Sex-trafficking of children is heartbreaking–perhaps more than any other evil act on earth. As a dad, the thought of young children being exploited in this way is almost too much for me to bear. In this post, I’m going to offer you some impressions from a book that made a big impact on my life: God in a Brothel – An Undercover Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue. Let’s begin with a reflection from “Daniel Walker” (a pseudonym):
I noticed that many of the older girls, twelve and thirteen years old, had lost all life in their eyes. They appeared to be in a trance or under some kind of dark magician’s spell. They moved with a slow resignation; no amount of smiling, warmth or kindness on my part could draw them out. The systematic and prolonged sexual abuse of children and young people is perhaps the very worst crime against humanity because, as I saw day after day, it strips them of their heart and soul. It murders the person but leaves their bodies alive. (God in a Brothel, 89)
The above quote is one that I read more than once. It speaks to the gradual dehumanization that system injustice leads to. Not only does it shock me to read that the “older girls” were 12 or 13, but that such young people are walking around in a state of death. This quote of profound truth breaks the heart of God and ought to shatter the heart of the people of God.
Walker, after having a moment of transformation after hearing speakers such as Tony Campolo and Ron Sider speak of a God of justice, became convinced that his calling was to apply the training he received as a police officer and as an MA in Third World Economic Development to rescuing victims of sex trafficking.
His journey took him to places that most of us don’t want to believe actually exist. Whether it was Southeast Asia, Latin America, Las Vegas, or Atlanta, Walker walked into situations as an undercover agent to gather intelligence about pimps and slaves. On every single page his stories open us to the blind spots of injustice, taking the reader on a journey to the darkest places in the world.
One issue that bothered me as an advocate of both justice and non-violence, was the constant references to his background and training as a police officer. My conviction is that Christians are invited by Jesus to refuse the sword (read about my nuanced view, here). When we refuse to take up violent weapons and can still expose evil at its heart, it seems that the power of the gospel is unleashed in profound ways. This is why I was delighted to read the following response after being offered a “bear claw” knife:
I explained that police officers in New Zealand are unarmed and that all of the training I had received to date was focused on how to use the least possible force to defend myself… The silence that followed said it all. (55)
This book will keep you in emotional frustration and hopeful expectation all at the same time. Walker is transparent about the struggles he faced in having such a job. He speaks of the toll that being exposed to nude women on such a regular basis and how the danger of the job affected his marriage. He recognizes that things often failed, sometimes because of his error and other times because of corruption. But he also believes that Christians can make a powerful difference for not only the systemic issue of sex trafficking, but that there are names and faces attached to the victims he attempted to rescue, some under the age of 5 years old.
A final thought that I want to share. Walker shares about the corruption of sex trafficking that is overlooked in the United States as well. From kidnap victims to young foreign girls who are sold into slavery by impoverished parents, slavery is embodied in the dark corners of our country. In Atlanta, after befriending key pimps and traffickers and thus gathering up all the evidence needed for local and federal officers to intervene, Walker shares a sad truth about why the operation failed:
Most alarming for me was to learn what happened during an operation set up to target some of the escort agencies involved. When it became apparent during the investigation that some of the male clients were senior members of the Atlanta city council and U.S. Senators, the operation was quickly shut down. The officers involved were reassigned. (107)
The powers of our world, even the ones that would masquerade as “good” are oftentimes not. Some are dark. Some are corrupt, even in our own nation. There are leaders in this nation, elected officials that perpetuate child slavery as we vote them into office. Maybe this is one example of why we are called to embody a different kind of Kingdom? A Kingdom with a King who says to let the little children come to the safest place in the universe, in his arms of compassion and Calvary-shaped-love.
May we be those safe arms of Jesus and choose to not turn a blind eye to the evils of trafficking, both at home and abroad.
THIS WEEK ON THE SERMON PODCAST: “We,” a series about the core values of Pangea | Communities in Seattle, Wa. In the first talk of the series we looked at our core value “Transformation: We choose the subversive path of knowing and following the crucified Christ.” In the second talk, we explored “Hope: We choose to imagine the world as it ought to be.” In that second talk, we also introduced our “Offering Hope Initiative,” in partnership with Mennonite Central Committee in their work for peace and justice among the refugee crisis of Syria and Iraq. PangeaCast: iTunes, Feed.