6 Ways Your Church Can Engage in Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts
Human trafficking is an evil that should end. This is something about which all Christians can agree. Yet the problem is huge and complex. Often people feel ill equipped to do something that will make a difference. If your church has heard stories and statistics but isn’t quite sure what to do next, here are ways you can start to engage in anti-human trafficking efforts.
1) Seek to understand. The United Nations developed a detailed definition of human trafficking as a way to create avenues to stop the criminal enterprise. In short, human trafficking is a crime by which people are controlled and exploited for profit. The two primary forms are labor exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation. (To learn more about the issue, check out the Ending Human Trafficking podcast.) While human trafficking is a complex global problem affecting every country in the world, it also needs to be understood at a local level. Look for organizations in your area who are engaged in anti-trafficking efforts, ask how you can understand and support their efforts to fight trafficking, and listen.
2) Recognize and report. Trafficking is everywhere. Teach your congregation to spot the signs of human trafficking and identify victims. Then train them how to report suspected cases. The unfortunate reality is that the efforts of law enforcement to stop human trafficking vary across the globe, but most countries do have a hotline number you can call. Click here if you live in Europe, South Africa, Canada, or the United States. For other hotline numbers, go to the Global Modern Slavery Directory, then click “show advanced search” and “hotlines.” There, you’ll find a list of more than 250 hotline numbers around the world.
3) Educate your leaders and volunteers. Train youth and children’s ministry leaders in trafficking awareness, and teach youth and children to protect themselves from potential trafficking situations. Help them to recognize the recruiting tactics that traffickers use. Remind them they are each valued, loved, and made in God’s image and worthy of dignity.
4) Teach online safety. Traffickers don’t find their victims by accident. They are strategic master manipulators, and they look for individuals who are naïve or otherwise vulnerable. Exploiters who focus on sex trafficking, in particular, often use social media to prey on victims. Teach children and youth how to protect themselves on social media, and give parents and guardians tools to know what to look for and how to help their children navigate online interactions.
5) Figure out where you fit. Analyze the needs in your community and prayerfully consider where they intersect with the abilities and resources represented in your congregation. Prevention is an area of anti-human trafficking where churches can play a particularly critical role. Prevention is essential if our goal is to stop the victimization of children, youth, and adults. Traffickers find ways to exploit the vulnerabilities of individuals. For example, poverty is often a key driver of human trafficking. Are there ways your church can help provide job skills or activities that generate income for families experiencing poverty?
Youth who have run away, are experiencing homelessness, or have aged out of orphanages or foster care are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked. Consider ways your church can minister to vulnerable children and youth. Start where you are: Are there single parents in your congregation who could use support in caring for their children? You could contact foster care organizations or child- and youth-focused homeless shelters and ask how your congregation can provide support.
If your church has the capacity to start a ministry, you might consider a youth mentoring program or after-school activities that provide guidance and a safe place for children and youth.
If you need some guidance to figure out where you fit, you can find free resources through the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAAST).
6) Fight the demand. Human traffickers are motivated by money, and our actions can drive the demand for slave labor and commercial sex. Although it feels uncomfortable, churches need to address the connection between pornography and sex trafficking. Seek out resources to help those in your church who may be struggling with sexual addiction. Also learn how our consumer decisions fuel labor trafficking around the world, and consider ways your church can make compassionate choices.