Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Traffick Free

I sat down with two women who volunteer their time as staff at with an organization called Traffick Free. I love how the conversation started -- they explained that this organization was created when "concerned Christians" got together to try and do something about the massive and growing problem of human trafficking.  Over the next hour, I sat and listened to these two passionate (and concerned) women share all that they have learned through their journey with Traffick Free.

Traffick Free is committed to "free the supply and end the demand" of humans who are bought and sold as property. They define human trafficking as "modern-day slavery" and as a "business of exploiting vulnerable women, men, and children in conditions of sexual and labor servitude. Traffickers use fraud, deception, coercion, threats and force to transport, harbor or obtain people to perform commercial sex or labor acts against their will." Here are a few facts I learned and am still digesting even as I write...

Snapshot: The Extent of Human Trafficking in the US
  • The US is the second highest destination in the world for trafficked women (NOW-NYC, 2007); $250,000 can be made from one woman in the US (Sweeney, 2005)
  • 325,000 children are commercially sexually exploited in this country annually (Frederick, 2007).
  • Of the foreign victims trafficked into the US, approximately 50% are under the age of 18 and 80% are female (US DOJ, 2003).
Snapshot: The Extent of Human Trafficking in Illinois
  • In the metropolitan Chicago, 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls are involved in commercial sex trade annually, with one third of them first getting involved in prostitution by the age of 15 years.
  • In a 2003 article, The New York Times labeled Chicago as a national hub for human trafficking. In 2005 the FBI designated Chicago as one of thirteen locations of "High Intensity Child Prostitution" (Tanagho, 2007).
  • In Rockford, on February 7, 2005, federal authorities uncovered seven underground brothels operating under the guise of "spas", where traffickers locked Chinese and Korean women and used them as sex slaves (Tanagho, 2007).
It's a lot to take in, I know. But guess what -- as Christians, we're behind in the game. I recently read a blog by Carolyn Custis James regarding Oprah and all the hype surrounding the end of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Here is what Carolyn said:

"While I welcome Oprah's undeniably positive influence on many lives, at the same time I grieve the fact that instead of taking the lead in giving women and girls a bigger vision of who God created them to be (and, trust me, we do have such a message—even better than what Oprah has to offer), the Christian community is lagging woefully behind. And why is it that we are so often in catch-up-mode in addressing subjects that are painful realities in the lives of countless women and girls?  Shouldn't we be first?"

Shouldn't we be first? If you scream YES! along with me, keep reading. We (the women of TMC and anyone else who wants to come) are heading down the dark alleys and into the dirty world of human trafficking. We are committing to helping women and children at risk -- locally in Chicago as well as globally. Right now, we are praying about the hows, whens, and wheres. But the why has already been answered -- we know the hope and salvation found in Jesus. The message of the Gospel is too powerful, too freeing, too real to withhold from anyone...especially those in literal captivity. Scripture is filled with the mandate to be proactive and free the oppressed. Join us in prayer as we ask God how the women of TMC can be a voice, a solution, the hands and feet of Jesus. As our plan unfolds, we'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, the women from Traffick Free talked to me about plenty of needs they have and how people can get involved in this movement, right here, right now. To learn more about their volunteer opportunities and needs, check out their website. Pay special attention to the 5K they are sponsoring in September -- if you can help volunteer at this event, contact Courtney Newton.

I end with this, a passage from Psalm 72 that has been bringing me much comfort lately:
12 He will rescue the poor when they cry to him;
      he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.
 13 He feels pity for the weak and the needy,
      and he will rescue them.
 14 He will redeem them from oppression and violence,
      for their lives are precious to him.


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