers, "Go Ravens!" posters taped to city windows, and my favorite: the billboard that simply said "WOW" after the Ravens' win Sunday over the Patriots. In fact, as I sit down to write this at the Towson Public Library, a woman just pointed out that the bookshelf next to me contains an entire collection of books with purple covers, complete with a border of purple stars cut out of construction paper.

Purple has become a unifying topic, bringing complete strangers together in conversation. All week at work, I've asked patients, "Did you see the game?" or I'd see someone wearing a purple scarf and fist bump in the air an amiable, "Go Ravens!" I think this is one of the beautiful things about sports: its ability to bring people together irrespective of socioeconomic status, race or political beliefs.

But I can't help but notice something else about all this celebration — something that disturbs me.

What Would Dr. King's Fight Be Today?

Photo: Anti-trafficking concept,  mypokcik / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Anti-trafficking concept, mypokcik / Shutterstock.com

As our nation celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther, King Jr., I can’t help but wonder what injustices Dr. King would fight against today. 

Would he rail against the “New Jim Crow” of mass incarceration, which disproportionately targets African-American men? Perhaps he would continue to speak out against the “most segregated hour of Christian America” — 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. After watching Les Miserables, I’d like to believe that Dr. King would focus on abolishing modern-day slavery.

Known as ‘Humankind’s Most Savage Cruelty,’ human trafficking is a global phenomenon driven by the profitability of sexual exploitation. From China to Washington, D.C., millions of men, women, and children are forced into sexual slavery each year.  

Likewise, in Les Mis, we meet Fantine who unjustly loses her factory job and then, out of desperation, turns to prostitution to support her child. While she chooses to sell her body, the realities of poverty do not leave her with other options to earn a living. Not much of a choice, I’d say.

The Gospel: The Cure For Human Trafficking

RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images

Indian children shout slogans during a protest in New Delhi. RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Disease: Modern Day Slavery

Human trafficking is a worldwide enterprise in the 21st century. In the United States, USAID has reported that between 12 and 27 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide. 

Even in our American society, men and women are being sold and traded for labor or sexual purposes every day. According to the Freedom Center, three out of every four victims are female and nearly half of modern-day slaves are children. It is hard to imagine that this problem could go unnoticed for very long. The good news is that on Sept. 25, the president took notice of the disease that affects 17,500 American people each day. 

President Barack Obama stated that slavery, “is barbaric and is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.” 

Religious Groups Join Forces Against Sex Trafficking

RNS photo by Amanda Greene/Wilmington FAVS

MaLisa Johnson, the founder of the Centre of Redemption. RNS photo by Amanda Greene/Wilmington FAVS

The difference between sex trafficking and freelance prostitution is who has the control and who is keeping the money, said prosecutor Lindsey Roberson, an assistant district attorney in New Hanover County. If a girl or a woman is being forced or coerced by a pimp to perform sex acts without monetary gain, that’s trafficking.

The North Carolina Coalition to Combat Human Trafficking ranks the state among the top 10 states for the problem. North Carolina’s three major highways connect much of the East Coast, and the state has a large transient military and farmworker population, and international seaports in the Cape Fear region.

In May, Roberson helped start a deferred prosecution pilot program for first-time offenders with prostitution charges, partnering with a local rape crisis center.

As a Christian, Roberson is also on the board of a new faith-based effort called the Centre of Redemption, which is scheduled to open in December to help pregnant teens and teen moms who are also trafficking victims.

Obama Speaks Out Against Modern Slavery

President Obama speaking to the Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday:

I want to discuss an issue that relates to each of these challenges. It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity.  It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.

Now, I do not use that word, "slavery" lightly.  It evokes obviously one of the most painful chapters in our nation’s history. But around the world, there’s no denying the awful reality. When a man, desperate for work, finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field, working, toiling, for little or no pay, and beaten if he tries to escape — that is slavery. When a woman is locked in a sweatshop, or trapped in a home as a domestic servant, alone and abused and incapable of leaving — that’s slavery.

When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery.  When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family — girls my daughters’ age — runs away from home, or is lured by the false promises of a better life, and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists — that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.

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