On Wednesday, I had the privilege of being in Austin advocating with others for state laws to effectively address human trafficking. Before the event, I presented a few thoughts at a gathering for the Christian Life Commission. I urge you to read and better understand the vulnerabilities that can lead to human trafficking. And if you live near enough, please join us tomorrow at South Main Baptist Church for the conference, Vulnerable: Gender, Race, Poverty and Human Trafficking.
As a young woman leaving over 30 years ago to serve overseas as a career missionary, I never imagined the tragic injustices I would witness. I have personally witnessed human trafficking in just about every form there is.
There was a certain relief when we returned to serve in the U.S. We would have more resources. The task would not be quite so overwhelming. We would have the support of the church at our fingertips. I has not worked out quite like that. Why? Not because those things are not true, but because the very same systems of injustice that make people overseas vulnerable to trafficking exist right here. Of course we must lend aid to victims of both labor and sex trafficking whenever, wherever and however we are able. But if we are to forever end slavery of all sorts, we must eradicate the systems of injustice that make people vulnerable to trafficking.
The vulnerability of age: We must protect the children. That means addressing everything from the foster care system to juvenile justice system, to education, to refugee needs, and so much more.
The vulnerability of gender: We do not have a choice. We must take down the porn industry and other forms of sexual exploitation that treat women’s bodies as commodities. We must have laws with the stiffest of penalties for those who purchase sex while providing legitimate help and alternatives for those working in the sex industry. We must lo longer turn blind eyes and give a wink saying, “boys will be boys.”
The vulnerability of poverty: For Texas this means addressing everything from minimum wage to immigration reform and our relationship with nearby countries to the cost of higher education.
And the elephant in the room? The vulnerability of race and ethnicity: When a city like Houston turns itself upside down and inside out trying to find a Caucasian teenager from an affluent home who has been trafficked, but pays no attention to or worse yet expects it for a Latina, or African American or Asian girl, we must admit to and begin to address our biases and prejudices.
All those years in Africa and Europe it felt like we were putting tiny drops into a very big bucket. And the bucket never filled up. The same is true for those of us working to address human trafficking. Why can’t those tiny drops eventually fill the bucket no matter how large? Because the bucket has holes! If we fix the holes then those tiny drops will eventually fill the bucket and eradicate slavery.