Monday, June 28, 2010

The Fight Continues

This post is long overdue. It has been more than two years since my last blog entry, but that doesn't mean that things aren't happening. Various members of our informal circle continue to fight human trafficking both in the United States and abroad. And I keep finding out about other organizations that are committed to rescuing victims, prosecuting traffickers and preventing more people from being enslaved.

I've been hearing great things about an organization called Justice and Care. Check out their Web site in the list of links on the right!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sorry about the lack of posts!

I haven't been posting much here, but that doesn't mean the Carolina Clapham Circle is not still fighting human trafficking! We're still meeting the second Thursday of each month, and our members are doing great things. As a group, we are moving toward making our main goal the education of the public about the issue of human trafficking. Several of us also have gotten in touch with legislators about the problem, encouraging them to support stronger and more comprehensive laws to fight trafficking and restore those who are rescued. We also are becoming more networked with other people and groups, and as opportunities present themselves we may throw our weight behind various projects.

I hope to start posting more frequently again soon, but we'll have to see how that goes. In the meantime, if you want to keep up with the latest news of the Carolina Clapham Circle, and especially if you live close enough to join us, sign up on the form to the left, and I'll add you to the e-mail list.

Monday, February 18, 2008

12 Characteristics

I returned from a youth retreat yesterday to find that my wife had bought me the book “William Wilberforce: Greatest Works,” edited by Lloyd B. Hildebrand and published by Bridge-Logos.

In a chapter on the Clapham Group, Hildebrand notes a dozen characteristics of this group that accomplished so much in the abolition of legalized slavery in the 1800s:

They set clear and specific goals

They researched carefully to produce reliable and irrefutable evidence

They built a committed support community. The battle could not be carried on alone

They refused to accept setbacks as final defeats

They committed to the struggle for the long haul, even if it took decades

They focused on issues, not allowing opponents’ vicious attacks on their person to distract them or provoke them into similar response

They empathized with opponents’ position so that meaningful interaction could take place

They accepted incremental gains when everything could not be achieved at once

They cultivated grassroots support when rebuffed by those in power

They transcended single-issue mentality by addressing issues as part of [the] overall moral climate

They worked through recognized channels without resort[ing] to dirty tactics or violence

They proceeded with a sense of mission and conviction that God would providentially guide if they were truly acting in His service.

I don’t know if they had the wisdom to incorporate these characteristics right
from the start, or if the characteristics came from lessons learned in the public square, or if the group simply stumbled upon them as they went, but they certainly are the kinds of characteristics that can help win the day. May our group, and all modern-day abolitionists, develop these characteristics as we fight this battle.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

On the Frontline

Most people who only know me a little bit—and maybe even some of my closer friends—might be surprised to learn that I really like hard rock music. Hard rock that glorifies Jesus, that is.

There’s something about distorted guitars and basses that I really enjoy. But more than that, when someone is screaming lyrics at the top of his lungs, it makes me think, “Hey, this guy really means this.” And when those lyrics glorify and honor God, that’s pretty cool.

Recently I’ve come across a group called Pillar. They’ve been around for years, but I had never really noticed them before. I’ve purchased a few of their songs and one video from iTunes, and I like what I’m hearing. One song, “Frontline,” seems to apply not only to Christians in general but also to those of us who want to make a difference in the fight against human trafficking. The chorus says:

Everybody, with your fists raised high
Let me hear your battle cry tonight
Stand beside, or step aside
We’re on the frontline

You should hear lead singer Rob Beckley screaming those lyrics—it’s inspiring. Well, I suppose if hard rock turns you off, you may not find it so inspiring. But I know that the members of the Carolina Clapham Circle feel that, if we’re not on the frontline already, that’s where we want to be. We’ve felt a call from God that makes us believe that’s where He wants us, too, and I pray that we’ll be obedient and ready for the fight. Let me hear your battle cry!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Human Suffering in the Heart of God

At Amsterdam ’83 (officially called the International Congress for Itinerant Evangelists), Ravi Zacharias said:

There is one place in the world where there is an aggregate, an accumulation, of human suffering—that is, in the heart of God. God then takes some of those heartaches and funnels them down into the hearts of His servants so that they might sense His burden and proclaim His message. This holy anxiety is an indispensable prerequisite to significant communication.

I think this holy anxiety is also a prerequisite to significant action, and when I look at my friends in the Carolina Clapham Circle and at other Christ-followers who are fighting human trafficking, I think we’ve experienced exactly what Zacharias was talking about. God has given us a glimpse of the suffering of slaves, and this compels us not only to proclaim a message of freedom but to work for it as well.

I also like what Zacharias said about God’s funneling some of humanity’s heartaches into our hearts. If we try to look at all the world’s suffering, our concern remains intellectual—it doesn’t become a burden. Sara Groves has a song on her cd “Tell Me What You Know” that says “At two you’re at abstraction.” I think she means that when we see one person’s suffering, it hits us a lot harder than when we see masses and statistics.

So God often gives us a picture of one person—maybe a girl in a Cambodian brothel (see the award-winning video at Love146) or a man who was enslaved in Brazil’s charcoal industry (see excerpts from the “Bound by Promises” video). The image stays with us, and we can’t stand the thought of that individual being enslaved.

I hope God will give you this kind of burden and that you will join the fight to eradicate slavery and restore its victims.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Leader in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

Today’s Christian Woman has published an interview with Laura Lederer, Senior Director for Global Projects on Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of State.

Lederer talks about the case that drew her to this cause as well as her own faith journey. Along the way, the article gives some basic facts about human trafficking in general and about sex trafficking in particular. And near the end of the article, Lederer makes a couple of interesting points. First, she talks about the role of the church:

“I’m convinced faith-based communities all around the world are the only ones qualified to provide long-term care for trafficking survivors. It’s the area of biggest need concerning sex trafficking, and I think it’s a perfect area for the church to take leadership.”

Second, she talks about the Christians who are involved in the fight against human trafficking, and her words remind me of my fellow Carolina Clapham Circle members:

“I’m hopeful because so many good people are beginning to work on this issue. We’re building a critical mass; it’s a new human-rights movement. And it’s filled with Christians and others who understand we have to be shoulder-to-shoulder to fight an epic battle with these new contemporary forms of slavery.”

I’m hopeful, too, when I see the caliber of people who are fighting against human trafficking. But most of all, I’m hopeful because I know God hates oppression and is powerful to save, and if He is calling us to fight this battle, He will equip us for what we need to do.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Great meeting, new opportunities

The January 10 meeting of the Carolina Clapham Circle was inspiring. We had a good-sized group, including three new friends, all of whom are already actively fighting modern-day slavery. Here are some examples of what various members have been doing recently:

• Making contacts in India
• Working on construction of safehouses
• Being invited to speak at a women’s conference
• Looking for ways to network and learn about the problem on an upcoming mission trip to Cambodia
• Corresponding with legislators about strengthening state laws
• Locating a human trafficking curriculum that can be used by church groups or others
• Getting coverage of this issue into a local newspaper

Our special guest was Sandra Johnson, director of Triad Ladder of Hope, a shelter in High Point, NC. Sandra has been fighting human trafficking for several years and has worked alongside both the FBI and ICE, in addition to presenting training sessions for law enforcement and others. Sandra encouraged us to help facilitate training for law enforcement, hospitals, housing inspectors and others in our own communities. And even in just the past few days, we’re already starting to do just that! I hope we can keep Sandra and her staff booked solid with training opportunities.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness

The U.S. Congress has designated Jan. 11 as the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness, and many of our fellow abolitionists are planning events to help raise awareness of the issue.

Some are holding press conferences. One group obtained space on buses for public service posters about human trafficking. Some groups are holding training sessions, candlelight vigils or exhibits of art created by trafficking survivors.

Let’s do all we can to raise awareness. The traffickers have been able to hide in the dark for too long; the more people learn about this issue, the more our ranks will grow as we seek to rescue and restore victims, prosecute traffickers and finally abolish slavery forever.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Prayer for the Clapham Circle

I’m finally recovering a bit from a crazy work schedule, a trip to Asia, a nasty cold and last-minute Christmas preparations. Aside from a clogged right ear that gave out on the final leg of the plane trip home, I’m feeling pretty good.

This morning I was reading Philippians 1, and Paul’s words reminded me of the Clapham Circle.

First, Paul says, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel” (Phil. 1:3-4, NIV).

I’m thankful for the co-laborers who have answered God’s call to fight against human trafficking and are working and praying together to find the most effective ways to do that.

Paul also records his prayer for the Philippians:

“That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Phil 1: 9-11, NIV).

I pray that same prayer today for the Carolina Clapham Circle and for all the others who are involved in this cause. Phrase-by-phrase, here is how I see this prayer applying to these friends:

“That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best …”

Most of the modern-day abolitionists that I know are motivated by love. We don’t know the victims, or many of them, but somehow God has put His love in us and made us want to defend, rescue and restore them. May that love abound in knowledge and depth of insight so we may be able to discern what is best—in other words, we need to know the best way to defend, rescue and restore the victims of human trafficking. A couple of months ago, three of us got together and watched a short human trafficking video that broke our hearts. We spent about a half hour in prayer, amidst sobs, and at that point I was so ready to go out and fight the bad guys. But I had no idea how. We need knowledge and depth of insight if we’re going to be effective in this fight.

“… and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ …”

As we fight against forces that are truly dark and evil, we face risks. We can be driven by anger instead of love. We men, especially, can be drawn away by the very lust that fuels the largest segment of human trafficking, which is sex trafficking. And we can forget that the traffickers, too, are hopelessly lost and need to be saved from the evil that controls them. In all our efforts, we need to pray that we remain pure and blameless.

“…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.”

When God makes us righteous—by grace, through faith in Jesus—it is not just so we can avoid hell. It is so we can join God in His work of redeeming the world, expanding His reign (the kingdom of God) in this world. The fruit of righteousness is the “produce” that comes when we live under the rule of God, and that produce includes the lives of people around us that are transformed, restored, filled with love, joy and peace. One of our Clapham Circle members has spent time volunteering at a safe house for young women who have been rescued from sex trafficking. She has told us of the wonderful changes she saw among those who had been at the safe house long enough to start building a new life. New lives, transformed by the love of Christ—this is the kind of fruit Paul had in mind for the Philippians, and it’s the kind of fruit I pray will be produced by the Carolina Clapham Circle.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Back soon

I'm going to be out of commission for awhile--we've been through a pretty horrendous stretch at work, and I've got about 10 more really busy days ahead of me. But the Clapham Circle will still meet Dec. 13. Please join us; we'll be talking about some great ideas for how to fight human trafficking right in our own region, and we've got members who are doing fantastic things to fight it internationally.

Pray that God will free slaves today and that He'll use us to do it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Charlotte Torch Rally

This coming Saturday, uptown Charlotte will be the location of the Charlotte Torch Rally, which will seek to
  • Raise public awareness of the genocide in Sudan
  • Honor Sudanese refugees in Charlotte
  • Encourage China to persuade Sudan to accept an effective security force on the ground to protect Sudanese civilians and to participate, in good faith, in the peace process
According to the Web site, the Rally will begin at 1:00 PM at Independence Plaza in Uptown Charlotte. It will include a torch-lighting ceremony, music by modern-day abolitionist Lamont Hiebert with his band Ten Shekel Shirt, original poetry by James Ajith, and renowned human rights activist and author John Prendergast.

Although the scope of the rally goes beyond human trafficking, this is definitely the kind of event I want to be part of.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


SIM has posted a great article on its Web site about human trafficking. It is a thorough introduction to the issue, and it names lots of good organizations and resources, including some I'd never known about before.

I find that being reminded of the basic facts over and over again helps me to keep human trafficking on the front burner of my mind, and being told about abolitionist organizations gives me hope as I see our numbers increase. Little by little, I can see the anti-slavery movement reaching critical mass, turning up the heat on the bad guys and finding ways to shelter and restore those who are rescued.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thorny issue

What should the United States do when a human trafficker is a foreign diplomat with immunity from prosecution?

The American Civil Liberties Union is petitioning the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of six domestic workers, asking that the United States be held responsible "for its neglect and failure to protect domestic workers employed by diplomats from human rights abuses and to ensure that these workers can seek meaningful redress for their rights."

The workers all describe things that are familiar to anyone who studies human trafficking—deception about pay and working conditions, confiscation of passports, workers forced to put in ridiculously long hours and forbidden to leave the house or talk with anyone. Beatings, verbal abuse and threats.

I've often thought poorly of the ACLU, but these workers seem to have a legitimate claim that the U.S. should have done more to protect them. Changing our laws and policies regarding diplomatic immunity would be a huge undertaking, I'm sure. But why should foreign diplomats be free to enslave people while living in this country? I encourage you to read the stories of these workers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Where to begin?

The past few days have been dizzying—I hardly know where to begin to describe it.

Several of our group members were able to attend a meeting Tuesday evening of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, where we heard from Aaron Cohen, a pioneer in fighting human trafficking. Special Agent John Price of the FBI also spoke. I’m not sure how many people attended the meeting, but there were quite a few, and that was encouraging. One thing that stood out was the statement that additional shelter space for rescued victims is needed right now in Charlotte.

Then today, two of us were able to go to a training event at The Salvation Army. I was able to attend only the last couple of hours of the day-long event, but my friend Elizabeth attended the whole thing, along with about 30 others. The attendees represented some of the law enforcement and social service agencies that are most actively involved in fighting human trafficking in our region. They really know their stuff, and they’re exactly the kind of people our group has wanted to connect with so we can determine how we may be able to make a real difference locally.

Much of the information that I heard was geared toward social service providers who might need to screen people to determine if they are trafficking victims and then help them through the maze of governmental procedures, while trying to ensure their safety and healing from such deep scars.

It was a bit daunting, but I came away realizing that this is where we’ll see just how committed I really am. Do I just want to rant about the problem on a blog and hold meetings where we brainstorm about things we might do someday? Or do I continue to follow God step-by-step, listening to His voice and obeying Him even if it gets hard?