Addressing human trafficking ... requires local congregations to increase their awareness level and to find ways to engage the issue, Parham observes.
January is "National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month" by presidential proclamation.
Human trafficking "is a crime that amounts to modern-day slavery," said President Obama in his Dec. 31 proclamation.
Two years ago, the Department of Homeland Security launched the "Blue Campaign," which seeks to unite the U.S. government's efforts to raise public awareness, to assist victims and to help law enforcement.
Almost a year ago, some 60 goodwill Baptists met at the White House for a three-hour dialogue session, and a number of them tweeted during the meeting about human trafficking.
I tweeted that Obama was going to launch a human trafficking initiative and "wants partnership [with] faith folk."
Ricky Creech, executive director/minister of the D.C. Baptist Convention, tweeted that the Obama administration hoped to work with the Baptist World Alliance on human trafficking.
"We started with human trafficking," wrote Amy Jacks Dean, co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, about the visit. "Did you know that in the first 48 hours roughly one-third of all runaways are trafficked?"
She added, "In the next few weeks, there will be a big push from the White House on this issue to raise awareness. They see this push starting at the local level, and they see the faith-based community as important partners in this effort. I wasn't even aware."
Baptists at the White House had good energy about the human trafficking initiative and high expectations that the White House would engage us in a meaningful partnership on what is an urgent issue that transcends ideological divisions - at least within the faith community. The follow-up never happened, save for occasional e-mails about the "Blue Campaign."
Nonetheless, one should be grateful that our government has a focus on human trafficking.
Human trafficking is one of the issues where the faith community can make a meaningful difference. The truth is, many within the Christian community are already addressing human trafficking.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has an online curriculum series. United Methodist Women have a PDF fact sheet and a PDF resource on preventing, protecting and prosecuting. The General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church has a resource page. American Baptist Churches' International Ministries and Mennonite Church USA focus on human trafficking. Resources are also available at Catholic Relief Services.
EthicsDaily.com has posted articles as well. See here, here, here, here and here for examples.
World Relief notes that "as the world's second largest and fastest growing criminal industry, human trafficking has led to the enslavement of nearly 27 million people around the world. To meet the demand in the United States, a person is trafficked over U.S. borders every 10 minutes."
Every 10 minutes. Wow. That's hard to comprehend.
Addressing human trafficking demands a lot of different actors - faith-based groups, local law enforcement, educators and national governments. It also requires local congregations to increase their awareness level and to find ways to engage the issue.
If you want to know more about human trafficking in your state, follow this link to a caller-hotline map.
This is one of the resources offered by the Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization "in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery."
The site will help you learn about current state laws and state organizations addressing the issue and inform you about how many calls were made from your state to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and from what city those calls originated.
For example, from July 2012 through September 2012, 47 calls were made from Tennessee. Chattanooga and Memphis were the leading caller-location cities.
The Polaris Project offers many other helpful resources as well, such as:
● A list of myths and misconceptions about human trafficking
● An online form for reporting human trafficking
● A list of signs that someone is being trafficked
"Sex trafficking occurs when people are forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade against their will. Child sex trafficking includes any child involved in commercial sex. Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry," reads the Polaris Project website. "Sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade, often at much larger rates than most people realize or understand."
January is almost half-over. But ending human trafficking is anything but over. Let's prioritize human trafficking - all year long.
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.