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Nita Belles

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A Christian Call to End Human Trafficking

Posted: 06/29/11 08:54 PM ET

If you believe that human trafficking -- modern-day slavery -- primarily takes place in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, you're like most people.

There are more slaves in the United States today than at any time in history. Upon learning that fact people often ask me, "What can I do to help stop modern-day slavery or human trafficking?" Reading this article is a good start.

There is nothing the criminals involved in the modern-day atrocities of human trafficking and slavery -- the recruiters, the traffickers, the pimps and others -- want more than for decent people to remain ignorant about what they do. All they ask is that we do nothing. Simple silence. If the myth that "it doesn't happen here" can prevail, they have won.

This paragraph from my book, "In Our Backyard: A Christian Perspective on Human Trafficking in the United States," is part of the battle call to Christians to take up the fight against slavery as Christians did in the Underground Railroad.

Jesus was clear about Christian's responsibility to do something regarding issues such as human trafficking when he told the parable of the Good Samaritan. When asked what it takes to inherit eternal life, Jesus immediately replied we must love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves. To clarify, he pointed to someone who sacrificially cared for a socially outcast stranger who had been stripped, beaten and left for dead. Jesus said "Go and do likewise."

In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus describes his mission. It includes evangelism, healing and proclaiming freedom for prisoners, and releasing the oppressed. That certainly describes the list below:

• There are 27 million slaves in the world today.
• Human trafficking is the second largest -- and fastest growing -- criminal enterprise in the world.
• About 80 percent of all U.S. trafficked individuals are female, about 50 percent are children.
• In addition to the 100,000 youngsters trafficked annually, 244,000 to 325,000 American children are at risk for sexual exploitation and sex trafficking every year.

Although more brutal than ever, modern-day slavery is not as obvious as it was centuries ago. Today human trafficking isn't limited by race, class or gender. Victims are not just the poor or disenfranchised. They come from every socio-economic group. And U.S. victims are not just foreign-born nationals. In fact, the vast majority of sex-trafficked children are American-born citizens.

Modern-day slavery looks like the fresh-faced young girl or boy who is being sold for sex by a pimp via the Internet. It looks like the domestic worker living with a family who abused her physically and sexually and where she lives in fear for her life. It looks like the factory or migrant worker who lives in a compound with barbed wire designed to keep slaves in, rather than bad guys out.

Human trafficking is the dirty secret that has been hidden too long in our country. It is in every state of this great country, from large cities to small towns to rural areas. It's in our backyard whether we live in the city or the countryside.

In written testimony Ernie Allen, President & CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, quoted one police commander who told him, "The only way not to find this problem in any community is simply not to look for it."

But wait. There is some good news here. One in three human trafficking victims is rescued because someone saw something that didn't look just right and reported it. If you are reading this article, you could be one to notice that incongruous detail and spare a young girl or boy or an adult a life of torture and pain.

Learning to recognize the signs of human trafficking is not as difficult as it may sound. From my experience, once you're aware, you will no longer aid and abet the traffickers with silence, but be an effective weapon in the fight to stop human trafficking. In following Christ's example, stopping my busy lifestyle to help is a must.

In short, as Christians each one of us can and should help protect our children and others from this horrific crime in our backyard. And indirect ministry such as prayer, donations of time or money, are no more valid than front line work. Whether by prayer, being aware, or giving time or money, faith means taking action. James put it well, "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:17).

If you would like to be the hero of faith who opens the door to freedom for an enslaved stranger, I would urge you to read "In Our Backyard" or learn to recognize the signs of human trafficking by searching other resources.

Be a hero. Simple silence is simply not an option.