Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month. No, please keep reading. I promise I am not going to toss a bunch of statistics at you, inflict gruesome stories on you or lay a guilt trip for not knowing something. We promised we would use this site to lift one another up in our work for justice and celebrate one another. And I know it’s hard to imagine that there is anything uplifting about the topic of human trafficking, but there is.
First of all, people are talking about it. We know what it is. Even just a few short years ago, I don’t think I heard anyone talking about this outside of professionals working on this issue or among the international aid workers I met in the field. And while many of us wish we didn’t know, we do. In the face of something so huge and overwhelming as human trafficking (also called modern-day slavery) I can feel paralyzed and helpless.
But I’m not helpless, because, here’s another great thing – there are so many wonderful people and organizations out there now working to raise awareness, like our partners through the Rescue and Restore Coalition. It’s a nationwide program that brings social service agencies, law enforcement, religious groups and everyday citizens together to see how we can stop this in our cities and across the world.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some pretty amazing people through this. Right here in the Midwest we have two organizations that reach out to support survivors of trafficking through individual and group support. The Covering House has just opened its doors to start receiving their first group of young women for community-based care. Eventually, they plan to open a shelter for young girls who have been trafficked.
The Healing Action Network trains companies, law enforcement and local agencies on recognizing and assisting victims of human trafficking as well as provides victim support. I have a couple of friends and colleagues who train local law enforcement on how to be compassionate responders when suspected victims are located or raids are planned. Thanks to these trainings young men and women aren’t seen as criminals but people who need extra support and care. Now that is something to celebrate.
There’s even an organization started by truckers. It’s called Truckers Against Trafficking. They work with fellow truckers to help monitor and become comfortable recognizing and reporting suspected trafficking. Simple hotline calls have helped hundreds of women, girls and young boys. All from a few caring individuals who just didn’t think something felt right.
I understand that knowing the stories of survivors can be very inspiring for some and disturbing to the point of being unhealthy for others. That is part of the journey of knowing ourselves. How much can we know and still be able to engage and help? What do we need to let go of and trust others to do?
You don’t have to know the gory details to help break the chain. All you have to do is first of all, pray. Join us this Thursday evening in any faith tradition that resonates with you. We are hosting an event called Breaking the Chain. Personally, I think prayer is powerful and can make a difference. Or you can check out resources in your area, to see if you can provide financial, physical or spiritual support for organizations helping survivors. You can also see if hotels you stay at on family vacations or business trips have policies that report suspected trafficking. And at nail salons or restaurants, talk to your technician, wait staff and bus staff. Ask them about their day, see what they like to do on their day off. Trust your instinct and if something about their responses makes you uncomfortable that maybe, they aren’t safe, then make an anonymous call to the National Trafficking Hotline (1-888-3737-888) – share your concerns and then they will make a confidential report to local agencies.
Maybe your peace and justice passion calls you to other issues or areas of the world community. I understand and I’m not suggesting you drop whatever you’ve been working on. If you focus on climate change maybe in January, just see if there are any connections to human trafficking. Or if you focus on prison reform, immigration, access to healthcare, access to education, food sovereignty, gangs or gun control, youth empowerment or women’s rights – just look, they are all connected.
If you are so inclined, maybe take a little time this month to see the relationship between human trafficking and a particular justice passion of yours or a particular healing ministry you may be a part of. It’s all about expanding our web, making connections and deepening our relationships with one another. And if you can’t go there, it’s just too hard then, your prayers are so greatly appreciated and all the relationships you build are foundational to creating this world we want our children and ourselves to live in.
On the path,