Well, if the title of this blogpost doesn't get you wanting to read more, I don't know what will! I understand that most people would prefer reading about a bit "lighter" topic. But, this is the topic for the day, and I have a question for you as well: How should the Church respond to the issue of modern day slavery and human trafficking? This isn't a rhetorical question. I want to hear your answers.
This question stems from a continuing education presentation I attended in Chicago, hosted by the International Organization for Adolescence and led by my friend and colleague, Shelby French (www.iofa.org). The organization focuses on domestic and international slavery, including labor and sex trafficking of adults and minors. Domestically, IOFA is working to bring into focus the problem of modern day slavery through training programs, information on interventions for those who may find people who are being trafficked, and government reforms to stiffen penalties for those who enslave others. Internationally, the organization has begun pilot programs in Cambodia and Ethiopia to assist orphans who are aging out of the system. These young people, who are at high risk for enslavement, will receive job training, life skills, and transitional care.
If you are still reading, I know that, as uncomfortable as this topic is, you know we need to bring voice to the voiceless. Shelby asked me what it was that created a passion in me about slavery. I responded "I believe we are all members of the Body of Christ. That every person is a precious child of God who deserves love, respect and care. We, who are the Body, are to bring a voice to the forgotten, the marginalized, and those who are abused." I also shared that the brokenness of our world is not "God's plan." As people of faith, we are called to live out Christ's message to bring wholeness and restoration to all people.
So, what about the Church? How do we give voice to modern day slavery? I'm trying to begin the conversation by getting the word out that slavery still exists. More people are enslaved today than in any time in human history. I also suggest that we learn more, and know the signs of trafficking, which I learned occurs in cities large and small, among people of every ethnicity. Don't forget the enslaved when planning your adult education sessions, when you're preaching, and when your in conversation with others.
I would like to see training opportunities and partnerships continue to form within the Lutheran Church. A day of training entitled "Pastor as 1st Responder" came to mind where we could bring together those who know about this topic and other issues (such as addictions, abuse, etc) and help Pastors and leaders learn what resources are available in our communities.
On a national level, I challenge the Christian Church, and the Lutheran Church specifically, to consider ways to partner with domestic and international anti-trafficking programs. The ELCA's moto is "God's work, our Hands." Our hands do incredible work with partner churches throughout the world, bring education, health care and other resources to all God's children. I now challenge our hands to work as Christ's hands and voice. Standing outside the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus cried out "unbind him!" and Lazarus came forth. We are now challenged to continue this cry "unbind him" and set the captive free.