America’s New Move Against Modern-Day Slavery

On September 25, 2012, President Obama outlined new White House initiatives to fight human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative—and picked up the torch of abolitionists from generations before by calling trafficking by “its true name: modern slavery.”

USAID defines human trafficking as “an egregious violation of human rights that reduces human beings to the status of commodities to be bought and sold.  It is fueled by demand for prostitution and cheap labor.”  By nature, the business is difficult to track, but the USAID reports trafficking victimizes between 12 to 27 million men, women and children worldwide.  This victimization of humans is perpetuated by porous borders, absent rule of law, failure to prosecute traffickers, complicity of corrupt officials and modern communication technology.

Trafficking takes various forms, but in every scenario, a human being is sold or traded against his or her will—most often for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation. 

For a nation that set a historical precedent for abolishing slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago last month, Obama says it’s time the U.S. made good on that promise once again.

And for the first time, the U.S. will be included in its own global annual trafficking report—“because we can’t ask other nations to do what we are not doing ourselves,” Obama said.  

At the Clinton Global Initiative, President Obama announced new initiatives to combat human trafficking, including:

  • Signing a new Executive Order ensuring American tax dollars are never used for human trafficking, which will apply to all federal contractors and subcontractors.  Tools will be provided to federal agencies to foster compliance.
  • Utilizing technological advances to stop perpetrators who are using technology and the Internet to exploit victims. 
  • Increasing resources for victims of human trafficking including expanding legal resources, broadened comprehensive services, simplified T-visa procedures that will aid in prosecution of traffickers and the announcement of a new annually selected Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking of Persons to incentivize and recognize those fighting for freedom.
  • Focusing the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on fighting human trafficking including new partnerships with Humanity United and Johns Hopkins University which will prevent human trafficking and treat victims.
  • Completing a thorough assessment of the scope and scale of the human trafficking problem in the United States which includes training for law enforcement about victim rights, working with public transportation and educators to identify possible victims.  

The President challenged everyone—not just government and world leaders—to fight modern-day slavery. He challenged civilians to recognize this is not a Republican or Democrat issue, but something every American can join forces around and fight together. 

Modern-day slavery “ought to concern every person because it is a debasement of our common humanity,” Obama said at the Clinton Global Initiative. 

He challenged the business community to make sure that their supply chains are free of forced labor and commended the Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking for their efforts in this fight. He challenged the faith community to educate their congregations and band together, commending the Evangelical Church, the Catholic Church, International Justice Mission, World Relief and Passion City Church for their efforts in this fight.  He challenged individuals to learn more, to speak up and to stand against this injustice.

If you are interested in getting more involved to help fight human trafficking:

  1. Learn the facts.  Sites such as: usaid.gov/trafficking, unicef.org, thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.comslaveryfoodprint.org and Disposable People by Kevin Bales are a good starting place for information.
  2. Check out the work of International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that brings fescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression.  Learn more about the work they do at ijm.org, or follow them on Twitter @IJMHQ
  3. Check out the work of World Relief.  In community with the local Church, World Relief envisions the most vulnerable people transformed economically, socially, and spiritually.  Learn more about what they do at worldrelief.org, or follow them on Twitter @worldrelief
  4. TODAY, October 1 at 12:00 p.m. ET, participate in a call-in with the Director of the White House Office on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and International Justice Mission to discuss how advocacy makes a difference.  Call 530.881.1212 and enter the Meeting ID 417-069-749*

You don’t have to be an expert, leader or government official to do something. Christians are already given the charge of Isaiah 1:17 to “seek justice [and] encourage the oppressed,” a charge Obama affirmed in his address: 

“Every faith community can take action… by educating their congregations, by joining coalitions that are bound by a love of God and a concern for the oppressed.  And like that Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho, we can’t just pass by, indifferent.  We’ve got to be moved by compassion.  We’ve got to bind up the wounds.  Let’s come together around a simple truth—that we are our brother’s keepers and we are our sister’s keepers.”  

As Christians stand up to join the fight, they can know their efforts are more than advocacy for an “issue”—they are a part of a global rescue and redemption mission.

Allison Buzard is a Christ-follower and a social worker, who is trying to figure out the Church's role in community development.  Allison works in urban schools, and blogs at www.allisonbuzard.com. Allison and her husband, Adam, make their home in Nashville, TN.

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