In the same way that slavery was a moral challenge for the 19th c. & totalitarianism was a challenge for the 20th c., the challenge that women & girls face around the world is the moral challenge of our time.

~ Sheryl WuDunn & Nicholas Kristof

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Holding Up A Mirror to Ourselves: Faith, Anti-Trafficking & Gender Inequality by Emily Nielsen Jones

Practically every day I receive an email or read about a new anti-trafficking conference being held, a new anti-trafficking network being convened, and new philanthropists and activists joining the global effort to rid our world of modern-day slavery.  Many of these voices and humanitarian efforts are being led by evangelical Christians who are rolling up their sleeves to set the captives free and create a more free world.  The problem is indeed staggering and horrific in it's magnitude and normalization:

• there are more humans enslaved today than any time in history – estimates range from 20-30 million people trafficked annually
• of these 20-30 million, approximately 80% are female
•  the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation
•  the second most common form of human trafficking is forced labor (18%),
• the total market for “illicit human trafficking” is estimated to be around $98 billion
• trafficking takes many forms as a continuum of exploitative, enslaving conditions that diminish human agency through a variety of psychological and physical means and normalized cultural/religious practices like child marriage which impacts nearly 70 million girls around the world in what is essentially trafficking, i.e. the bartering/enslavement of girls as young as 8, bringing the estimates of trafficking up way beyond 100 million/year


I don’t know about you, but when I hear these statistics I want to do something about it!  That slavery still exists in our world and has been getting worse is just simply hard to stomach.  As Americans, and likewise as people of faith, the notion of freedom is so central to our ideals of human flourishing, justice and equality.  The abolitionist struggle of the 19th c. is so central to our American sense of identity and our collective human heritage.  Yet in the year 2013 right here in our own country, right here in our own backyards and around the world, slavery in so many manifestations has not abated over the centuries but rather has become eerily normalized into the fabric of culture and continues to be a collective thorn our human side.  Will we ever really be able to liberate our world from the scourge of slavery?  Or is it here to stay?

I love the abolitionist spirit that we see being awakened today.  In our polarized world, it is rare to see things that bring people together and anti-trafficking is definitely one of those things.  People who don’t typically see themselves as “activists” are getting activated!  Collective awareness is leading to a heightened moral commitment in this moment of time to finish the unfinished work of the abolitionist movement to, once and for all, eradicate enslavement in all its forms from our country and from our planet.  Training down to NYC for InterVarsity's Price of Life week long faith-inspired anti-trafficking campaign/conference, top of my mind is the ?:

In this particular moment of time... the year 2013...
What is the unique contribution of faith/religion in this global movement to keep bending the moral arc of the Universe to create a more free, just world where no human beings are transacted or sold as commodities or diminished in their full human agency as image-bearers of God?

In this article below published by InterVarsity, I ask evangelicals to hold a mirror up to strange elephant in the room that continues to lurk around in our faith-based ngos, our churches, and para-church ministries:  the feminine face of trafficking that is inescapably linked with cultural/religious gender norms around the world which continue to restrict females to a subordinate, lesser than class of human beings which makes them/us vulnerable to various forms of enslaving social conditions.

That an organization like InterVarsity is addressing this uncomfortable reality is testament to their commitment to not just raising the floor for girls/women around the world but also to raising the ceiling at all levels of their organization.  Kudos InterVarsity!

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