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Meeting in the Washington, D.C., church where their denomination was formed 100 years ago, leaders of the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. this week acted on problems of modern-day slavery, children in poverty and suffering in Iraq.

Meeting in conjunction with the ABC/USA General Board at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, the denomination’s World Relief Committee voted to provide $50,000 in emergency funds from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering to aid Iraqi families, orphans and women.

The funds will go to Church World Service, which has announced a goal of $150,000 to help those whose lives have been devastated by turmoil in Iraq. The relief will be carried out by six local non-governmental Iraqi groups that have been undertaking small humanitarian projects within the country.

“As we see continued coverage of the war in Iraq today, do we pause to consider the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis that have been caught in the crossfire of a war that has now entered its fourth year?” asked Relief Officer Lisa Rothenberger. “Are we neighbors to the Iraqi people if we don’t acknowledge the very real needs that the war has caused?”

American Baptists’ Board of International Ministries called on the denomination’s leaders to take the lead in a struggle against modern slavery and sex trafficking.

“This is not some exotic thing in other parts of the world,” Reid Trulson, executive director of the denomination’s Board of International Ministries, told the General Board. “It is global, and it is in every one of our states.”

His call came in a report from International Ministries, which traced the history of the slave trade and the role Baptists have played in working for its abolition. The report listed the dates on which various nations outlawed slavery, and then added “but slavery has returned” in the form more often called “human trafficking.” It estimated that some 27 million people “are held today in various forms of slavery, forced prostitution, or bonded labor.”

The report added that between 800,000 and 900,000 people are trafficked across national borders each year, including at least 17,000 “who are trafficked into the United States every year as slaves.”

“Huge profits are driving this,” Trulson said. The report noted a CIA calculation that profits from one trafficked woman can average $250,000.

“We honor the brave men and women who threw themselves into the struggle against slavery in their day,” Trulson said. “Now it is our day.”

General Board members also gave first reading to a resolution affirming the need to raise children out of poverty.

The resolution noted that 17 percent of American children fall below the government’s official poverty line. “They are our children,” it said.

The resolution outlined a series of steps to raise consciousness about the plight of children in poverty, to break down stereotypes, to promote national policies on equitable distribution of wealth, and “to reach out to all who are economically vulnerable.”

“Between a quarter and a fifth of our children,” it noted, “are growing up in poverty, often resulting in inadequate nutrition, mediocre education, deficient health care, and many other stumbling blocks to living an abundant life.

“These impoverished children are of all races, ethnicities and heritages. They live in city centers, in suburbs, in rural villages, on farms, and in industrial centers throughout the country. They are in all of our communities and churches. They are our children.”

Compiled from American Baptist News Service.

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