If people on the street were asked if slavery still existed, most would look stupefied and say that slavery ended a long time ago. The sad truth is that there are more human slaves today than there has ever been in history. According to the United Nations, the trafficking of people has become the second largest type of organised crime in the world. Each year, it generates around $31.6bn (around £20.24bn), with the majority of that amount - $27.8bn - generated from sexual trafficking. Most of the victims are women and children.
Contrary to what some may think, trafficking is not only a problem confined to distant or less developed countries. It is a truly international problem, with at least 162 countries, including the UK, affected by the trade of humans in some form – whether as a source, a target or as a transition country, explains Laila Micklewait, policy and public affairs manager at Exodus Cry.
Exodus Cry is a prayer movement to end slavery. Benjamin Nolot initiated the movement after learning about the issue from his friends. As a result, he travelled around the globe to investigate and expose the extent of this hidden crime. The harsh reality can be seen in his documentary trilogy Nefarious. The Exodus Cry team which produced the documentary toured around the UK just before the Olympic Games to break the silence and raise awareness of human trafficking.
For Exodus Cry, the problem of human trafficking is a spiritual one that needs to be broken by prayer. In response to God’s burden for the victims of modern-day slavery, Benjamin Nolot led several hundred intercessors in prayer for breakthrough on behalf of the victims. The following day, one of the largest human trafficking busts in history occurred, involving 2,400 arrests in 77 countries. This prayer meeting has developed into a movement of intercessors and abolitionists.
More than Gold Olympics & Paralympics Project Co-ordinator Ish Lennox agrees that addressing the issue and stopping the denial is essential to help the victims. The organisation has put together an initiative which helps churches not only identify potential victims, but also provide them with information about how to help them. Moreover, they are seeking to use creative ways to inform the general public in London about human trafficking.
During the Games there will be a gift box in each of the 33 London boroughs that will be labelled with promises such as “A better education” or “A greater way of life”. Inside, however, will be the stories of trafficking victims. The gift box is intended as a metaphor for how people are sold a lie and enticed into trafficking.
Ish hopes that people will be equipped and informed so that after the Games they can go out and continue to work and pray for those who have been trafficked.
Another organisation working against this horrific human exploitation is the A21 Campaign. Their headquarters are in Thessaloniki, Greece, the hub of human trafficking. Thousands of Brits head to Greece each summer for sun, sand and a relaxing getaway, but what many do not realise is that this beautiful, cultured country is also the gateway for trafficked victims entering the European Union.
A21 works closely with the police and are the first support organisation to be informed after a raid. The rescued girls are brought to the A21 shelter where the team first tries to meet their physical needs as many have been starved, and have broken bones and teeth.
They then take part in a 15-week programme to help them recover. Their emotional state often differs according to how long they have been trafficked, says Annie Dollarhield, global communications manager for A21. The less trafficked a girl has been, the more paranoid, afraid and uncertain she is. Girls who have been trafficked for a longer period have adopted a survivor mentality and appear more independent, although they have a lot of questions.
The aim of the team is to show the love of Christ and give the girls hope and humanity again, as well as help them develop a real authentic relationship with Him. They also assist the girls beyond the programme, by helping with things such as visas, getting back to school, or finding a job. Many girls decide to return home. A21 stays in contact through partner organisations and puts the girls in touch with local churches to provide them with a safe environment once they are back in their own countries.
There are no quick fixes to the problem of human trafficking but Christian organisations continue to work and pray and inspire their fellow Christians to step out and become active in the fight against this awful crime. As Blaire Pilkington, of Exodus Cry sums up, the guilt does not only lie with "the evil man who does evil, but the good man who does nothing".
Praying and working to end human trafficking
Published 25 July 2012 | Charlene Winkel