It was overwhelmingly Christianity which worked to abolish slavery around the world. Because of the tireless efforts of abolitionists like Wilberforce, most of the world no longer has to deal with this horrific sin against humanity. However, there are still at least two forms of slavery still being practiced.
Slavery in the Muslim world is still very common tragically. But even in the West, there is another sort of slavery which is occurring as we speak. I refer to sexual slavery, or human trafficking. This is a huge problem, and one which many Christians are already working on, but so much more needs to be done.
As is so often the case, just raising awareness of all this is a good place to begin. We need to be aware of what is going on here, and a crop of recent horror stories may be the best way to alert you to this, and stir you to action. So let me offer just a smattering of recent cases. They make for tragic reading, but we cannot bury our heads in the sand any longer.
Consider these two stories from the UK. The first says this: ‘An unnamed underage Somalian girl was brought by traffickers into Britain to be used as an unwilling ‘organ donor,’ a report by the British government has revealed. But, as horrifying as the revelation is, Britain’s leading anti-child trafficking organization has speculated the problem may actually be more widespread than the report indicates.
“‘Traffickers are exploiting the demand for organs and the vulnerability of children,’ Bharti Patel, the chief executive of Ecpat UK, a charity that combats child trafficking, told the Daily Telegraph. ‘It’s unlikely that a trafficker is going to take this risk and bring just one child into the UK. It is likely there was a group.’
“The government report on trafficking said that in the UK in 2012 a total of 1,186 ‘potential victims’ of human trafficking were reported by authorities, an increase of 25 per cent since 2011. Of the total, 815 were adults and 371 were children. The Human Trafficking Centre estimated that as of 2012 there are up to 2,255 ‘possible victims’ of human trafficking in the UK.”
The second is just as harrowing: “Imrich Bodor, 45, Petra Dzudzova, 25, and Abdul Shinwary, 38, were found guilty of people trafficking for exploitation at Preston Crown Court. The group victim was a 20-year-old who had been drugged and taken from her rural home in Slovenia and was sold like ‘cattle’ to illegal migrant Azam Khan, 34.
“Pakistani national Khan ‘wed’ the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, just weeks before he was due to be removed from the UK and went on to rape and beat her. Judge Jonathan Gibson said: ‘Over the past two months or so and during the course of this trial the jury and I through the evidence have observed at close quarters a sordid world of international people trafficking. And in particular we have observed the trauma, pain and distress suffered by one of its victims.’
“The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been put on a coach after being kidnapped thinking she was going to the Czech Republic for work. But she was taken to London where she was kept prisoner for weeks by fellow Slovakian Bodor who passed her onto Pakistani asylum seeker Sinwary.”
Even more tragically, many of those sold into sexual slavery are orphans. As one organisation dedicated to helping orphans states, “There are more orphans in the world today than at any other time in history. Ironically, controversy swirls around the global challenge of orphans on every continent. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS and conflict has wiped out almost an entire generation of adults, and governments are hard-pressed to meet the growing demands of displaced children in staggering proportions in their nations. It is estimated that in Africa, over 10% of the population are orphaned children.
“Jodi Jackson Tucker serves as International Director of Orphan Sunday with the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO), a coalition of 150 orphan-serving organizations. ‘Children who lack parents are the number one target for human trafficking and every other exploitation and suffering,’ explains Tucker. ‘But churches are stepping up for these kids in powerful ways across the globe. Orphan Sunday calls more Christians to action’.”
Chuck Norris has been writing a series of articles on this topic, and is also worth quoting. He begins with some gruesome statistics: “Reuters reported last week, ‘Some 30 million people are enslaved worldwide, trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labour, victims of debt bondage or even born into servitude.’
“A percentage is represented in all 162 countries, with almost half being in India. And many would be surprised to discover that the U.S. sexual slavery market is growing – in and outside our country – using none other than American minors. Americans trafficking Americans.
“ABC News reported in July on a National Geographic undercover investigation of sexual slavery in the U.S.: ‘When some people hear about sex trafficking in America they usually think of Asian and Eastern European women being brought into the States, but it’s actually 10 times more likely for an American girl to be trafficked inside the U.S. Further, almost 300,000 American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry, according to U.S. Department of State statistics.’
“About 14,500 to 17,500 girls from other countries are smuggled into the U.S. and exploited in sexual slavery. The U.S. Department of Justice says the average age at which females – domestic and international – start prostitution in the U.S. is between 12 and 14 years, and those older than 12 are leading targets for sexual exploitation by organized crime units. The FBI further explains that boys and transgender youths begin prostituting between the ages of 11 and 13 on average.
“And where are they all marketed? Most know how they are paraded on the streets by pimps, controlled by violent gangs and organized crime, and marketed through residential brothels and businesses such as strip clubs, escort services and massage parlors. But the greatest and most recent proliferation has been through the Internet….
“The FBI further elaborates: ‘These perpetrators may promise marriage and a lifestyle the youths often did not have in their previous familial relationships. They claim they ‘love’ and ‘need’ the victim and that any sex acts are for their future together. In cases where the children have few or no positive male role models in their lives, the traffickers take advantage of this fact and, in many cases, demand that the victims refer to them as “daddy,” making it tougher for the youths to break the hold the perpetrator has on them’.”
But we need to also put a human face on these figures. Norris offers us this: “Sex trafficking victim Chong Kim shared just how intense it was during her couple of years of captivity: ‘The first year I was in there, I literally became numb; I thought I was going to die as a sex slave. … When I started to become defiant with the traffickers, the traffickers would look at the girls we were close to, and with that, they would actually tie us to a chair and make us watch the girl that we were close to or the child we were close to get tortured, sodomized and raped for hours and hours on end. We went through beatings; we were held in the bathtub with ice’.”
He continues, “We often think of the sex trade as being run by nothing but controlling hoodlums who second as drug lords – and many are – but the truth is that sexual slavery has turned into a billion-dollar industry run by many ‘average Americans’ who are businesspeople.
“The National Geographic investigation highlighted how it’s not just career criminals in red-light districts who are luring down-and-out minors to sexual slavery. There is a growing swell of U.S. traffickers who are wealthy and ‘upstanding citizens’ in suburban and rural America.
“How do these ‘upstanding citizens’ entice their victims? By offering them love and protection, a little adventure and even a career jump into stardom. And many use any reputable bait – on and off the Internet – to lure prospective prey into their nets, including careers as models, masseuses and actors. Once their victims are snared by charm and emotional tactics, traffickers then crank up their coercion and control with money, drugs, bondage and blackmail.”
This is of course a massive problem. As I say, becoming aware of it is the necessary first step. I will be writing more on this in the days ahead. Please pray for these poor victims, and also pray how you might play a role in turning this around.