Progressive Christian Channel
Risky Business: An Ecumenical Challenge to End Sex Trafficking
Sex trafficking is a human rights catastrophe at both the global and the local levels and requires the advocacy of people of all faiths if there is to be a tipping point on this issue. Progressives have been active on the issue for many years, though non-denominational evangelicals have more recently been leading some impressive efforts through the Not for Sale, Love146, and Traffick 911 campaigns. Even secular organizations such as Free the Slaves recognize the potential of uniting a diverse religious base, providing anti-slavery texts from Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish traditions. All faiths speak out against slavery, and lift up the dignity of all human beings. It is best for Christians of diverse traditions to find ways to work together on this issue, not only for the protection of victims, but to grow in our own theological and ecumenical relationships.
While Walker and I agree that the human suffering behind sex trafficking transcends theological debate, theological differences become very important in regard to gender roles and taking action on the issue. Men are crucial to the conversation as the primary perpetrators and purchasers of sex, and need to be educated and held accountable. In God in a Brothel however, I felt uncomfortable with Walker's depiction of the Christian Western male savior figure, which left the trafficked women and girls in the book with little agency. As a feminist and a progressive, I interpret the Bible through the lens of equality and dignity for all, and recognize the tremendous leadership of oppressed and enslaved women. Walker's theological lens fails to recognize the women he is "saving" as leaders in themselves, and any successful action and advocacy between progressives and evangelicals on the issue would need to address power dynamics and gender roles.
Despite our different lenses, I agree with Daniel Walker that modern day sex trafficking is an incredibly urgent issue, perhaps the most urgent issue of our time. Most people will never risk challenging human trafficking in such a direct and dangerous way as Daniel Walker, but there are still many opportunities for people of faith and people of no faith to become involved in ending trafficking on a global and local level. From an international perspective, Amnesty International's Women's Human Rights Network offers opportunities for activists to stay up to date and take action on the most pressing women's rights violations occurring around the world. Locally, I admire the work of the End Demand Illinois Campaign, a campaign of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) that works to end the routine arrest of women and girls in prostitution and instead advocates for new resources to allow law enforcement to begin prosecuting those who create sex trade demand.
I greatly appreciate Daniel Walker's tireless efforts on behalf of the victims of sex trafficking, and his book has done a great service to bring many of their stories to light while helping all Christians reflect on their moral responsibility to take action. The time is now for Christians, and all people who yearn for justice, to unite to create a safer world for women and girls. Staggering statistics bear the cold, hard truths about sex trafficking, but real change happens when faith communities risk overcoming difference to unite around a greater calling.
God in a Brothel teaches us that faith entails risk. Because we can, and because we must . . . together we can wipe human slavery and sex trafficking off the map for good.
Visit the Patheos Book Club for more conversation and resources on God in a Brothel.
Alisa serves as vice president of the Board of Directors of Rape Victim Advocates and also advises on campaign strategy and membership mobilization in support of the promotion and protection of women's human rights as a member of Amnesty International USA's Women Human Rights Coordination Group. She presently works as director of strategic initiatives at The Voices and Faces Project, a national documentary project created to bring voice and face to survivors of sexual violence and trafficking to the attention of the public.