Slavery might sound like an issue from past history. But the issues we grappled with in Ephesians yesterday are still important to address one day for another reason: There are more slaves right now (40-70 million) than have ever existed in the past.
This statistic might sound shocking to most people. But consider the following real-life scenarios:
- Forced Labor: A young child in India is placed into a shady adoption agency. The staff then sell him to a sweatshop owner who forces him to make clothing without pay.
- Sex Trafficking: A woman from Guatemala travels to Los Angeles under the pretense that she will receive a housekeeping job at a hotel. Upon arrival, she is captured and forced into prostitution.
- Child Sex Trafficking: A runaway teenage girl hitchhikes across the country to New York City. A pimp seduces her and forces her to hand over all profits in a child prostitution ring.
- Debt Bondage: A young man from Ethiopia travels to the United States with a valid visa and travel documents. A friendly stranger offers him a job as a waiter in a restaurant, but steals all his travel papers. The stranger then threatens to turn the young man over to authorities and track down his family, unless he agrees to work for a low wage.
As you might guess, these issues don’t just happen in foreign countries or big metropolitan cities. They also plague states like Arkansas, too. Every couple of weeks, you might read or see news about human trafficking. From police discovering that traffickers use social media apps, to former judges in neighboring states pleading guilty to running sex trafficking rings, this is an extremely troubling and common problem.
So what can we do about this problem as Christians?
Jesus is clear in the gospels that he came to proclaim release to the captives. God’s kingdom is all about liberating people. And as disciples, we have the opportunity to make a difference in how we live.
There are countless “what to do” articles online, from Christian-based ones, to even the US Department of State. In addition to praying for the problems of our world, here are a few highlights of things you can do about the problem of human trafficking:
- Educate yourself– Many people are ignorant of how widespread this problem is. Consider doing some personal research about your own “slavery footprint.”
- Be on the lookout– If you notice anything suspicious while at a restaurant, salon, or hotel, then report it to authorities. The national hotline for human trafficking is 1-888-373-7888. Many police departments have also started task forces in order to address human trafficking.
- Stop using pornography– The porn industry is one of the major drivers of sex trafficking. Many of the individuals involved might be coerced into this trade. I’ve preached and written before about this issue. The majority of explicit content on the internet involves abuse. There are also strong links between the porn industry and human trafficking.
- Be aware of what you buy– The problem of human trafficking is only exacerbated by our consumerism and materialism. We want cheap goods and services, and don’t always pay attention to what may happen behind the scenes. We ought to work to ensure everything we consume is done so in an ethical way, from the hamburgers we eat to handbags we buy. Make sure employees and staff you encounter aren’t being abused or mistreated.
- Get involved in local missions– Human trafficking sounds like such a massive problem. It is easy to feel helpless or even apathetic. But one concrete step you can take to fight against this evil is to get involved in various ministries that help people. Homeless shelters help people stay off the street (where they would otherwise be more vulnerable to sex and labor traffickers). Educational programs teach children and youth that they have dignity and worth. Food banks and pantries provide basic nutritional needs and hope, which can mean the world to someone who is considering running away from home. The list goes on and on.