A Crime So Monstrous–Busted Halo’s series on modern day slavery
Part 3 - Practicing What they Preach
There are more slaves today than at any other point in human history.
— E. Benjamin Skinner, A Crime So Monstrous
For most of us, it’s difficult to imagine that in 2009 there are more than 27 million people, most of them women and children, being held against their will. Many are abused or carried across international borders and exploited as servants, forced prostitutes or laborers. Many of them never make it out. If they do, it’s not unusual that they no longer possess their sense of humanness or the will to continue living.
Busted Halo’s three-part series on modern-day slavery and human trafficking aims not only to raise consciousness and concern about these two incredibly important human rights issues, but also to move readers to action.
Faith-Based Organizations and NGOs offer resources to take action to end human trafficking and slavery
In the weeks surrounding the publication of our contemporary slavery series, considerable progress has occurred in combating the rampant human rights violations of slavery and human trafficking. For one, President Obama nominated renowned Federal prosecutor Lou de Baca for Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department. The Pope traveled to Central Africa to address the violence and injustice that infest parts of that continent. Legislators in New York State proposed a ten-dollar “pole tax” for strip club visitors that would benefit human trafficking victims, as the government is slashing funds that help them.
Trafficking and slavery seem to be acknowledged in the mainstream more than ever before, but for decades it has been faith-based and non-governmental organizations leading the fight from the front lines. Says Bridgette Carr, clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan Law School and a human trafficking expert, “Faith-based organizations and NGOs are the ones pushing for the human trafficking movement. They are the people who are on the ground doing the hard work, telling us what’s going on, bringing issues to the forefront and most importantly, raising awareness. You can’t underestimate how important [that role] is, because all of the prevention and prosecution steps that come after that depend on awareness-raising happening first.”
For readers who have been moved to action through this series, we’ve compiled a quick-list of faith-based and non-partisan, politically independent organizations based in the U.S. doing significant work to educate vulnerable communities and prevent victimization, rescue slaves, and help victims of slavery and human trafficking recover and live freely. While “we can always use prayers and money,” reported a spokesperson for one of these groups, here’s how else you can engage in their cause with maximum impact:
Working for social justice in Haiti from a Christian foundation, Beyond Borders addresses the rampancy of Haitian child domestic slavery (known as the restavek system, French Creole for “one who lives with.”) A common practice in Haiti — a short two-hour flight from Miami — is for traffickers to travel into the countryside and invite children to return with them to the city with the promise of education. Instead, the children often work in other families’ homes, cleaning, doing laundry, preparing meals, and sometimes they’re left with table scraps to eat and nowhere to sleep except on cement floors with no blankets. Coordinator David Diggs says Beyond Borders works to enlighten rural populations to the injustices of the restavek with media outreach, sustainable agriculture education and “model community” programs that retrieve children who have been sent away and return them to their homes in an aim to inspire surrounding communities to make the same effort.
Because education can help protect an underprivileged person against coercion into slavery, Beyond Borders celebrates literacy and encourages the public’s participation in their Read-a-thon fundraiser, where students seek sponsorship for a particular amount of time reading. (Visit the Get Involved section of their website.) A new program is Beyond Borders’s Work-a-thon to end child slavery, which engages youth and college students to participate in community service while also raising funds from sponsors. The funds support their Haitian education efforts and their work for Haitian children and families.
Email David Diggs (dadiggs_at_gmail.com) for information on how to participate in the Work-a-thon program.
Free The Slaves
Co-founded by renowned slavery expert and Pulitzer-nominated author Kevin Bales, Free The Slaves is the sister organization to the prestigious Anti-Slavery International, the oldest human rights organization in the world.
Free the Slaves partners with organizations around the world to execute hands-on rescues and permanently liberate all types of slaves (including but not limited to child laborers, manual laborers, domestic servants and forced sex workers.) Free The Slaves coordinator of volunteer resources Judith Hyde has worked for the last three years to determine how to engage members of the public who want to help. A new program they’ve implemented is their Point Person program — they designate an especially effective, dedicated volunteer in a particular area of the U.S., then rely on that Point Person to raise funds and awareness.
Hyde says, “What an organization like Free The Slaves needs more than anything is for people to do fundraisers for us, and of course you’re raising awareness as you do it.” Donations, however small, are welcome and Free The Slaves asks they be made with no restrictions so they can allocate the money in whatever way they see as most beneficial for their work. However, “If somebody raised a significant amount of money and they wanted it to go for a particular country or partner, they can research our partners on our website, and with funds of $1,000 or more we can request that it go to whatever they specify.” Hyde then provides donors with an accountability report that shows donors what their accomplishments have been. Readers can email info_at_freetheslaves.net to inquire about getting involved, or check out Free The Slaves’ Community Members’ Guide (available for download here) for hundreds of suggestions for taking action.
“2 children per minute are trafficked for sexual exploitation. An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked annually. Statistically 32 billion dollars a year is generated from human trafficking.” According to Love146’s website, all these figures combine to make human trafficking the second-largest income-generating syndicate in the world.
Love146 is a registered public charity that works toward the abolition of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in Southeast Asia and the United States. The organization is named after a child the founders encountered in a Southeast Asian brothel in 2002. Like all the children in the brothel her name had been replaced with a number, but co-founder and president Rob Morris says, “There was still a fight left in her eyes.”
Love146 operates by a unique holistic model of after-care. Part of their program is their restorative “safe home” where children can recover after they have endured periods of sexual slavery and exploitation. The children receive intense psychological therapy, cooked meals and a loving home. Caregivers are also trained in prevention for at-risk communities and advocacy for victims and survivors.
Liz Magill, assistant to Love146’s president, says the organization encourages public engagement through their task forces, small groups of people that gather to raise funds and awareness about child sexual exploitation. Another engagement program is their campus coalitions, groups of students (including youth groups) who mobilize on middle school, high school and college campuses around the country.
To become active in Love146’s cause, visit the Get Involved section of their website.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian, development and advocacy organization with headquarters in Washington State and policy offices in Washington, D.C. They provide emergency relief, education and health programs, and issue advocacy for countries around the globe. They’re the largest private humanitarian organization in the world — 100 million people benefited from their programs in 2008, and 3.3 million children are registered with their child sponsorship program.
Jesse Eaves, World Vision policy adviser for children in crisis, says World Vision’s programs against slavery and human trafficking concentrate on:
- prevention — income generation education, skills training, sustainable living programs and “youth clubs” (World Vision trains groups of children to identify a problem within their community and work with local authorities to combat it);
- protection — medical recovery and societal re-integration programs for victims of sex slavery and exploitation; and
- prosecution — collaboration with local law enforcement officials around the world.
Eaves says the public can have the greatest impact by urging improvements in government policy: “Every day people make or break the fight against human trafficking… we can win the fight against trafficking simply by sitting by our couch at home, picking up our cell phone, and letting [our elected officials] know that this is an important issue.” Petitions from the public are the most powerful tools in fighting trafficking, says Eaves, but we have to “break down the aura of intimidation that exists with calling our public officials.” World Vision lists an extensive range of resources for writing letters to Congress on their website at www.worldvision.org/seekjustice.
Franciscan International is a non-governmental, religiously affiliated organization that trains Franciscans who deal directly with victims of trafficking and slavery. Franciscan International advocacy and training officer Michael Mutzner says, “Our main vocation is to do advocacy at the UN level and bring Franciscan voices to the UN,” lobbying for legislative mandates against slavery in UN-affiliated countries.
Mutzner says an example of this advocacy is their recent grassroots effort with Canada to prepare a report for the UN on Canada’s trafficking and slavery policies. The Franciscans had urged Franciscan International to raise the issue of slavery in preparation for Human Rights Council reviews, after which, state delegations in the UN’s Geneva office recommended that Canada adopt legislation that would better protect victims of trafficking because, as Mutzner says, “[Under current Canadian law] there is a lack of provisions aiming at identifying and protecting victims, and the protection for victims needs to be improved.” This June, Canada will announce to the UN whether they accept or reject the Human Rights Council’s recommendation for more protective legislation.
Mutzner says one of the most necessary actions we can all take in the fight against slavery and trafficking is to raise awareness. “Talk to others, and be careful how we treat foreigners,” he says, as domestic labor is a serious problem in Western countries. “It could be happening in your neighborhood.” He invites readers to subscribe to Franciscan International’s newsletter Pax et Bonum and read their Handbook on Human Trafficking (both available here.) Mutzner also asks readers to pray for victims of trafficking and slavery and the people who work to help them.