I am pleased to share with you this post by Wendy Lankford speaking on the issue of trafficking. Often when we hear of trafficking, we do not think of the United States, but as Wendy points out trafficking is prevalent not only abroad but also in our own country. One way Bethany Christian Services addresses this issue in the U.S. is through our foster care program for unaccompanied minors. Children entering the U.S. who have lost their parents or have been permanently separated from them and other relatives are vulnerable to trafficking, abuse, and neglect. Children like Cayla, who was sold by her father at the age of 13 to sex traffickers and brought to the United States. Read more of Cayla’s story here. For information on Bethany’s work in Haiti and Ghana to prevent the trafficking of children, visit SafeNotSold.org.
In the blockbuster movie Taken, an ex-CIA agent goes to great lengths to rescue his daughter when she is kidnapped by a human trafficking ring while traveling in Paris. Unfortunately, for most victims of human trafficking, there is no suave, black-ops-trained, action hero father to save them.
The U.S. State Department defines human trafficking as “criminal conduct involved in forced labor and sex trafficking, essentially the conduct involved in reducing or holding someone in compelled service.” According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 2,515 incidents of human trafficking were investigated between January 2008 and June 2010. Of those cases, 8 in 10 were classified as sex trafficking cases, with 1,000 incidents classified as prostitution or sexual exploitation involving a child. And lest you think this is a purely international problem, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics special report, more than 83 percent of victims were U.S. citizens.
Traffickers coerce vulnerable women and children with promises of wealth, security, and luxury, and then kidnap or manipulate them with force and other threats. They—particularly sex traffickers—reduce humans, created in the image of God, to objects for others’ sexual gratification and financial gain. Of special concern is the incidence of trafficking among vulnerable children. Children preyed upon are often those who are already overlooked and ignored by society—victims of trauma, abuse, and parental neglect, and those who are impoverished or homeless are prime targets for the sex trade.
How can the church fight for the abolition of this new slavery? There is a wealth of information available, and much of it sheds light on this dark secret in our backyards. But information isn’t enough. Pastors and ministry leaders need to connect with local ministries that are meeting the needs of the trafficked populations in their cities and suburbs.
For example, the Polaris Project is a comprehensive organization that fights against modern-day trafficking and seeks to strengthen the anti-trafficking movement. A far-reaching, full-orbed ministry, Araminta Freedom Initiative works to equip churches and the community in Baltimore to eradicate domestic minor sex trafficking and educates and provides aftercare for victims. Ministries like these are outside many of our comfort zones, but in reaching out and serving the women and children affected by trafficking, we live out the Great Commission call.
I pray that the universal church sees helping victims of human trafficking as one of the most crucial ways we can care for “the least of these,” restoring their dignity by embracing our role as the hands and feet of Christ in the world.
 "What Is Modern Slavery?" U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2013.
 United States. U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010. By Duren Banks and Tracey Kyckelhahn. N.p.: n.p., 2011. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Web.