When he left home at the age of 13, a boy I’ll call Jonah found shelter with a couple willing to help him – or so it seemed. The couple gave Jonah housing and food, but there was one condition: he was required to have sex with them and their friends.
Edie Rhea was in fourth grade when she was first molested by her mother’s boyfriend. One thing led to another, and Edie was ultimately trafficked by him as a way to support his business. By the time she was 17, Edie had been sold to approximately 150 men and women. It wasn’t until she left home that Edie first experienced freedom.
Nicolás (name changed) was just 13 when he was first sold for sex. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. The trafficker – his mother – continued to sell Nicolás and eventually his friends for profit.
These stories are horrible and hard to hear, but people of faith must listen. Why? Because we hold the keys that can offer freedom to the men, women and children hurt and trapped in sexual slavery in America. In the coming months, the faith community must renew its commitment to ending human trafficking.
Around this time last winter, a wave of protests and confessions swept the faith community, as #ChurchToo and #SilenceIsNotSpiritual started bubbling up on Twitter. Across different communities, networks and denominations, Christians began sharing stories of sexual abuse from pastors, ministers and youth leaders. While not all the results of the movement were fruitful, it nevertheless began a long overdue conversation about what faith leaders could do to protect their congregations.
These conversations are of vital importance. Every community of faith, without exception, should continue to develop systems of accountability and transparency to prevent abuse. But we must continue to build on this good work in the coming year, looking beyond our doors and outside our walls to the individuals in our community where sexual abuse and trafficking occurs. There are more human beings enslaved now than there were when slavery was legal in Western nations. It impacts individuals of all races, genders, classes and nationalities, and it happens in every region and area – cities, suburbs and rural communities alike.
However, while it’s certainly true that no demographic is immune to trafficking, it’s also true that one group is especially vulnerable to being sold into sex slavery: low-income individuals, and low-income children in particular. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, homeless youth – among the most impoverished populations in America – are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. As Jonah’s story makes clear, financial desperation often drives the trafficked to suffer what no human being should have to bear: the sale of their bodies, and the resulting psychological, spiritual and emotional trauma.
While the sheer magnitude of the problem is a recent phenomenon, the interlocking realities of poverty and slavery are nothing new. All we need to do is look to the words of the prophet Isaiah, who describes the Lord’s anointed thus:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,the oil of joy instead of mourning,and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:1-3a, NIV)
It’s a powerful image – and one that we as people of faith must claim as our own mission. By combating human trafficking, we live out our calling as Christ’s co-heirs and coworkers in redeeming the world, proclaiming good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted and proclaiming freedom for captives and prisoners.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Kevin Malone