Human Trafficking & Me

On Saturday, a sweet friend Shelly and I got up, ate breakfast, and then headed to World Relief Durham's Reflect and Respond event. The topic: Human Trafficking. Not the lightest of topics... Now for the most part, most of us go into these events wanting to help but we have the underlying idea that we are actually not a part of the problem. Thoughts like "It's not MY fault. I'm not trafficking people... so what do I actually have to do with the problem. Just tell me how I can be a part of the solution!" want to leak out of my head into my heart. Fortunately, after hearing World Relief's thorough presentation, my heart wouldn't allow it.

It's odd, we so badly want to be a part of the solution (or at least I did), but at the same time I completely ignored my responsibility in creating an environment where this travesty does not just exist, but it thrives.

Here are some quick facts/thoughts that I wrote down during the session:

  • North Carolina is one of the top 10 states involved in Human Trafficking in the United States.
  • Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world today and it is the fastest growing. And it is second only to drug dealing.
  • Most victims trafficked into the United States do not speak or understand English. How in the heck are they supposed to be able to ask for or trust help?
  • Sex Trafficking is defined as "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act." This act is induced by either force, fraud, or coercion.
  • Labor trafficking is defined as "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery."
  • There are more slaves today than when it was legal in the United States. We pride ourselves on making slavery illegal and ridding our society of such evil, yet the first Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed in the year 2000.
  • Men from the United States, Western Europe, and Australia are the TOP CUSTOMERS of human trafficking. That's right. We say it's not affecting us, but obviously we're intimately connected in creating a demand for human slaves.

I could go on and on... and on... My heart just broke as I heard all of these facts. I felt helpless, flustered by our broken world, and angry because I didn't know how to respond. But then it only got worse. They started to explain a basic economic idea and how it affects modern day slavery: Supply and Demand.

I love chocolate. Love it. And i don't want to buy expensive chocolate - I buy the cheap stuff.  Same thing with coffee - I never look to see if it's fair trade or not. Evidently, my purchasing these items only creates a need for quick, easy, and cheap products (how are they so cheap? well workers aren't actually paid laborers... they're modern day slaves). In all reality, I'm creating a world where companies get their coffee and cocoa beans from unpaid human slaves, who are either forced, coerced, or tricked into "working" there. Many of these same employees who do not value and respect the lives of their workers, are also customers of or supporters of sex slaves. In buying the cheapest chocolate, or not requesting Starbucks to use their fair trade beans when making my luxury drink, or when buying regular sugar at your average grocery store... I am creating and affirming (and partnering) with the abusers of the victims that I would love to save.

Anyways, I'm still trying to figure out what it means to live life in our society, yet still be intimately aware of the impact my dollar and my voice. After hearing truth, it's really hard to ignore. World Relief released a great blog with a list of ways to consider responding to this issue.  I'm most likely going to do what I can to not purchase anymore coffee that isn't fair trade (Thank you Caribou Coffee for making ALL of your beans approved by the Rainforest Alliance). And I'm definitely going to start requesting Starbucks to make my drinks with their fair trade beans only (they only have one type according to World Relief speaker Danielle Mitchell) - yes, this will be awkward at first as I know it is an inconvenience to the workers there... but I would rather inconvenience a worker 2 minutes of their time rather than knowingly support a bean that most likely came from the hands of a trafficking victim.  And I truly believe that if all of society heard the truth, and their hearts (and thus wallets) were changed... these mega-organizations would have to change their ways because our demand would change the supply.

Ok, enough from me... Each of us have to follow our own conscience, but I must confess, mine is really convicted right now and I'm really processing through it. So with that said,  I'm asking you to spend 1 min watching this video and then read this much shorter blog post at World Relief. 



Much love to you all...

Posted on August 17, 2011 and filed under Humanitarian.