(Photo courtesy Stop The Traffik, UN.GIFT)
England (MNN) ― The 30th Olympiad is in full swing, and with that, nine million visitors to London.
Greece sent warnings of spikes in human trafficking as a result of their experience with hosting the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The warnings were so vivid that authorities and advocates began responding together even then.
Five years ago, Stop the Traffik partnered with Compassion United Kingdom in an awareness campaign about the issue. Though time has passed, their message has only gotten clearer.
Then two years ago, police started going after the red light district. Even though some forms of prostitution are legal in the United Kingdom, they closed down 80 brothels: a drop in the bucket, according to those involved with the trafficking awareness campaigns.
Even as the athletes arrived in pursuit of their dream of winning, men, women, and children seeking a better future found only the trafficker winning.
*Bex Keer, UK Coordinator of Stop The Traffik (STT), says one way to cut down on incidents is to help people know what to look for so that victims can be rescued.
The group launched a unique way of getting its message to the passerby. They set up five street art-sized gift boxes around the area. One was located in Westminster, central London. It was there that Keer explained why a gift box is a symbol. "It's here to replicate the real experience of trafficking: you have the promise and you have the deception. But the reality is one that is so different."
Partnered with the group UN.GIFT, STT is spreading the message of responsibility. They hope they can inspire visitors to become aware and take action to stop this crime. Millions of visitors creates a demand for more trafficked people. "There's a demand for paying for sex, for forced labor--whether that's preparing the merchandise ahead of the Olympics or working in restaurants and where the tourists would be visiting, or whether that's in the streets."
Keer says it's not just the number of sex workers that they've seen increase. "One situation that we're seeing increase in the UK is the trafficking of children for street crime: the opportunity to have organized crime gangs of children who operate in areas pickpocketing or nicking mobile phones and bags."
So far, 2500 passersby have stopped to investigate the brightly-colored life-sized gift boxes. Inside, they find the stories of victims. 200 volunteers have been engaging with members of the public from all over the world in a bid to inspire anti-trafficking action.
As a result, 1,750 people have signed up to support UN.GIFT and STOP THE TRAFFIK. All it takes is one person to make a difference. Keer says, "I think when you see something, you might be the only person who sees it. So actually, sometimes you have to follow that gut instinct and respond to it. It's about passing that information on to the appropriate person."
While STT is not a direct ministry, believers connected to the bigger fight against human trafficking say the most imperative movement to prevent trafficking at the Games is prayer.
The Evangelical Free Church shared similar requests from their experience with the EuroCup, held in June in Ukraine. Gospel workers asked for prayer for fans to guard their hearts, for victims to be safe, and for Christ's light to shine in a dark place.
*Mission Network News is partnering with Planet Sport for the 2012 Olympic coverage. They are helping us cover the event from a Christian and missional worldview.