Crises resulting from the Ebola virus in West Africa, ISIL in the Middle East, conflict in Gaza, and Ukraine-Russian tensions have dominated the headlines in recent months.
Amid these pressing matters, human trafficking needs to be continually kept in the spotlight, as it is one of the most significant problems we face today.
The evil of human trafficking and the ways that it can be addressed will be emphasized in congregations around the world on Sunday, Oct. 19, designated Freedom Sunday.
While the U.S. has allocated January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, participating in this October observance offers churches an opportunity to join with Christians around the world to address this important issue.
Calling attention to human trafficking, and discussing how churches can make a difference, several times a year is important to curbing its spread and negative impact.
As EthicsDaily.com executive editor Robert Parham emphasized in a January 2013 editorial, we must “prioritize human trafficking – all year long.”
The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.”
The goal of trafficking is always exploitation, the U.N. adds, which includes “the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
While some might assume that trafficking most often takes place outside the so-called First World, trafficking is a global issue – from San Francisco to the Middle East to South Africa to Myanmar to almost every other nation.
Education about trafficking’s prevalence and ubiquitous presence is vital to ensuring that Christians are aware that it can happen in their neighborhoods and to helping them be able to identify and assist victims of trafficking.
Numerous resources are available to enable people of faith to educate themselves about trafficking and to plan worship gatherings, Sunday school classes and small group meetings that highlight this issue not only on Oct. 19 but also throughout the year.
EthicsDaily.com ran a series of articles in July 2014 that focused on what Baptists around the world are doing to stop trafficking.
This is a continuation of efforts dating back to 2009 to inform our readers about trafficking and to encourage them to help address the problem.
There is a national hotline in the U.S. where persons can report trafficking, and the Polaris Project offers a state-by-state trafficking database with local organizations working to address this issue, as well as many other resources.
Baptists, Methodists and United Reformed leaders collaborated to create a worship resource for Freedom Sunday.
The document includes general information on human trafficking as well as worship resources including stories, prayers, sermon texts and a call to action.
For more in-depth study, the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime offers numerous publications about trafficking, including reports, technical papers and training materials.
Observing Freedom Sunday on Oct. 19 is a great way for congregations to begin engaging this issue.
But it will require a sustained focus and action to end one of the persistent evils of our time.
Christians were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement in 1800s, upon recognizing the sinfulness of the slave trade.
Human trafficking has rightly been called modern-day slavery. Through education and action, hopefully the historical record will show that Christians, once again, played a significant role in ending this sinful institution.
Zach Dawes is the managing editor for EthicsDaily.com.