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Human Trafficking: What we can do about it

In my last piece, I wrote about human trafficking and the hopelessness I experienced in finding practical ways to confront the issue. Since then, I have had the opportunity to learn more by attending a conference held by my local Roman Catholic Diocese (as with many other justice issues, the Catholics seem to be way ahead of us Protestants on this).

There were five things that I took away from the conference that I can do. They are:

·         Educate yourself.

·         Connect locally.

·         Talk to the people in your life about it.

·         Advocate for laws that protect the vulnerable.

·         Be strong and courageous.

I’ll go through them one-by-one and elaborate.

Educate yourself.

Learn how to recognize victims of human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops both offer helpful lists on how to identify victims. Canada has a Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre. Their website addresses a thorough list of frequently asked questions.

Connect locally.

Connect to local organizations working to combat human trafficking. According to recent statistics my own home state, Michigan, ranks fifth in the nation in human trafficking. There are a couple of locally-based agencies working to address this problem. The Michigan Abolitionist Project offers trainings, speakers, and local volunteer opportunities. The Manasseh Project offers educational resources including human trafficking statistics for my area and local conferences. Both give the opportunity to put one’s money where one’s heart is and donate.

Talk to the people in your life about it.

Like all issues, this one’s not going to go away by not talking about it. If we want a society in which victimizing people through trafficking is unacceptable, then we need to speak up. That means telling people what we are learning. Asking them what they know about the issue. And refusing to look the other way when I suspect someone might be part of perpetuating human trafficking.

Advocate for justice for the vulnerable.

British Columbia's Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons offers up to date information about the issue in Canada, including legislation. In the U.S., the Polaris Project will keep you up to date on ways you can advocate for most just laws to protect those vulnerable to human trafficking. Visit their website to learn more.

Be strong and courageous.

If you see someone that you suspect is a victim of human trafficking, you can do something about it. In the U.S., call the Human Trafficking Hotline operated by the Polaris Project at 1-888-373-7888 or report online at http://www.polarisproject.org/what-we-do/national-human-trafficking-hotline/report-a-tip. In Canada, the RCMP recommend that, depending on the severity of your suspicions and what you have witnesses, you either call your local police, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or speak to a counselor anonymously at the Kids Help Phone Line at 1-800-668-6868 (online at www.kidshelpphone.ca).

So, what would I do were I to meet those two young people on my street again?

·         I’d ask them about themselves. I’d ask where they are staying. I’d watch carefully how they responded. I’d probe further until I felt like I understood whether they were safe or not.

·         I’d ask if I could help them find a safe place to go right then.

·         If they say no, I’d create an action plan to get them to a safe place when they are ready. Maybe that means telling them to knock on my door whenever they need me.

·         I’d call the human trafficking hotline and make a report.

·         I’d talk to others in my community about the experience.

·         I’d pray for them.

No one person is going to fix the problem of human trafficking, but as a body of believers, we have the power to join God in bringing his kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” That means being open to the Spirit’s leading and taking risks when necessary.

[Image: Flickr user Kelley Mari]

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