A Baptist Report Card on Human Trafficking
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is Jan. 11, a time to draw attention to the third leading worldwide criminal industry. It reportedly generates billions in profit annually and creates millions of victims.
Trafficking is serious enough that President Obama designated by presidential proclamation a special awareness day started in 2010.
The Department of Homeland Security knows the scope of crime and destruction is widespread enough to require a unified governmental focus on trafficking through its Blue Campaign and promotion of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Be aware, however, that human trafficking is not only a law enforcement concern.
Nor is it a partisan issue.
The Democratic Party's 2016 platform called for ending "the scourge of human trafficking and modern slavery." It had a paragraph under the heading "Trafficking and Modern Slavery." The primary focus was on prosecution of modern-day slavers.
The Republican Party's 2015 platform referred to trafficking in a section on securing the nation's borders. In another section, it said, "We urge energetic prosecution of child pornography, which is closely linked to human trafficking."
Toward the end of the platform, the Republican Party had a section titled "Liberty to Captives: Combatting Human Trafficking." It discussed rescuing victims, the exploitation of foreign workers and prosecution of traffickers.
Human trafficking is also a church issue.
So, how are Baptists doing on the modern-day slavery front? If we had a report card, what would it show?
Grading one's own house of faith is neither objective nor easy.
Here's what we can say:
EthicsDaily.com has frequently addressed human trafficking. Managing editor Zach Dawes identified human trafficking in November as one of the three issues where there is "significant bipartisan consensus and collaboration."
The Baptist World Alliance presented its Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award for 2014 to Baptist pastor Ilie Coada for his tireless work against human trafficking in Moldova.
North American Baptist Women's Union has a webpage of resources on human trafficking. Elizabeth Goatley contributed a four-page resource: "A Church's Response to Human Trafficking: Strategies to Help Churches Respond to Modern Day Slavery." She called churches to awareness, advocacy and action. Goatley's piece was produced for the Lott Carey Global Christian Missional Community.
The European Baptist Federation (EBF) Anti-Trafficking Network has been in operation for 11 years. EBF has substantive study guides on the topic in English, French and Italian.
The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution in 2013 labeling trafficking as "criminal activity." The resolution called on Southern Baptists "to support agencies and ministries which help rescue and rehabilitate trafficking victims" and "to support public policies at the local, state, national and international level which combat human trafficking."
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has field personnel (missionaries) in Macedonia engaged with a European nongovernmental organization working on trafficking. It offered a workshop at its 2016 general assembly under the heading "Human Trafficking 101 Fast Track: From Knowledge to Action."
The Baptist Missionary Society, located in the United Kingdom, has long addressed the issue, as has American Baptist Churches-USA.
In 2008, ABC-USA passed a resolution against slavery. In 2013, American Baptist Churches of New Jersey adopted a statement on trafficking, calling for more education in churches and endorsing the Blue Campaign. In October 2016, ABC-USA gave a grant to support female survivors of trafficking.
Some churches have a visible engagement of the issue, such as First Baptist Savannah, Long Hollow Baptist in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Pilgrim Baptist in Newark, Delaware, and First Baptist in Colony, Texas.
Let there be no doubt that Baptist organizations have issued statements and some Baptists have engaged the issue.
EthicsDaily.com wants to encourage greater engagement of the issue. Over the next week, we will post a series of columns on what Baptist individuals, organizations and churches are doing.
We hope these stories and efforts will be inspiring and connectional. We hope our readers will post these articles on their Facebook pages, tweet links to them and reprint them in church newsletters.
Perhaps it's too early to issue a report card.
Perhaps one is due after National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Jan. 11.
That's a Wednesday, the day many churches offer church suppers and midweek Bible studies. That's a platform, an opportunity, to call attention to modern human slavery and to challenge churches to engage the issue.
Will we see an upswing of engagement?
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook. Order his new book, "The Disturbances." It is available as either a paperback or an e-book.
Editor's note: This article is the first in a series on how local churches and nonprofit organizations are working (and can work) to address human trafficking.