Oh, freedom over me, over me,
And before I’d be a slave
I’d be buried in my grave,
And go home to my Lord and be free.
- Negro spiritual
Does “modern slavery” sound like an impossibility?
Not to a newly formed local group called the “The Shenandoah Valley Justice Initiative,” a faith-based group of modern day abolitionists committed to combating this evil, commonly referred to as human trafficking.
In the book “In our Backyard: A Christian Perspective on Human Trafficking in the United States,” author Nita Belles cites a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that more than 100,000 children are victims of this modern form of the slave trade in the US alone, and that almost all trafficked children are eventually forced into hard labor and prostitution.
Around the world, as many as 12 million children are trafficked every year, according to her research. In Mexico alone, more than 16,000 children are working in the sex trade, most of them at tourist destinations. And in Southeast Asia, at least 30 percent of sex trade workers are between the ages of 12 and 17.
Child trafficking typically begins with a stranger visiting a village and offering housing and a good-paying job in the city. In an effort to support his or her family, the child leaves and promises to send money home, only to become the victim of horrendous mistreatment and abuse.
According to Lynne Hybels, cofounder of the Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, in an article in the June 2011 issue of Sojourners magazine, a club owner in Chicago can pick up a phone and “mail order” three beautiful girls from Eastern Europe. Two weeks later a fresh shipment of three Slavic girls will be at his club. She also cites Rachel Durchslag, director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, as saying that the average age of entry into prostitution is 14. And all of this doesn’t even begin to address the thousands of other workers around the world who earn only enough to keep them alive for one more day of work under dehumanizing conditions.
The SVJI is sponsoring the showing of the documentary “Nefarious, Merchants of Souls,” Tuesday, October 4, at 7:00 p.m. at the Potter’s House Worship Center at 1911 West Market Street in Harrisonburg (just west of Thomas Harrison Middle School).
I urge all concerned people to attend. And to invite your friends to join you.
Check out their new web site at www.valleyjustice.org, or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org (540-801-0519).