Did you know that an estimated 27 million slaves exist in the world today? Yes, you read that correctly. There are more slaves in the world today than ever before in human history. Twenty-seven million slaves, and three out of four of them are women. In 2012, it is projected that over 800,000 people will be sex-trafficked; 80 percent of them will be female and 50 percent will be children. Today, human trafficking is the second largest and fasted growing global organized crime, and it’s happening everywhere… from third-world villages in rural India and Nepal to big American cities such as Houston and Atlanta.
The statistics are staggering, yet hardly anyone seems to discuss this subject on the airwaves, in small groups, or even at kitchen tables. However, a growing number of high profile organizations and individuals are using their platform to shed light on this global humanitarian crisis. January is “Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month,” and people from government to pop culture are speaking out about these issues.
Two recent experiences have helped open my eyes to the crisis of slavery and human trafficking:
This past December, I traveled to India and heard firsthand stories from those forced to labor under brutal conditions, and those trapped within a cycle of slavery and poverty. The statistics become real when you meet just one person impacted by these horrendous practices. I also connected with people confronting the rampant sex trade in India and reaching out to the child victims. Kristen Haskett of Houston, Texas, described her experience of walking through one of India’s red light districts, calling it a place of both spiritual and physical darkness. “Home after home, we met the same overwhelming and hopeless conditions,” she said. “The eyes of the women, though encouraged by our presence, cried out at the same time from years and years of suffering.” Kristen is involved with As Our Own, a movement in India that rescues vulnerable children from enslavement and exploitation.
“Of all the countries I’ve seen, India is the worst when it comes to slavery and trafficking,” said Christine Caine, a human rights activist from Australia and founder of the A21 Campaign. “We see the most horrendous cases there, by far.” I am encouraged that India is receiving increasing attention from the anti-slavery movement, especially as those affected most are unable to raise their voice alone.
Secondly, over 42,000 young people attended the Passion 2012 Conference in Atlanta earlier this month, including students representing 31 countries and more than 1,700 college campuses. A major focus of the four-day gathering was raising awareness of the horrific realities faced by the 27 million people who are enslaved as forced laborers, child laborers or trapped within sex trade. Organizers used creative methods to illustrate the magnitude of the problem and showcased specific stories of both slaves and activists. Students were urged to speak up on behalf of those in bondage, as well as challenged to give of their own resources to aid prevention, rescue and restoration efforts worldwide. It was incredible to watch students and supporters rally together to support this cause; they responded enthusiastically during the conference and gave over $3.3 million toward freedom!
“We believe that this generation of students has the ability to put an end to slavery,” said Bryson Vogeltanz, Chief Steward of Do Something Now for Passion Conferences. “It’s about doing something in the name of Jesus to free people all over the world who are enslaved.”
So what can you and I do? Like many of the vast issues we discuss, awareness is only the first step. Make it a point to educate yourself and those around you about modern day slavery and trafficking. (In the coming days, we’ll feature more information about these problems and possible solutions.) Then, use your influence and resources to make a dent in this global crisis. If you’re like me, you’re still re-thinking and revising your New Year’s Resolutions and setting some personal goals and priorities for the year ahead. How about making it a point to raise your voice on behalf of the 27 million people in the world without freedom? That’s a good place to start.