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Sep26FriHuman trafficking hits close to home. September 26, 2014 by Dianna Bussey
Human trafficking is a new term for an old evil—slavery. As awareness has grown—human trafficking makes national news several times a month, movies have been made about its horrors and it has been used as a plot in TV shows—so has action and prevention. And yet the trade in people is still one of the world's fastest-growing criminal activities, generating tens of billions in profits every year. It is estimated that more than 20 million people in the world are enslaved.
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Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of people for the purpose of exploitation through the use of force, fraud or coercion. The two most common forms are sexual exploitation and forced labour, but forced servitude, debt bondage, organ removal and warfare are also significant problems. Victims can be men, women or children.
Trafficking affects every country in the world, as countries of origin, transit or destination—or all three. It can occur across borders—usually from less-developed to more-developed countries—or within a country.
We may think of trafficking as the abduction of a person, but the reality is more subtle. People living in poverty or situations of conflict, dreaming of a better future, are vulnerable to exploitation. They may agree to a job—even one with poor working conditions—only to find they were deceived. Fear, shame, threats, intimidation and violence, and overwhelming debt all become powerful tools of control for traffickers.
In Canada, people from remote communities moving to urban centres and newcomers seeking a better life often meet with hardship and are vulnerable to exploitation. As we care for the marginalized in our communities, The Salvation Army is uniquely placed to encounter victims of human trafficking. Meeting physical and spiritual needs gives us an opportunity to build trust and listen to the journeys people have made. In this way, if we recognize something is wrong, we can sound the alarm by contacting authorities.
Sadly, there is a dark side to our involvement with those who live on the margins. Traffickers prey on vulnerable people, and in our services, we create places where they can gain access to potential victims. Awareness and vigilance is required to protect people from exploitation within our ministries. We can counter this unintended consequence by being informed, being in relationship with the hurting people in our corps and ministry units, and using God-given and practical discernment in understanding their reality.
The Salvation Army addresses human trafficking at the individual level as we recognize victims of trafficking in our programs, walk alongside survivors in their healing and raise awareness about how to help victims of trafficking. For many victims, the Red Shield is a beacon as a place to seek assistance. We also address trafficking at the structural level by working against systemic issues of poverty and oppression.
Every September, The Salvation Army around the world commits to praying for all those affected by human trafficking. We ask for renewed vision to see the hurting and oppressed around us and for wisdom to know how to respond as individuals and communities. If God is nudging you to work with those affected by trafficking, volunteering at a local shelter or street ministry will accomplish this. Perhaps you will be called to volunteer at a homework club, or start a fellowship group for vulnerable women or men.
Human trafficking relies on ignorance and complacency, or distraction from taking the time to really listen to those we encounter. “But this is a people plundered and looted; they are all of them trapped in holes and hidden in prisons; they have become plunder with none to rescue, spoil with none to say, 'Restore!' ” (Isaiah 42:22 ESV). As an Army raised up by God, we meet people trapped and plundered every day. We must seek their restoration.
Dianna Bussey is the director of The Salvation Army's correctional and justice services in Winnipeg and consults on human trafficking issues for the Canada and Bermuda Territory's social services department at territorial headquarters.