By Audrey Masterson
It seems like a question with an obvious answer, but it’s not. The problem seems endless, and it’s easy to feel helpless really quickly. But trafficking doesn’t happen because people make poor decisions, live erotic and irresponsible lifestyles, or even by chance. No, human trafficking happens because we are broken, sinful people. It’s a byproduct of damaged relationships, divided families, and a lack of love; "it’s because of systemic barriers to education and employment, neglect and early childhood trauma, struggles with self-esteem and mental health” (paraphrased Relevant Magazine). Trafficking happens because people are broken.
We are all broken.
The traffickers are broken.
When you think of a pimp, what do you picture? An older African-American guy in a pinstriped suit with a top hat, gold teeth, and big chains around his neck—or maybe something similar? Yeah, I did too (and that could be the case), but typically they blend in a little more with the community around them. Today, pimps look like national and local criminal organizers, our neighbors, friends, family members, or romantic partners, agricultural operators, owners of small or medium-sized businesses, or of large factories, police officers, and government authorities. They could be of any ethnicity, any race, any gender, and any age. They are living and breathing and always scheming and preying on our youth. Yet, they are broken people too.
The buyers are broken.
Often referred to as “Johns” when referencing the sex industry, these are the people buying sex from prostitutes on the street and in brothels. Buyers are people financially supporting the porn industry by watching short films created by those trapped in the sex industry or attending strip clubs and massage parlors. Buyers are men and women of all races, ethnicities, and ages keeping individuals trapped in a life of slavery. And let’s not forget, buyers are those of us who consume and keep consuming products without researching fair-trade options. And buyers too are broken individuals.
The victims are broken.
These are the marginalized community groups and individuals found within our community being bought and sold in our backyards, our parking lots, in the motel down the street, and at truck stops, and these people are broken, and hurting.
We are broken.
We are the Christians unaware, shrinking back, remaining silent, and allowing this monstrosity to continue to occur in our neighborhoods; and we are those helping, learning, educating, and praying for those enslaved. That’s the “us,” and we are broken people in need of a Savior.
We are all broken. We are broken by addictions, unhealthy and abusive relationships, loss and and unresolved pasts—by mistakes, regrets, and by unanswered prayers. But there is beauty found in brokenness. Our brokenness leads us to a need that can only be fulfilled by a God that created us in His own image. And that’s a reason to care.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”- Genesis 1:27
We are ALL created in the image of God, from the pimps to the buyers to thevictims to the helpers. Human trafficking is an assault on the dignity of human life and preys on the oppressed. If we believe that we have all been made in the likeness of God and deserve basic dignity then how could we stand by and allow brothers and sisters to be dehumanized, exploited, or marginalized? We care because, as Christians, we have been given an undeserved new life of freedom in Christ and the resources to help protect the vulnerable, prevent high-risk individuals from being exploited, and prosecute the criminals aiding the industry.
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” - Galatians 5:1
One of the most beautiful and valuable aspects of Christianity in my opinion is free will. Free will says that we have the choice to take up our cross and follow Jesus— or not to, and to live apart from Him. Ultimately God, who is Love, gives us the option to love; however, to call ourselves Christians, God holds us accountable to a command to love our neighbors as we would love ourselves.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” - John 13:34
And that’s another reason to care about the fight against human trafficking. Because loving others who are different than ourselves promotes unity, creates stronger relationships, gives hope, and survives oppression. Love helps rescue those trapped in "the life", rehabilitate victims from a life of trauma, and reintegrate survivors back into our community after being estranged for a period of time.
"And above all these [virtues] put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” - Colossians 3: 14
Not only do I believe that love withstands persecution, I believe that love [for the least of these]builds bridges and connects the community. In a war-torn world, I believe Christians need a cause to rally around— a cause to fight against because “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The devil works by creating a wedge and hammering inch by inch until the people of God are torn, divided, and completely separated form one another. He doesn’t want us to live in community; he wants us in isolation— alone, defeated, manipulated, worn-out, and depressed— unable to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ because of the shame we feel. It’s the only way he works and he’s actively seeking victims for his lowly dwelling place— people like you and me to become traffickers, buyers, and the exploited. Human trafficking isn’t new; human trafficking doesn’t just occur in 3rd-world countries; human trafficking isn’t onlysex trafficking; human trafficking doesn’t represent one culture, one race, or one gender; human trafficking doesn’t just show up during major sporting events; and human trafficking isn’t easy to identify and prosecute— but human trafficking is real, and it is happening all around us.
"For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." - Romans 12:4-5