Christians Fight New Wave of Human Trafficking
As unemployment increases, more women, youth and children are likely to be trafficked into forced labour and sexual exploitation. A global snapshot of this includes things like poor parents selling children to brothels or mines, more child brides and trucks combing streets in poorer neighborhoods for youth and children orphaned—a site some SIM missionaries have seen already.
Sarah Scott Webb is a writer and SIM missionary with For Freedom: Anti-trafficking and exploitation ministries of SIM International. She is part of the team who are responsible for coordinating the mission’s anti-trafficking response.
“SIM views human trafficking as one of the significant barriers preventing vulnerable people and communities from hearing and receiving the gospel,” states Webb. “We see responding to human trafficking as part of our Christian responsibility to care for the poor and seek justice for the oppressed. We approach anti-trafficking from a prevention perspective, looking for ways to protect the vulnerable in our communities.”
Due to unemployment caused by COVID 19, Webb observes there will be rising numbers of people, especially children and youth, lured by false job opportunities or sold or simply picked up off the streets because they are now homeless or orphaned.
The numbers are staggering. Globally it is estimated that more than 40 million people have been trafficked into slavery, according to For Freedom.
“Sixty-six percent of all trafficking and slavery occurs in the Asia Pacific region, but it is happening in every country in the world. No country is immune,” says Webb.
Covid-19 is already having a significant impact on human trafficking rates; it is predicted that these numbers will rise dramatically over the coming months.
What we can do from where we are, beyond pray and give to help poor and vulnerable families internationally, is raise awareness.
“A powerful first step in addressing human trafficking,” she writes, “is finding out what trafficking is, how it works, what we can do about it and then telling those in our churches and community. If we understand that human trafficking is really about the exploitation of people who are extremely vulnerable. . . prevention is practical things like the vulnerable having enough to eat and improved access to schools and healthcare. Having strong families and other strong supportive relationships.”
SIM missionaries, The Salvation Army, World Vision, Compassion Canada and others are building strong relationships among Christians and throughout communities.
An example Webb says of how this helped a young woman was the day recently when she had thought she received an amazing job offer to work as a teacher in Mexico, only for an uncle and SIM missionary to help her see through this ‘too good to be true’ placement offer. It turned out to be human smugglers.
The Salvation Army Canada, like World Vision, offers child sponsorship. Through programs like its Brighter Futures, Canadians are sponsoring vulnerable children.
“Programs like our Brighter Futures child sponsorship support children who are often at risk of being trafficked by providing shelter, education and food and psycho-social support through a holistic approach,” says Lt-Colonel Brenda Murray, Director of World Missions with The Salvation Army in Bermuda Territory and Canada.
She says The Salvation Army thanks Canadians whose gifts ensure many children will not be sold or trafficked and then lose the chance to attend school or grow up safe and with food and shelter.
Like World Vision Canada, which also matches Canadians with children in need, The Salvation Army works throughout relationships in those countries. The difference is that The Salvation Army is a Church body, and so members of the community, whereas World Vision hires local people to work within their own communities.
“More people will be vulnerable to trafficking because they will be displaced,” says Simon Lewchuk, Senior Policy Advisor of Child Rights and Protection with WVC. “Children will be orphaned. Families will lose their livelihoods and people will lose shelter and children will miss school. The pandemic will make more people vulnerable to being trafficked.”
“When people are desperate,” he continues. “They often consider doing things they would not normally do and that desperation is what COVID 19 is likely to cause for many.”
Like the others, he hopes more Canadians and others can help families as they confront dire circumstances and have the chance to see a way out and bring them hope and a better way of life.
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