Note from editor: Each month, we highlight a partnership, ministry, or topic on the Prov Blog. During the month of August, join us as we hear real stories about social justice, and learn how you can play a part in seeking Kingdom Justice in the world, leading up to Freedom Sunday on September 24th.
I first encountered human trafficking in the Middle East, and I still was not sure if what I saw was human trafficking for many months.
An all-too-common practice in the Middle East is to hire East Asian woman as house maids. The women live with the their employers, and often the families that hire them become their whole lives. Some of the best families treat their maid like another family member, allowing them to eat at the table, celebrate birthdays, and enjoy going shopping. But even in the nicest of homes they are the only one cleaning, cooking, and caring for the home. The worst of the homes, the family takes the passport from the maid, claiming that it is for their own safety. The families themselves believe these women are incapable of taking care of themselves, and need to be in bondage to survive. They don’t have a room, are not acknowledged by name, and forced to work beyond their capacity, with no end in sight.
My only encounter with this nameless East Asian woman was in the home of a wealthy family in the Middle East. She was on the floor sleeping on a thin cot too small for her, in the corner of a dark kitchen. No one acknowledged her, but rather brushed off her presence. I looked at her and did all I could at the time, I prayed.
This specific instance was surrounded by debate about what was willful employment and what was bondage, and this girl was caught in between. Disagreement over what was ‘good’ for the house maid and what was dangerous was deeply discussed in social circles. To her employers freedom was dangerous, but to her the home was her prison in which she wasn’t even allowing her to live. But the young maid was suffering whether or not we knew her whole story, or the reasons for her slavery.
Human trafficking is defined internationally as recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for labor or commercial sex acts through force, fraud or coercion. This is exactly what Middle Eastern society lives with every day, and this is exactly what is around us in the US and most of the world. Most attention for human trafficking is sex slavery, which is indeed a horrid crime. But the most prevalent form of human trafficking around the world is through labor trafficking. It is in the US, not only through the use of forced labor, but purchasing goods made through forced labor around the world.
This East Asian maid opened my eyes to the horrors that can come out of poverty and desperation for money - she could have been bought, sold, or even willfully put herself into slavery. She has a story, and it is similar to so many others whose lives are no longer their own. Who are unsafe, uncared for, and hopeless. Individuals in factories, producing goods for cheap exports are facing similar horrors every day.
With every purchase there is a story, behind every good is an assembly line of people that may be forced labor or child labor. They have stories, faces, and souls for which Christ died. We cannot know everyone’s stories, every face, or every reason human trafficking takes place. But we can do our part to prevent trafficking, and to share Christ’s love with those who have been harmed by it.
Some tangible ways to act:
- Pray for human trafficking victims. Christ knows their faces, names, and stories. We can lift them up to our Creator and Redeemer, asking for them to be saved, both from earthly bondage but also from the bondage of sin into salvation and complete freedom.
- Know what you’re buying, and where they are made. Demand brings supply,and if we make a stand for goods free from the slave trade, companies will listen. This site, among others, shows who made our goods, and how https://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods/
- Go and serve! Much of the needs revolve around prevention and rehabilitation. TEAM has many opportunities to go serve around the world, to serve vulnerable women, create stable economies, and bring education. You can finds specific ways to serve here https://team.org/ministry-areas/social-justice