Earlier this week I published an episode of my solo podcast, SECOND CUP WITH KEITH, where I interviewed my friend, Lisa Martinez, about her family’s experiences working with International Justice Mission to help end the use of children as sex slaves and child labor in India.
In our conversation, Lisa talked candidly about the very real factors that contribute to the use of children as cheap labor for American manufacturers, and as sexual slaves for [mostly] American sex tourists in countries like India, Thailand, the Philippines, and other south Asian countries.
As she explained, the crushing poverty that most people endure in those nations leads them to seek out the best available options to survive. More often than not those “best options” include a full-time job making clothes for American retailers like the GAP, Wal-Mart, Target, and Banana Republic, or turning to prostitution as a way of providing for themselves, or their children.
Another challenge is that American citizens – even those who work for Christian Non-Profits like International Justice Mission or Operation Underground Railroad [featured in the film, Sound of Freedom] – cannot legally kick down the doors of brothels or sweat shops that employ children as slave labor. No matter what the videos or films or marketing may tell you, the only people actually raiding those establishments are members of the local police. The problem there is that, more often than not, the police officers involved in the raid are already aware of what’s going on because they’re being paid to look the other way. So, it’s nearly impossible to work with local authorities to solve this problem.
Someone who listened to this week’s episode emailed me to thank me for the conversation and asked me what I would suggest they do if they want to stop supporting organizations like IJM or OUR, but still want to make an impact on the lives of young boys and girls who are being trafficked as prostitutes or child labor. Here’s what I said:
“As we said on the podcast, the problem is unlikely to be solved by white Christians from the US who are outside the culture. Imagine Chinese Christians trying to solve Americans homeless problem.”
Of course, anyone who stops to think about this for ten seconds can realize why this is all so difficult.
Try to imagine what would happen if a Christian Non-Profit in India, or Thailand decided they wanted to raise millions of dollars to send people to America to end our homeless problem. Would we allow these foreigners to come into our country to solve our problems of poverty, inequality, and exploitation? Of course not. If we even allowed them to operate here at all it would only be as they cooperated with the local authorities, the FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, etc.
We would never allows foreign nationals from ANY other country to come over to America to solve our drug crisis, or domestic violence issues, or school shootings, or anything else. So, why should it be any different for American Christians who want to send people overseas to solve problems in another nation?
One can almost imagine what American Christians would say if another country actually tried to do something like this: “Why don’t you go back to your own country and solve your own problems instead of coming over here to fix ours?”
And why shouldn’t people in India, Thailand or the Philippines say the exact same thing to us when we come to their country to fix their problems for them?
Of course, one of the biggest reasons why it’s impossible for an American Christian Non-Profit to stop child trafficking in a Third World country is simply this: They’re making too much money TRYING to solve the problem to actually solve it.
In other words, if they were to ever actually eradicate child trafficking in those nations, their income stream would totally dry up. So, it’s in their best interest – not to solve the problem – but to continue raising millions of dollars every year to keep trying to solve the problem.
So, I get it. We see what’s happening to children in these other countries on TV or in the movie theater and we want to find a way to rescue every single one of them from a life of exploitation and sexual slavery. We want to kick in the doors of those brothels like Jim Caviezel in Sound of Freedom and kick the crap out of those men who enslave these kids. We want to give these kids a better life. We want to make a difference over there.
But, do we want to give up our iPhones? Are we ready to shop at Goodwill for our clothes? Are we content to wear shoes made in America that cost three times more than the Nikes or Adidas shoes we’re wearing now?
No. The answer is, “no, we’re not.”
And that is why American Christians cannot – and will not – ever solve the use of children as slave labor in Third World Countries: because to REALLY solve the problem, we’d have to radically change our way of life, and, so far, it’s not looking very likely that such a thing might actually happen here.
Americans are comfortable with the status quo. We’re okay with cheap clothing and affordable technology. We want to feel like we’re making a difference, even if we’re really not. So, as long as this is the case, there will always be another IJM or OUR Christian non-profit organization ready to cash our checks so they can pretend to solve a problem they cannot solve, and that we really don’t want them to solve.
Not to say there’s no option available to offer some level of assistance to kids and families who really do want our help. One organization that my wife and I have supported in the past is Arms of Love, International, which creates a stable home environment for children in their native country and works to provide an education that could actually lift them out of poverty. [Full disclosure, several years ago I once served on the Board of Arms of Love]
Of course, like any relief organization, they experience a large recidivism rate among children to slip back into prostitution or slave labor, simply because the poverty in those nations is still so overwhelming and the best paying jobs are often the most exploitative. But, their success rates seem to be higher than most.
Still, there’s no real solution on the horizon. What we can do is to take a good hard look at ourselves, as a nation, and try to understand how our buying habits influence the level of suffering these children experience on a daily basis.
As the great James Baldwin told us: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
I hope you’ll listen to this week’s episode of SECOND CUP WITH KEITH and share your thoughts with us.
Keith Giles is the best-selling author of the Jesus Un series. He has appeared on CNN, USA Today, BuzzFeed, and John Fugelsang’s “Tell Me Everything.” He hosts the Second Cup with Keith podcast, and co-hosts the Apostates Anonymous podcast, and the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast.
Find out more about his online courses HERE>