Lent Remixed, Week 7: United States

March 25, 2013

Photo by Alyssa L. Miller via Flickr
For our final week of Lent Remixed, we are focusing on the United States. 

After a few discussions about the many issues we could give attention to, we decided on one that many people may or may not know much about: human trafficking. 

Human trafficking, defined, is the trade of human beings, typically for the purpose of sexual slavery or forced labor.

While in recent years  much more awareness has been raised regarding human trafficking and how there are over 27 million slaves in the world today (more than there have ever been at any point in history), did you know that human trafficking has become a problem in the United States? In Minnesota?

Here are some appalling statistics:
  • Approximately 16,000-18,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. while 100,000-300,000 are trafficked domestically within the U.S. each year.
  • Human trafficking is the second-largest criminal industry behind drug smuggling, but human trafficking is the most profitable and fastest-growing industry of all.
  • Minnesota ranks 13th for the highest rate of human trafficking of minors in the entire nation
  • Minneapolis is the #8 city in the nation for the highest rate of human trafficking.
  • 8,000-12,000 people in Minnesota are involved in sex trafficking every day.
  •  The average age of a trafficking victim is 12 years old.
The statistics are staggering, overwhelming at times. Depressing. We are all parents, many of you are too. The first thought I have is for my children. What would that be like? I can't bear to bring myself to consider it. We know and understand how hard it is sometimes to look at or listen to stories about certain issues, human trafficking being one of them.

But we do not believe that this is where this story should or will end.

These statistics do not tell the full story. There are people standing up, organizations being formed, a new kind of freedom-fighter being born. Organizations like the A21 Campaign that works globally to offer victims protection and prosecute offenders; Breaking Free, an organization providing services to women and girls who've been abused or caught in sexual exploitation; and MATTOO, an organization for men who want to raise awareness and support against human trafficking. And there are many, many more. We want to be a part of that movement. We want to be part of the solution that shines light to end this problem. And we know that there are many more who do, too. If you're reading this, you're probably one of us. Wanting change. Wanting to take action. And we applaud you. We stand with you.

So, what are we doing this week?

Praying. Over 27 million slaves today. We will start by praying. We will pray for the men, women, and children caught in human trafficking. We will pray for an end to their suffering. We will pray for a way out, an escape. And we will pray for justice for the crimes committed against them. Sometimes I know we wonder: Does prayer really work? Will it change anything? I read a story from the A21 Campaign this week. When they first started, they prayed that God would change hearts, not only of the traffickers, but of the men who use the services of the victims. One of the first girls from Greece they ever housed, who was rescued from sex trafficking, told the story of how a man came in, paid for her services, then asked where her work visa was. She began to cry, telling him her story of forced prostitution. His heart was moved with compassion and he snuck her out of the brothel and brought her to the local police station. The police officer on duty called the people from the A21 Campaign and told them in all his twenty years of being on the force, he'd never seen anything like it. That's what we believe prayer can do. If we can do nothing else, we can pray.

Fasting. This week we are giving up television. In a culture that feeds on images, we will turn off the voices that tell us what to wear, how to look, and who we should be. We will refuse to play in to a cultural mindset that wants to objectify, to oversexualize, to pervert our world and its inhabitants. We will instead use that time to raise our own awareness of this issue and pray.

Giving. There are so many organizations you could give to that are doing something about human trafficking. I've already listed a few, but there are others. See a full list here.

Do Something. Students Against Trafficking and Sexploitation (SATS) is showing "Nefarious: Merchant of Souls" April 2 at 7 p.m. in the Atwood Theatre on the St. Cloud State University campus. They will be collecting household items such as new pillows, blankets, socks, and toiletries for seven women in the Saint Cloud area who have been, or currently are, victims of human trafficking. The items will be distributed through the Central Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force (CMHTTF) and its outreach program.

Honestly, I feel sick every time I think of this topic. And it would be easy to pretend it's not happening, that it's someone else's problem. But I recently heard this great quote from Benjamin Franklin, and it seems apt: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” We are outraged. And we're ready to help those who are bringing change and justice to a situation that just isn't acceptable.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8


1 comment

  1. Thanks for your efforts in bringing a fresh look at Lent and attention to things often overlooked in our society!