Human Trafficking. I knew about it, or at least I thought I did. Certainly I knew that all over the world evil people do all kinds of vile things for profit and perverted pleasure. But in truth I had no real idea as to the true scale of it’s horror, or indeed its proximity. That was until I heard about Eva (not her real name).
Eva lived in Lithuania with her husband and children. They were happy, but they were poor. Desperate for money Eva responded to an advertisement offering work as a maid in a London hotel. To her joy she got the job. As she boarded the plane she was sad that she was going to be parted from her family, but she focussed on the money that she would soon be sending home to them.
Only that’s not how it worked out.
Upon landing in London Eva was met by a man who took her to a private location where her passport was taken from her and she was raped. In the week that followed she was sold as a prostitute and raped by over 40 men. The following weekend Eva was taken along with a group of other women to a house where a sex party was taking place. She pleaded with the other women to help her escape, but they seemed resigned to their plight. So trembling and terrified Eva climbed out of a bathroom window and fled through the streets. Mercifully she was discovered by the local police who took care of her, placed her in a safe house and ultimately got her home to her family.
There is much that shocked me about this story, but perhaps the most shocking part is where she was rescued from. The house where she was being held captive was Blackwood—a small town in the valleys of South Wales. In the space of a week Eva had been trafficked from Lithuania to the South Wales Valleys. She had been exploited, humiliated and suffered horrific abuse.
This real-life story (relayed to me by the detective who handled her case) literally wrecked me! Indeed it propelled me onto a gut-wrenching, faith-stretching journey of discovery. It is a journey that, as I have been confronted by the brutal realities of human trafficking, has been marked by raw tears and holy fury.
- How can we not be moved when we discover that more than 45 MILLION people live as slaves today? (The number rises each year!)
- How can it not blow our minds that human trafficking is a criminal industry that now generates upwards of $150 BILLION annually?
- How could our hearts not be crushed when we learn that it in some countries it is cheaper to buy sex with a child than it is to purchase a bottle of beer?
Essentially human trafficking is the exploitation of the vulnerable by the powerful for financial gain, and while sexual exploitation is often what springs to mind when we think of human trafficking, it is by no means the full picture. Other forms of trafficking include forced labour, criminal exploitation, domestic servitude and even organ harvesting. Victims include women, children and men from every nation in the world. Human trafficking is truly shocking in both its nature and its scale and, while ignorance is blissful, once our eyes have been opened inaction is NOT an option for the follower of Jesus. I like how the great British abolitionist, William Wilberforce, put it:
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
And if Mr Wilberforce can’t stir us into action, perhaps the Holy Bible can:
“He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”
(Micah 6 v 8)
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?”
(Isaiah 58 v 6)
The mission of Jesus was unquestionably one of rescuing slaves from the tyranny of sin. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! (Psalm 107 v 2). He was sold to the cross for 30 pieces of silver in order to set the captives free. Let that sink in! So as the liberated people of Jesus, what can we do hold out hope and freedom for the trafficked? Here’s a few suggestions:
- Get on your knees - Human trafficking is WAY too big an issue for us to do anything about alone. Prayer humbly acknowledges our weakness and inability to do anything without God. However, prayer also demonstrates faith that God can give us the power to both rescue the oppressed and rage against the oppressor. Psalm 10 is a great place to start praying from!
- Raise your voice - tweet, blog, rant and tell others about trafficking and by doing so, shine light into the darkness.
- Give your cash - there are some AMAZING ministries that are on the frontline of the fight against human trafficking. IJM, Exodus Cry, End It Movement and AIM to name a few. However, there may well be churches and ministries in your own community that you could support.
- Mobilise your church - Cherish women, nurture children, protect the vulnerable and train men to live holy, upright lives. Bang the drum for justice. Pray that God would help you to be a community that offers grace, healing and hope for the oppressed, whilst also maintaining that the gospel is only power and hope for the oppressor.
Lord Jesus, grant us the grace, wisdom and courage that we need to rage against the injustice of human trafficking. May the oppressed be set free and may the oppressor be brought to justice and brought to repentance. For your glory. Amen.
Dai Hankey is a pastor, author of A Man’s Greatest Challenge and leader of Red Community—a gospel-centred charity that is passionately, prayerfully, creatively combating human trafficking in Wales, UK. Learn more about Eva’s story in this video, which is part of their Red Alertawareness raising resource.