The U.S. sex trade flourishes: your role in the fight

By September 17, 2010

USA (MNN) — Over the last few days we've explored the realities of the sex trade in the United States. At this point, some of you may be ready to jump in and get involved in the fight. Others may be unconvinced that you are the one to respond. In Part Four of our four-part series on sexually slavery in the U.S., we will look at why the church needs to respond and how it should do so.

Even after hearing that as many as 300,000 minors are enslaved to be sexually exploited every year in the States, and 90 percent of American children are at risk to be trafficked, many Americans still refuse to believe that this is taking place in the Land of the Free. Marcia Ghali of Word Made Flesh suggests the reason may be that "we don't want to believe that we could have anything to do with allowing this to happen in our cities and our states and our country."

York Moore, modern-day abolitionist and evangelist with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, says the blaring existence of sex trafficking in the States is undeniable, though. "We can talk about disasters. We can talk about diseases. We can talk about political factions and wars. But in terms of the intentional evil, the intentional perpetrating of this kind of horror on people, there's really nothing that we're facing like this globally," says Moore.

It's understandable to see how many people, especially parents, would not want to believe that this takes place, but the consequences of leaving the issue ignored will be severe. Most of the guests that we interviewed for this series agreed on one outcome if the church does not step in and do something. Moore summarizes their thoughts: "If the church doesn't wake up and provide the moral, philosophic and theological foundation for the value of human life at a very basic level, and fight for the rights of those who are marginalized and who can't defend themselves, I think that we could see an acceptance of a global slave trade."

Why is it so important for believers specifically to be on the front lines of defeating this particular social ill, though? Moore says, "[It's] on the same level as whether or not Christians saw themselves as responsible for helping Jews who fled Nazi Germany, or whether or not the church was going to be engaged at the end of the slave trade here in the United States. There are few times in the human narrative where the test, resolve, and the character of human kind is on trial, and I think we're in one of those chapters."

It's important that believers respond to this issue in a way that goes beyond compassion or emotion. Pat McCalla, partner of Food for the Hungry, says that he has come to understand involvement in this fight for justice as a direct response to God. "God's heart beats for us to do justice. In fact, in Micah 6:8 [He] commands–He doesn't request, He doesn't recommend, He REQUIRES–us to do justice."

So what are we to do, then, to solve this overwhelming issue? Where do we even begin? "When you think about the monstrous complexity of the human trafficking industry, it's not going to be resolved by one simple solution," confirms Moore. But there are certainly things to be done, and he says, "There's a part that we can all play."

There are, of course, issues that people working in specific fields can take on. "We need increased bed capacity for victims of trafficking," says Moore. "We need programs to help reintegrate people who have been victimized by this kind of crime. We need lawyers who are going to work in the youth centers and work in the juvenile court system and engage in a knowledgeable way." Moore also mentions that First Responders need to educate themselves to know how to better identify a victim of trafficking.

Most of us do not fill these professional roles, but we are still responsible to act, just perhaps in different ways. Moore says our responsibility "begins with prayer, and then educating ourselves, and then partnering with others who are further along in the journey."

Prayer is perhaps the most imperative step to take. None of our guests interviewed for this series were short of ideas for ways to pray against this issue. Just a few suggestions were to pray for the hearts' of the victims, for them to recover their sense of self in Christ. Pray for traffickers to be caught and to recover their sense of humanity. Pray for strength, wisdom and open doors for the ministries standing on the front lines of this issue. And most importantly, cry out to God to show you your role in this battle.

The second important thing to do is to educate yourself and others. Use resources like International Justice Mission, Theresa Flores' book The Slave Across the Street, the InterVarsity Price of Life campaign, the InterVarsity partner Not for Sale, the U.S. Office To Monitor the Trafficking In Persons, the previous three articles in this series, and anything else you can get your hands on to learn more about this issue. Educate your children or any other children around you on the ways in which traffickers hunt their prey so they will know what to look for.

As you get to know more about the trade, put your knowledge into practice. Look for signs in the kids around you of whether or not there is the potential for trafficking. Theresa Flores says to take note of young girls spending time with boys who are a few years older than them, to make sure you know where your kids are going after school, to have the home numbers of the friends they stay with, and to check your kids' beds once in a while at night.

On a less personal level, you can look into your state laws, as we mentioned in Part Three of the series. Marcia Ghali suggests you go to community meetings and speak up for the victims who are unable to speak for themselves. Challenge legislation and actively seek to make legal changes by participating in things like the National Call-in Day to Stop Child Slavery on September 20, which will help to pass the Child Protection Compact Act. See more information on the Act and the call-in day here.

Finally, you can link arms with ministries on the front lines of this battle. Many of these are local like Grace Haven House in Columbus or Streetlight in Phoenix, so find out what is being done in your city and see how you can help them. Most of these ministries have a passion not only to rescue victims from this horrifying lifestyle, but to end their slavery for good by introducing them to the freedom they'll find in Christ.

No matter how you respond, recognize that God is ultimately in charge of the lives of each victim, trafficker, client and responder. He will be the one to show you to what capacity you should get involved, and in the end, He is the only way this injustice will cease. His heart beats for justice. Will yours?

This has been the final installment in our four-part series on the U.S. sex trade. To view Part One, Part Two or Part Three of the series, click on each link respectively.

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