The Paradox of Living in the Face of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is more or less synonymous with awareness, and maybe the movie “Taken.” Last year, when I began to seriously pursue a solution to the injustice of 27 million people enslaved, I asked several of my abolitionist friends: “How can I help?”

Their first response more or less paraphrased as: “Know what is occurring, and tell your friends.” Within a year, I have watched multiple documentaries, read dozens of articles, researched countless organizations, and conversed a hundred times about the evils of trafficking. But for someone as pragmatic as me, who doesn’t even quite yet have her Bachelor’s degree, the frustration of not doing anything substantial increased.

The more I researched, the more my frustration was directed towards myself. I could acknowledge the fact that shopping from Forever 21 or Nike supported sweatshops, or that I was probably eating Hershey’s chocolate mixed with the tears of African children. But I was not willing to stop. I blamed my financial situation (“oh poor college student that I am!”) or economic reasoning (“this one Hershey bar will not realistically affect anyone”).

Facing the paradox of practicality and systemic injustice, how do we live on an everyday basis? Where do grace and practicality step in?

Jonathan Walton, Intervarsity’s New York City Urban Project Director, summarizes a solution in three ways: prayer, purchasing and partnership.

Prayer. Walton says that the fight to end slavery does not begin at the door of a brothel—it begins on our knees in prayer. We are without excuse if we are not praying first.

Purchasing. Americans spend more money on pornography than the entire entertainment industry combined, Walton points out. We may know about the connections that Hershey’s has with child slave labor, but did we know that most cooking oil and household products contains palm oil, which is often produced by forced labor? Walton is one example of initiating resources for fair trade alternatives: he started LoGOFF (Local. Green. Organic. Fair. Free.).

Partnership. So entrenched is slave labor to the international economy that no one person can realistically create change. Yet with thousands of networks and partnerships working together, we can chip away at the system.

Our wants walk around in need t-shirts all the time, says Walton. Why not buy one enduring shirt from Lord & Taylor instead of five cheaply made shirts at H&M?

“We are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and not our own,” Walton says.

Stewardship is a key theology to hold in respect to everyday living. Walton points out that we claim to be poor, yet spend our money on $4 coffees and $12 movie theater tickets frequently.

Thankfulness is also significant. Ultimately, whether we purchase under ignorance or knowledge we can still pray: “Lord, thank you for this article of clothing. Be present with the individual who made it, may they stay clothed as I am today, and bring about an end to injustice.”

The choice to end injustice is a righteous choice. Will you make that choice?

For further reading: Everyday Justice by Julia Clawson

About Kara Bettis

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