Archive for the ‘Human Trafficking’ Category

By: Kimberly Merida

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8

Timothy Keller writes about the issue of doing justice in his book, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just:

Micah 6:8 is a summary of how God wants us to live. To walk humbly with God is to know Him intimately and to be attentive to what He desires and loves. And what does that consist of? The text says to “do justice and love mercy,” which seem at first glance to be two different things, but they are not. The term for “mercy is the Hebrew word chesedh, God’s unconditional grace and compassion. The word for “justice” is the Hebrew term mishpat. In Micah 6:8, “mishpat puts the emphasis on the action, chesedh puts it on the attitude [or motive] behind the action.” To walk with God, then, we must do justice, out of merciful love.

Why do justice? For me, it is a matter of obedience to the very nature of who God is and how we (as image bearers) as well as the Church (as God’s redeemed people) are to reflect Him. We are to show and tell the world what God is like – His character and redeeming love –in word and deed.

Throughout my journey several texts have challenged me to do justice for the good of a broken world and the glory of his name.

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”  - Isaiah 1:17

(See also – Isaiah 58:6-12; Matthew 25:35-40 & James 1:22-27)

Why don’t we do justice?  There are typically three reasons why we neglect to combat injustice: ignorance, fear or despair.

 

IGNORANCE

The above picture is one that haunts me. It is from a trip I took a few years ago toSouth East Asiato survey a village which is known for its vulnerability to sex trafficking. The 2010 U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report states that this particular area “remains a hub for child prostitution, despite attempts by authorities to close it down…the sale of virgin girls continues to be a serious problem, with foreign (mostly from Asia) and national men paying up to $4,000 to have sex with virgins… a significant number of men travel there to engage in child sex tourism…” Tragically, many times the parents themselves are directly involved.

Following that trip, not only did I become more aware of the global problem of modern day slavery, my eyes were opened to the growing problem in our own backyard.  Human trafficking occurs as forced labor and sex trafficking throughout all 50 states including North Carolina communities. Ignorance is no longer an excuse for me and I pray it will no longer be an excuse for you.

What is human trafficking?

Here are some excerpts from Polaris Project, an organization whose vision is a world without slavery.

“Human trafficking is the modern day practice of slavery. Also known as trafficking in persons, human trafficking comprises the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, based on the recruitment, harboring, and transportation of people solely for the purpose of exploitation. Every year traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits at the expense of victimizing millions of people around the world.

Victims of human trafficking are people forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation… Sex trafficking is one of the most lucrative sectors regarding the illegal trade in people, and involves any form of sexual exploitation in prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and the commercial sexual abuse of children. Under international law, any sexually exploited child is considered a trafficking victim, even if no force or coercion is present…”

MYTH #1: Human trafficking is the forced transportation of people across borders.

Reality: Forced transportation in the absence of slavery-like labor or commercial sexual exploitation is usually considered the crime of kidnapping. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery through labor or commercial sexual exploitation, and does not require transportation to occur, though transportation may be involved.

MYTH #2: Trafficking victims are only foreign nationals.

Reality: Both the U.N. Protocol and U.S. federal law use definitions of trafficking in persons that do not require crossing of international or state borders. Many trafficked persons are victims of internal or domestic trafficking – trafficking within the borders of a single country, and are themselves nationals of that country.

MYTH #3: Poverty and inequality are the causes of human trafficking.

Reality: While poverty and inequality are important factors in making certain populations more vulnerable to being trafficked, they are not the primary cause of trafficking. Trafficking is a criminal industry driven by 1) the ability to make large profits due to high demand, and 2) negligible-to-low risk of prosecution. As long as demand is unchecked and the risks for traffickers are low, trafficking will exist regardless of other contributing factors.

MYTH #4: There’s not much I can do about such a huge issue.

Reality: Together – we can make a huge difference!

(Please visit: www.PolarisProject.org for more information)

FEAR

Gary Haugen (President and CEO of the International Justice Mission) writes in his book, Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian

“In different times and in different ways, our heavenly Father offers us a simple proposition: Follow me beyond what you can control, beyond where your own strength and competencies can take you, and beyond what is affirmed or risked by the crowd – and you will experience Me and My power and My wisdom and My love.

Jesus beckons me to follow Him to that place of weakness where I risk the vulnerability of a child so that I might know how strong my Father is and how much He loves me.

But truth be told, I would rather be an adult. I’d rather be in a place where I can still pull things together if God doesn’t show up, where I risk no ultimate humiliation, where I don’t have to take the shallow breaths of desperation. 

And as a result, my experience of my heavenly Father is simply impoverished. If I want to stay safe and warm at the visitor’s center, I don’t get to be with Him on the adventure up the mountain. But He says His power is made perfect in my weakness, not in my strength. 

Does this mean I need to abandon the things I do well? Do I have to let go of my sources of strength – my gifts, my passions, my training, my expertise? No, I don’t think so. Those are good things from God. I think He simply wants us to take them on a more demanding climb, where we will actually need His help, and where He delights to grant it.”

On a personal note, this concept of “control” resonates with me. I am the proverbial first-born child with more of a Type A personality.  I know God is sovereign, but I like to at least have the illusion of being in control. Yet I have found there is something exhilarating about stepping out in faith with courage. Whether it was to spend time with women in a maximum-security prison, or to become vulnerable through original music, or to teach Bible study to survivors of domestic abuse or even to speak out on this particular issue to which I feel completely ill-qualified, God always provides His sufficient grace through my many weaknesses. And if I’m being completely honest, my fears are most often rooted in my pride. What will people think? What if I mess up? What if I make a fool out of myself?

Later in his book, Haugen writes, “deep within all of us there is a yearning to be brave… it comes from how we were made. Courage – the power to do the right thing even when it is scary and hard – resonates deeply with the original shape of our soul… the indelible imprint of our Maker…” If it weren’t for the Fall there would be no fear nor would there be any injustice! However, until the King returns we will battle these things.

What is it that keeps you from stepping out in courage? Seeking justice? Caring for orphans? Sharing Christ?

(See www.IJM.org for more information)

DESPAIR

When you hear the statistics it can be pretty overwhelming…

27 million slaves in the world today

Human trafficking is the second largest international criminal industry, second only to drug trafficking, generating $32 billion per year (www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking)

25,000 children die each day of hunger or hunger related issues

2 million children exploited by the sex trade

What can I possibly do? My flesh response: I’m just a wife and mother. I don’t have a degree in criminal justice or law or social work. My local church is a newly formed, somewhat small group of people.  Where do I begin? What can we possibly do?  My questioning and pride wants to deter me from doing anything. But, if we really believe that God is a God of justice (Isaiah 30:18) and that Scripture is the very breath of God that equips us (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and that “the fast that He chooses” is “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free… to share my bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into my house” (Isa. 58:6ff) then we MUST do something.

 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”- Romans 12:21

 “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” - Edmund Burke

 

WHAT CAN WE DO?

* Educate yourself and others.  There are several wonderful non-profit organizations and NGO’s out there with several resources:

Polaris Project (an excellent source of information), International Justice Mission (they provide a process, resources, speakers, consultation and practical ministry opportunities to help churches and students draw close to God’s passion for justice), Salvation Army (a whole department within dedicated to this issue), World Hope International, Agape International Mission, Hagar International, World Relief, and Not For Sale (has recently developed cell phone apps to assist in the purchase of free trade merchandise), and Shared Hope International to name just a few.

* Recommended readings include: Good News About Injustice and Just Courage by Gary Haugen; Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller; Not For Sale by Kevin Bales; The Hole in Our Gospel The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns (WorldVision)…

* Follow anti-trafficking ministries on Social Media (Twitter, Facebook)

* Pray – download prayer guide and become a prayer partner; start a monthly prayer group to intercede of behalf of the abused

* Give – make “doing justice” a church budget item; support IJM and/or other like-minded organizations who “stand up, speak up and show up on behalf of the oppressed”; this Christmas, participate in Advent Conspiracy and/or Give the Gift of Freedom by shopping on IJM’s holiday gift catalogue

* Advocate – be a voice for the voiceless – with our legislators in congress… there is an important piece of legislation currently on the table with congress (TVPRA – Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2011) (www.polarisproject.org/what-we-do/policy-advocacy; www.IJM.org/justice-campaigns)

* For student ministries, start a campus chapter or host a Justice Education Week at your school. Learn how to HERE.

* Attend events on the issue both locally and nationally: some examples include the Justice Conference (February 2012) and the IJM Global Prayer Gathering (April 2012: www.IJM.org/gpg)

* Host documentary screenings: “Not My Life”, “At the End of Slavery”, “The Candy Shop”, “Call and Response”, “58”…

* Sign up for NC STOP Human Trafficking e-newsletter to stay informed with education, advocacy and prevention opportunities within our state. (http://ncstophumantrafficking.wordpress.com/about/)

* Get involved locally. Pray that God would give you eyes to see injustice around you.  Call a local homeless shelter, abuse shelter, Salvation Army, Christian Women/Men Job Corps, World Relief, your local police department, etc.  Find out what their needs are and help meet them. The list is endless. Just do something!

“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets to dwell in.”

Isaiah 58:10-12

About the author: Kimberly Merida is involved in justice advocacy with the International Justice Mission.  She is the mother of four Ukrainians and one Ethiopian, and the wife of Tony Merida, lead pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, and Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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