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?

Vote for Somaly Mam

Zach Hunter didn’t win his round in the voting for the Dec. 6 CNN Heroes special, but Somaly Mam is in the final round. Somaly is a woman who has dedicated her life to rescuing young women from sex slavery in Cambodia.

My understanding is that the Dec. 6 CNN special will tell the stories of all six finalists, including Somaly. Each finalist represents a different category, including Defending the Planet, Medical Marvel, Fighting for Justice (this is Somaly’s category), Community Crusader, Championing Children and Young Wonder. But the voting continues for the top hero of all.

Please vote, and help send the message of how important it is that we fight to end modern-day slavery in all its forms.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Vote for Zach Hunter

No, it's not another presidential candidate. Zach Hunter is a teen who organized "Loose Change to Loosen Chains" as a way to raise funds to free slaves. To date he has raised more than $20,000, and he has written a book, "Be the Change," which our youth group is studying these days. Zach was profiled this past May as one of CNN's Heroes, and now CNN is having people vote for the most outstanding of these heroes, with the top vote-getters in each of several categories appearing in a special program Dec. 6.

Voting for the top "Young Wonder" continues only until noon Eastern time on Monday, Nov. 12. As I write this, Zach is in second place but needs several thousand votes to overtake the current leader. Please vote; this is an opportunity to put the issue of human trafficking in front of thousands of television viewers. You can vote as often as you wish, so please consider voting several times before the cutoff on Monday.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Great Meeting Tonight

We had a wonderful meeting of the Carolina Clapham Circle tonight! Lots of brainstorming about things we can actually put into practice—and soon.

Most of us are going to look at the ins and outs of having our churches become "abolitionist churches" through the Not For Sale Campaign.

Various members are going to make contact with the FBI, The Salvation Army, Campus Crusade and with a person who suspects slavery at a local Chinese restaurant.

We'll look for opportunities to multiply our efforts by starting smaller groups in our immediate areas, so prayer and education can be happening more often than once a month.

We'll each look at the recommendations of the Renewal Forum in Washington, D.C. about the shortcomings of North (or South) Carolina's anti-human trafficking laws, and we'll contact our representatives and encourage them to strengthen the laws.

I felt a strong sense of real networking as we talked tonight--it is wonderful how God has brought us together with various experiences and skills to do His will. If you live in the Charlotte area, please join us!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How Does Your State Stack Up?

Thanks to the Renewal Forum in Washington, D.C., for issuing today “An Examination Of State Laws On Human Trafficking.”

The report analyzes not only the laws of the 36 states that have enacted laws against human trafficking; it also analyzes the U.S. Department of Justice’s model anti-trafficking law for states—and gives it a grade of “D.” The state law receiving the highest grade was Illinois, with a B-. Six states that have anti-trafficking laws received a grade of “F” or “F+,” among them my home state of South Carolina. North Carolina, where many of my friends in the Carolina Clapham Circle live, received a “C.”

The folks at the Renewal Forum seem to know what they are talking about. The organization’s president, Steven Wagner, was director of the Human Trafficking Program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2003-2006. He started the “Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking” campaign that I’ve spoken highly about on this blog. Senior Fellows Margaret MacDonnell and Rodger Hunter-Hall, and Legal Fellow Ian Kitterman, have impressive backgrounds, too.

So it appears that we may have something practical to work on, namely lobbying our state leaders to strengthen these laws. I urge you to read the report at the link above and even to download the report for future reference.

Here are the summaries the report gives for North and South Carolina:

• North Carolina has made it illegal to engage in trafficking and has also enacted an enhanced penalty if you traffic in minors but it does not make it a crime to benefit from a trafficking victim.
• North Carolina should enact an affirmative defense for trafficking victims for crimes committed under the direction of their captors. It should also establish training policies for law enforcement as well as require support for victim certification. Finally, North Carolina should establish a fund for trafficking victims to provide restorative services, which could be funded by the forfeiture of any property gained from the act of trafficking.
• North Carolina recently passed a statute that provides trafficking victims services under their crime victims rights scheme. North Carolina should now require court ordered restitution and restoration for victims of trafficking from their traffickers. In addition, North Carolina should give victims of trafficking a private right of action against their captors.
• North Carolina should establish a taskforce to study human trafficking in the state and recommend the best policies to abolish human trafficking from the state.

• South Carolina has taken a step in the right direction by passing a statute that criminalizes trafficking in persons but it falls short by not protecting victims of sex trafficking. In addition, the law does not criminalize benefiting from a victim of trafficking or provide enhanced penalties for trafficking in minors.
• South Carolina should enact an affirmative defense for trafficking victims for crimes committed under the direction of their captors. It should also establish training policies for law enforcement as well as require support for victim certification. Finally, South Carolina should establish a fund for trafficking victims to provide restorative services, which could be funded by the forfeiture of any property gained from the act of trafficking.
• South Carolina has not taken any steps to provide for the victims of trafficking after they are found. It should require court ordered restitution and restoration for trafficking victims from their traffickers. In addition, it should give victims of trafficking a private right of action against their captors. Finally, South Carolina should explicitly provide victims access to their normal crime victims services.
• South Carolina should establish a taskforce to study human trafficking in the state and recommend the best policies to abolish human trafficking from the state.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Making it a priority

Here is an example of what can happen when someone in the right position makes the fight against human trafficking a priority.

Rachel Paulose became U.S. Attorney in March, 2006. There were no human trafficking cases at that time in Minnesota, according to this article from the StarTribune—even though FBI had identified the Minneapolis-St. Paul area as a trouble spot in regard to human trafficking.

Paulose is changing that. Today a man was sentenced to 24 years in prison for human trafficking, and four other cases involving 32 defendants are pending.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Amazing Grace

The Amazing Grace movie was in theaters months ago. I was beginning to wonder when it would ever come out on DVD. Well, it’s coming to on DVD Nov. 13! Here is the official site:

You can pre-order the DVD from Christianbook.com or from Amazon, among others.

It’s an inspiring movie, and my friend Burkinator points to the film as playing an important role in her becoming involved in the modern abolitionist movement.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I Want to Be One of Them

I cried most of the way to work today. That’s because I had my iPod set on “repeat one,” playing Sara Groves’ new song “When the Saints.” Burkinator’s Undercover Writer blog pointed out yesterday that for a limited time this song is available for free at the iTunes store. You should go get it. Now.

The song gives examples of God’s people working for freedom, caring for the dying and taking the love of Christ even to those who would kill them. The chorus starts by giving a hint of what’s to come, recalling Paul and Silas singing in the Philippian jail. The next time around, it adds Moses calling for freedom in Pharaoh’s court.

Finally, the song erupts in a torrent of images (at times it’s hard to figure where in the world Sara takes a breath): the underground railroad, the families of martyred missionaries returning to the people who killed their loved ones, the Sisters caring for the dying in Calcutta, a passionate man breaking down a brothel door to rescue those inside, Jesus bearing the weight of the world for us. Sara sings, “When the saints go marching in I want to be one of them.”

I do, too. In my travel for my job, I’ve seen my Christian brothers and sisters living this kind of selfless love for the sake of Christ. They put me to shame—and they also inspire me. I’ve also seen reports of enemies of Christ saying, “Christianity is a very gentle religion, so it ought to be easy to destroy.” Think again—that gentleness is more powerful than you can imagine. That love—the love behind all the compelling images in Sara’s new song—can never be defeated.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New York Joins the Fight

In June, New York became one of 29 states to pass state-specific human trafficking legislation. The Captive Diaries blog at the Captive Daughters site has a link to an article in the Gotham Gazette that gives a good summary of the problem and some of the current issues involved in fighting modern-day slavery.

While you’re at it, take some time to explore the Captive Daughters web site. Very informative.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Diverse Strengths, Unified Passions

Zach Hunter, in "Be the Change," writes about the Clapham Sect:

They were like one family, combining their diverse strengths and unified passions to go after what seemed like impossible projects—attacking difficult ills of society with the tenacity of a fleet of battleships.

That's often how things get done—a group of friends with different talents and a common goal, working together to accomplish something none of them could do alone.

I like that: Diverse strengths, unified passions, going after seemingly impossible projects. If abolishing the slave trade, and then outlawing slavery altogether, may have seemed impossible at times to the Clapham Sect, consider the task that faces the Carolina Clapham Circle and the many individuals, community-based groups and organizations fighting modern-day slavery.

In the 1800s, the task was to convince a nation to change its laws. In the 21st century, with slavery illegal in every country of the world, the task seems much more difficult: to root out criminal elements, rescue and restore victims, and change the very climate that allows slavery to flourish.

That's a huge task, and it's why we need groups like the Carolina Clapham Circle. We aren't an organization as such; we're a group of like-minded people who come together to inform, encourage and pray for one another. We support one another in what some of us are already doing, and I believe that as we study, network and brainstorm, God will lead us into specific new ways to fight slavery.

If you want to fight slavery and you live anywhere near Charlotte, N.C. (we have members from Indian Land, SC to Huntersville, NC), please join us. Come to a meeting and see how God can take our diverse strengths and unified passions to fight a seemingly impossible problem.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Back soon

Sorry I haven't been posting lately. I was out of the country, and lately I've been either really busy or just plain exhausted in the evenings. I hope to be back on a more regular schedule soon. Some things have been happening in the area of networking that I might be able to talk about soon.

In the meantime, please pray that God will free slaves today, and that He will use us as He sees fit in the fight against human trafficking.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


The Make Way Partners report for October 3 talks about a new film that came out Sept. 28. It’s called “Trade,” and it is based on an article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 2004 called “The Girls Next Door.”

The film is not yet available in my area, but for several years I’ve been yearning for someone to make a major motion picture on this topic. This kind of thing can put the issue in the public spotlight in a way that even the most compelling documentaries and non-fiction books just won’t do. I’m looking forward to a chance to see the film at some point.

In the meantime, Make Way Partners has links to the original article and to the film. And the film’s Web site has a wonderful list of ideas for getting involved and also of organizations that are fighting human trafficking. Please take a look!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Little Is Enough

Lesson Four of “The Justice Mission,” the curriculum we’re going through in Sunday school, talks about the feeding of the 5,000. The lesson makes the point that the young boy’s lunch—five loaves and two fishes—wasn’t nearly enough to feed the thousands who had gathered to listen to Jesus. But Jesus took that insufficient gift and blessed it.

Not only was it enough for everyone, it was more than enough. In fighting modern-day slavery, we might become discouraged by the scope of the problem—what we have is so small in comparison.

During the class session, the students are supposed to indicate the extent to which they agree with several statements. I agree with all of them, and I think they are worth remembering—maybe even printing them out on a card to keep handy.

I have a little knowledge God can use to fight injustice.
I have a little anger God can use to end oppression.
I have a little passion God can guide to help the helpless.
I have a little influence God can use to involve others in the search for justice.
I have a few relationships God can energize to create a team of people committed to changing the world as we know it.
I have a bit of freedom to decide what I’ll study and how I’ll spend the rest of my life.
—The Justice Mission, ©2002 Youth Specialties, published by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Mich., p. 76.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Emancipation Proclamation

145 years ago today (Source: the National Archives and Records Administration):

In July 1862, President Lincoln read his "preliminary proclamation" to his Cabinet, then decided to wait for a Union military victory to issue it. On September 22, 1862, following the victory at Antietam, he signed the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, formally alerting the Confederacy of his intention to free all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states. One hundred days later, with the Confederacy still in full rebellion, President Abraham Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation.

Here are some excerpts from the proclamation:

That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom. ...

Sec.9. And be it further enacted, That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army; and all slaves captured from such persons or deserted by them and coming under the control of the government of the United States; and all slaves of such persons found on (or) being within any place occupied by rebel forces and afterwards occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude and not again held as slaves.

Sec.10. And be it further enacted, That no slave escaping into any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia, from any other State, shall be delivered up, or in any way impeded or hindered of his liberty, except for crime, or some offence against the laws, unless the person claiming said fugitive shall first make oath that the person to whom the labor or service of such fugitive is alleged to be due is his lawful owner, and has not borne arms against the United States in the present rebellion, nor in any way given aid and comfort thereto; and no person engaged in the military or naval service of the United States shall, under any pretence whatever, assume to decide on the validity of the claim of any person to the service or labor of any other person, or surrender up any such person to the claimant, on pain of being dismissed from the service.

Of course, 145 years later we still have slaves in this country, as well as in most countries around the world. We don't really need another proclamation (although rallying cries are nice), but we do need to do everything we can to free slaves and ensure that they "shall be forever free of their servitude and not again held as slaves."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

First Meeting!

We had a great meeting of the Carolina Clapham Circle tonight. Nine of us spent time getting to know each other, telling about our call to fight slavery, sharing ways that we are already doing so and considering where we might go from here. We watched a video from World Hope International; the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking; and World Relief; on modern-day slavery in Sierra Leone and Liberia. And we had a good time of prayer, asking God to lead us into what He wants us to do.

We’ve decided to meet on the second Thursday of each month, so our next meeting will be October 11. I’ll make sure the location is confirmed before posting it here. The location will change each time, but you can mark your calendar for Oct. 11, Nov. 8, Dec. 13, etc.

Here are two ministries that are on the cutting edge of helping to rescue people who have been exploited and trafficked: God4Girls and Family Christian Center’s Project Safehouse

And here is a news item saying that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed The Vietnam Human Rights Act by a 414-3 vote. The Act ties future increases in U.S. non-humanitarian aid to verifiable improvements in Vietnam’s human rights record. Among other things, the Act points out violations of religious freedom and harassment of people of faith.

One of the Act's requirements is that Vietnam will need to show that none of its government officials or agencies or entities is involved in “severe forms of human trafficking” (a strange term, I know, but one the U.S. State Department uses in its annual Trafficking in Persons report) and that the Vietnamese government has taken all appropriate steps to end such complicity and to hold guilty parties responsible.

Sounds like a good law to me! It looks like the Senate still needs to act on the bill, and twice in the past it has failed to act on similar legislation. Might be a good thing if some of us abolitionists were to write to our Senators!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Getting Ready

Tomorrow night is the first meeting of the Carolina Claphma Circle. I've been looking forward to this for months—since before I even started formulating actual plans for the group. It started when my son and I saw the film "Amazing Grace" last winter. It was inspiring to see how a group of concerned people challenged one another, gave one another assignments and strategized together about how to end the slave trade and then slavery itself in the British Empire.

Since early May, when I began posting on this blog and actively trying to figure out what God wants me to do about modern-day slavery, I've been meeting (mostly online) other people who feel a similar call to action. I can't wait to see what comes of our meetings!

My friend Burkinator is blogging about this issue, too. Check out her blog—she is insightful and passionate, and she's a good writer.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Taking Sides

I came across a good quote today in a book by Tom Davis called “Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds.” I’ve only given the book a cursory glance, but it seems good. The quote is from Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel’s Nobel acceptance speech Dec. 10, 1986:

I swore never to be silent whenever [and] wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Captive Daughters

I just came across a very helpful Website called Captive Daughters. It includes a blog, a large reading list, other resources, links, information about public policy and more.

One page on the site, called Cause: Demand, talks about the demand side of sex trafficking. The site notes that "the cause of sex trafficking is the demand for it" and states,
"By understanding the dynamics of demand, we can develop the legal and political policies necessary to control and end this horrific practice."

Along these lines, the organization has produced a book called "Pornography: Driving the Demand in International Sex Trafficking."

On a related note, I'm concerned about a situation in Greenville, SC. A news story Wednesday says that six people have been arrested for importing women into the US and making them work as prostitutes. One of those arrested is an alleged "madam."

But then the article says,

Greenville County sheriff's investigators and the FBI said that the six women were being used in a prostitution operation at a house on Dorsey Boulevard in West Greenville.
"Being used" makes it sound like some of these people are victims, not perpetrators. And the story goes on to say,

The six women, ages 18 to 24, have been released, but will wear electronic monitoring devices. They are being held as material witnesses and will be housed in women's shelters while the case is prosecuted. They all face deportation.
Now, if some of these women are actually the victims, as the article implies, and if they cooperate with authorities, then they should be eligible for T-Visas to stay in this country, and they should not be treated as criminals. So it seems that either this article was poorly written or the authorities are blowing it by prosecuting victims of sex trafficking.

I've contacted a person who works with an organization that deals with issues like this, asking for advice on what to do. If anyone reading this post has further info about this case or what a concerned citizen should do, please comment!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shame and Honor

Tonight I’ve been reading a chapter in a forthcoming book by Timothy C. Tennent, professor of world missions and Indian studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

The book, published by Zondervan, is titled “Theology in the Context of World Christianity,” and it deals with the theological perspectives of Christians in the global church. Tennent believes that by becoming familiar with the theology of our brothers and sisters in other countries, we can uncover our own blind spots and biases.

Hang with me for a minute—this post really is about modern-day slavery!

The chapter I’ve been reading deals with the fact that the culture in much of Asia is “shame-based,” as opposed to Western culture, which tends to be “guilt-based.” In other words, we in the West tend to emphasize individual guilt, while much of Asia and the Islamic world emphasizes shame.

In my research about slavery, I’ve been saddened and frustrated to learn that women who are raped or forced to work in brothels are considered to have brought shame upon their families. So after they are rescued from their nightmare, they still must deal with the awful reality that their families may not want them back. I hate that mindset!

Tennent’s book points out that anthropologists no longer tend to consider guilt-based cultures superior to shame-based cultures, but they do find the distinction helpful. He goes on to show how important are the concepts of shame and honor in both the Old and New Testaments, and he demonstrates that the theology of Jesus’ death on the Cross has much to do with shame. Further, the New Testament several times describes the resurrected Christ in terms of glory and honor—the opposite of shame. In our Western mindset that emphasizes individual guilt and forgiveness, we gloss over an important biblical truth.

I don’t think I’ve mastered the content in this chapter, but I think it has great relevance for people who are rescued from slavery, perhaps especially those who come from Asia. The Gospel is good news not only because Jesus removes our guilt but because He removes our shame. Even if our natural family rejects us, our heavenly Father will accept us, and our brothers and sisters and Christ can provide the respect, honor and love that we all need (may we do that with all those around us, not only with rescued slaves!).

I’m sure those who operate safe houses and after-care facilities are familiar with these concepts, but it’s a great lesson for me, as it reminds me that Christ can meet the deepest needs of people in any culture.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

That Ain’t Right

The first time I ever hung out with my wife’s extended relatives, more than 25 years ago at a family reunion, I felt like a fish out of water.

These were small-town and farm families from southern Minnesota, Northern Iowa and the Quad Cities area. I was a kid from the sophisticated city of Minneapolis.

Some of them smoked. I had been brainwashed by my parents (in a good way) with the phrase “Smoking? Filthy habit.”

Some of them chewed tobacco. I had been raised on the story of the time my dad and uncle tried chewing tobacco, swallowed it and soon were throwing up.

Lots of these people cussed. My family simply doesn’t.

One of my strongest memories from that first family reunion is the conversation that went on most of the day among the men. One of them would tell about something that was wrong with the world or the United States or Cresco, Iowa. When he was finished, the others would respond with a chorus of “That ain’t right.”

Then someone else would tell about another outrage. Each story was greeted by the phrase “That ain’t right.” I found it fascinating. Since I felt so out of place to begin with, I imagined myself as a cultural anthropologist, observing the ritual of the men in this tribe as they bonded around a shared sense of right and wrong.

Tomorrow our Sunday school curriculum, “The Justice Mission,” includes an interactive reading of Job 24:1-4. Whenever an injustice is mentioned in the passage, the youth are to respond by saying, “That ain’t right!”

I never thought I’d be using that phrase in a Sunday school lesson, but it sure does fit when we’re talking about modern-day slavery and other forms of oppression. The passage reads as follows:

Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?
Why must those who know him look in vain for such days?

Men move boundary stones;*
they pasture flocks they have stolen.*

They drive away the orphan's donkey*
and take the widow's ox in pledge.*

They thrust the needy from the path*
and force all the poor of the land into hiding.* (NIV)

Every place where there is an asterisk, feel free to say (out loud) “That ain’t right!”

I love discovering the many Scripture passages that show how God hates injustice and loves justice. And I love the deep assurance that when He calls us to join Him in fighting for justice, He will equip us (has already equipped us, I’d say) to carry out that fight.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

On Friday I heard Joseph Stowell talk about Philippians 1:20, where the Apostle Paul writes “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (NIV).

Stowell reminded us that Paul was under house arrest. But rather than complaining, he pointed out that his imprisonment had actually served to advance the Gospel. Paul also had to deal with petty fellow Christians who wanted to be big stuff and so preached out of envy and rivalry. Paul didn’t let that get to him, either. He said, in effect, “So what? At least Christ is being preached.” In fact, Paul didn’t even really care whether he lived or died. To live was Christ, to die was gain. Either way was good. And all through the letter to the Philippians, Paul the prisoner talks about rejoicing.

Stowell pointed out that the key to Paul’s attitude is Philippians 1:20. Paul’s concern was not his own circumstances or what other people thought or anything else except that Christ would be exalted in him. Stowell told about a time when he was desperately trying to get from Kokomo to Grand Rapids to speak to a thousand people, and he got so caught up in his need to get there that he was a pretty lousy witness to a Kokomo airport employee. He wondered how things might have turned out if his goal had not been getting to Grand Rapids to speak to a group [about Christ] but rather magnifying Christ in every situation.

Those of us who believe that God has called us to fight slavery can get so caught up in the problem that we might forget the most important thing—glorifying God. If we lose that focus, even for a cause that God has called us to, we won’t succeed. Remember John 15:5: “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (NIV).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Greater than the sum of its parts

We haven’t yet held the first meeting of the Carolina Clapham Circle, but already I’m excited about the skills and experience of people who have expressed interest in attending. We have someone who works with women who have been freed from brothels in Asia, someone who is part of a group providing safe houses for people who have been rescued, someone who works for a large missions organization, a pastor’s wife, and on it goes—and God has brought us to a point where we are about to join forces to fight slavery.

If you know the basics about the original Clapham Sect in England, you know that William Wilberforce was one member. But the group included other amazingly talented people that might not be so well known to us today, such as Granville Sharp, Henry Thornton and Hannah More.

So as I look forward to what the Carolina Clapham Circle might decide to do in fighting modern-day slavery, I can’t wait to see how God has brought together like-minded people with all kinds of abilities, contacts and experience, to do what none of us could do on our own.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Immoral Trade

I’ve finished reading “This Immoral Trade,” by Baroness Caroline Cox and Dr. John Marks. The book seems a bit uneven; at times it looks as if the authors left place-holder text for later verification, and the verification never came (or if it did, someone forgot to enter the info in the book). And the Dinka word for slave is spelled one way in a photo caption and a different way in the body copy.

That aside, the book relates powerful, first-person accounts of many rescued slaves from different countries. Reading these accounts one after another stirred up some real indignation and outrage. In spite of my many posts that have expressed an honest yearning that the slaveholders might come to Christ and be transformed, I found myself wanting to just blast all of them away. But vengeance is up to God.

Justice is something we can work for, however, and I love how groups like the International Justice Mission don’t just rescue oppressed people; they bring the perpetrators to justice.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Justice Mission

In Sunday school today we did the first session of “The Justice Mission,” the five-session youth curriculum I mentioned a few posts ago. Each session includes a short video followed by discussion. Today’s lesson was “Oppression,” and it was sobering. I felt like all of us were shaken by what we saw. In the video, four teens from the U.S. travel to India and see oppression and slavery firsthand. They grapple with the reality of it and actually take some practical steps to fight it.

For me, the most powerful part of today’s video was when the teens spoke with a young woman who, at age 12, went looking for her father, who had left home. At the local train station, two elderly women with another young girl offered her a job and convinced her to go with them. You can guess what happened. When they arrived in a different city, they forced her into prostitution. She had to service some 30 customers every day.

This kind of subject matter is pretty intense, and I’ve been a little nervous about presenting it to the kids. But then I think about how our Christianity so often can come across as divorced from real life, irrelevant and, for many young people, actually kind of boring. Maybe if they can see how God calls us to join Him in the great cause of defending, rescuing, redeeming and restoring people, that can help them hold onto faith through their high school, college and young adult years.

I’ve also ordered a dozen copies of Zach Hunter’s book “Be the Change,” and I’ll plan on leading the youth group through that in the coming weeks as well.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mark Your Calendar!

I've got a date for the first meeting of the Carolina Clapham Circle: September 20, 7 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall at Belair United Methodist Church. The church address is 8095 Shelley Mullis Road, Indian Land, SC 29707. That zip code is only a few weeks old, and most online directories don't seem to recognize it yet. But you can click here for a map.

Please come! We'll introduce ourselves, probably watch a short video clip or two, and I'll bring all the resources I can gather. Then we can start planning what our group can do to fight modern-day slavery.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

‘Apart From Me You Can Do Nothing’

“Apart from me, you can do nothing,” Jesus said. I’ve proved the truth of that statement over and over, and if you’re honest, I think you’ll admit the same. I’ve always thought of this statement in regard to individuals, but it occurs to me that this statement is as true of cultures, societies and nations as it is of individuals.

Reading today about the widespread slavery in Mauritania, I couldn’t help but think that if only the people of that country knew Christ, things would be so different. As it is, the country seems about as messed up as I can imagine, and it has been so for hundreds of years.

Sociologist Kevin Bales, in his book “Disposable People,” describes all kinds of characteristics of Mauritania, some of which might even be humorous if they weren’t so sad. Examples: The country has only two paved roads, both of which were constructed by other states in an attempt at foreign aid. The country’s second-largest city and center for iron ore export has no roads connecting it to anywhere. To reach it, one must drive up the beach along the Atlantic ocean for 250 miles, waiting for the proper tides, etc. And slavery has been officially abolished in Mauritania, yet slaves are seen everywhere.

It should come as no surprise that European colonization played a role in messing up this country. Today, both the United States and France continue to help prop up a government that has no interest in actually ending slavery; the members of the ruling class are the slaveholders. The U.S. supports the government because it sees it as a hedge against Islamic fundamentalism.

Religion, however, does play a part in the slavery. “Slaves are taught that only if they obey their masters will they go to heaven,” Bales writes. “Deeply believing that God wants and expects them to be loyal to their masters, they reject freedom as wrong, even traitorous. To struggle for liberty, in their view, is to upset God’s natural order and put one’s very soul at risk (pages 106, 108).

Anyway, it seems as if just about everyone has had a hand in the mess that is Mauritania, and I just wonder how different things might be if the values of Jesus had been known by the Mauritanians or practiced by the Americans and Europeans who have dealt with the country. “If a man remains in me and I in him,” Jesus said, “he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NIV).

Nothing except to create despair and hopelessness.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Dateline NBC feature

Thanks to Kristen for sending a link to a Dateline NBC feature that aired yesterday about human trafficking. “To the Rescue” tells the story of a Filipino woman, Lannie, who was promised a job as a singer in Malaysia.

Lannie’s story contains the usual elements in a trafficking situation: a false promise of a good job, a bogus contract, confiscation of the victim’s passport once the destination is reached, threats, forced labor justified because of a supposed debt the victim owes to the slaveholder, crooked police who are part of the whole ugly system. But in Lannie’s case, the story also contains a heroic uncle and a retired FBI agent who travel to Malaysia and rescue Lannie.

Pray that God will rescue more slaves today, either through His people or His own mighty hand. And consider how He may want to work through you to free slaves, too—either overseas or in your own area.

That’s what the Carolina Clapham Circle is all about, and it is open to anyone who is interested in attending meetings in the Charlotte, NC, area, to find ways to fight modern-day slavery.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Mercy and Justice

A couple of posts ago I quoted Micah 6:8. But I’m not done with it. For the past few days, I haven’t been able to get mercy out of my mind.

Again, in the New International Version the verse reads

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing that many of us who are sensing a call to be abolitionists are particularly drawn to that second phrase, “to love mercy.”

I long to see justice done, especially when I read books like “Disposable People,” by Kevin Bales, and “This Immoral Trade,” by Caroline Cox. I can hardly describe the outrage I feel at the injustice, and I pray that God will bring justice soon. Pretty much every day I pray, “Lord, free slaves today, and thwart the plans of the human traffickers.”

But I think what really energizes me is mercy. With all the destruction that accompanies slavery, I want to reach out with God’s love to heal and restore people. (By the way, I think it is really cool that the Department of Health and Human Services has seen fit to call its anti-human-trafficking effort “Rescue and Restore.” It’s nice when a government agency gets the emphasis right!)

I’ve heard sermons that use a handy device to distinguish between mercy and grace. They say that mercy is when God doesn’t give you what you deserve, and grace is when God gives you what you don’t deserve. And when I look at the dictionary definition of the English word mercy, this seems to be a fairly accurate distinction.

But I get the sense that mercy in Micah 6:8 is talking about more than simply not getting the punishment one deserves; it feels more proactively good than that. And I think I’m right; some versions translate the Hebrew word, Checed, as kindness. And the word is sometimes also translated as goodness.

I’m on vacation for the next few days, and I don’t have ready access to resources that give the meanings of Hebrew words. The public domain resources available online don’t give much detail. If any Old Testament scholars (Jim?), pastors (Tony?) or all-around great researchers (Kristen?) are reading this and would be willing to look up Checed, it would be nice to hear more about the meaning of this word in Micah 6:8.

I’d also love to hear comments from other readers. Which phrase in Micah 6:8 really grabs you, in terms of your calling to fight modern-day slavery?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


As I have immersed myself in the issue of modern-day slavery these past few months, I’ve noticed that the materials fall into several categories.

Most of the video documentaries and written reports of atrocities produce a sense of outrage and injustice. These accounts remind me daily that I must not go back to the comfortable ignorance I had before I learned that slavery still exists. It is strange that in the midst of the outrage, I usually feel an undercurrent of hope as I digest these materials, because I know that the people who have produced them are part of the solution.

Materials such as the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report and the toolkits from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Rescue and Restore program help me to understand the scope of the problem, the way traffickers work and how law enforcement and community groups can help.

Most organizations fighting slavery also have ideas for practical things individuals can do. As I’ve mentioned before on this site, the list compiled by FAAST is about the most comprehensive one I’ve seen.

Finally, there are the biblical and inspirational thoughts that help me to learn God's ways, including His passion for justice and our need not simply to hear His Word but to obey it.

I found a small article like that in some materials that arrived in the mail today from Make Way Partners. Their June 2006 newsletter has a short excerpt from Frederick Buechner. It says,

… the life you clutch, hoard, guard and play safe with is in the end a life worth little to anybody, including yourself, and only a life given away for love’s sake is a life worth living.

I can relate to playing it safe. I have a history of talk with little action. This time, I know that isn’t going to cut it. People are beginning to sign up to say they are interested in the Carolina Clapham Circle, and I hope we can spur one another on to make a real difference. Not to do dangerous things for the sake of danger, but not simply playing it safe, either.

If you don’t live near Charlotte, I hope you will find a group near you where you can plug in—or that you will start one! Finally, if you find this blog helpful, please tell a friend about it. I'm hoping that it will be useful to people no matter where they live.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What is good

Micah 6:8 is one of those verses in the Bible that gives us a glimpse of what is really important to God:

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God (NIV)

As I see more and more of us coming at pretty much the same time to a realization that God is calling us to do something about slavery, I am proud to call these new friends my brothers and sisters in Christ. In them I see hearts that are yearning to act justly—not just to think about it; to love mercy—wanting to shower it on the victims and even on the bad guys who so desperately need Christ; and to walk humbly with God—realizing that in His grace He has rescued us from slavery to sin and called us to this good work that He has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Vote for IJM

A few days ago, the Carol Wilson Update blog informed readers about an opportunity at rezoom.com. The site is holding an election for America’s most inspiring charity. The winning charity will receive an award of $100,000.

Between now and Aug. 10, you can go to the rezoom site and vote once each day for the charity you think is the most inspiring. There are some good ones among the 21 finalists, but if you would like to help fight slavery, please consider voting for the International Justice Mission. All you need to do is register with a username and password, then go and vote once each day through Aug. 10.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

New Name

OK, it’s official. I’m changing the name of our group to the Carolina Clapham Circle. You can see the new form at left.
A few days ago, Allison, a student in our youth group, picked up a copy of “Be the Change,” by Zach Hunter (see also my post from May 20). Allison suggested that we could work our way through the book as a group.

I’ve read about half of the book already, and I’m hooked. I think it will make a great foundation for a 10- or 11-week study, perhaps paired with “The Justice Mission,” the video-based curriculum from the International Justice Mission.

The students in our group are great. They are really fun to be around, and it is amazing to see them growing in faith, love and compassion (and in many other areas as well). I pray that they will become men and women of God, following Jesus and helping others to follow Him. And maybe freeing slaves as well!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Doing of the Thing

Tonight I was listening to an old recording from one of my favorite Christian singer-songwriters, Bob Bennett. It has been some years since he has appeared on the charts, but he continues to perform. Anyway, one of the songs from his 1991 album “Songs From Bright Avenue” is called “The Doing of the Thing.” It says, in part:

Broken souls covered in broken skin
No resolution on the video screen
And half a world away
Somebody does our bidding
Because we like to pray
With our fingernails clean

Mistake the nodding of the head
And all the words that can be said
Mistake the sympathy we bring
For the doing of the thing
The doing of the thing

So here I am, feeling incredibly passionate about fighting modern-day slavery, and just a couple of posts ago I was feeling quite content to pray and study as I try to see where God is leading me. But this song reminds me of all the times I have felt sympathy for those in need yet done nothing. And I want to do something now. I don’t want to pray with clean fingernails anymore.

Today I found another organization, Make Way Partners, that seems to be doing some good work in the fight against slavery, and they have some really solid board members. Check them out at the link above.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Burning Up

The past three days I’ve felt like I am going to burn up. More than ever, I can relate to the words of Jeremiah that I referred to in my first-ever post: “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jer. 20:9, NIV).

God has ignited something in me that I don’t think can be extinguished—the sense that He has called me to fight slavery. I still have a long way to go in figuring out specifically what that means in the long term. For right this minute, it seems as if praying and learning are the best ways to proceed. But I still hope to hold a meeting of the Clapham Circle sometime this fall.

By the way, I’m thinking of changing the name to be more inclusive of the Charlotte metro area where I live, instead of seeming to limit the group to Lancaster County, SC.

Maybe it should be called the Carolina Clapham Circle. It’s short and pithy, and it includes two whole states! Since we still have only three members, and one of them (my brother) actually lives in Canada, it seems like a good time to iron this out.

Seriously, if you live anywhere near Charlotte, NC—in North Carolina or South Carolina—and you feel led to do something about slavery, it sure would be neat if we could see about working together. That’s the whole idea of the Clapham Circle—William Wilberforce and his friends met to strategize about defeating the slave trade, and that’s what I’d like this group to do, too. I want to see what we can do both locally (it is said that slavery exists in every major U.S. city) and around the world.

So please fill out the form at the left. There’s no obligation; I would just like to know if anyone might be interested in attending a meeting this fall to think more about how we can take action together, divide up the research, pool our skills and resources, and do what we can to abolish slavery.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Confession

I have to confess something. For most of my life, I have silently dismissed part of the Lord’s prayer, even though we say it in church every week.

It’s the phrase, “Your kingdom come.” Honestly, I think that most of the time as my mouth says those words, my brain follows it with “yeah, right—as if that’s going to happen.”

Oh, I firmly believe that at some eschatological point in the future, Christ will return, and at that point His kingdom will be here in the fullest sense. But now? With the rampant wickedness of slavery and bondage and oppression and cruelty and too many other bad things to list?

Still, it doesn’t seem to me that Jesus was thinking about the end of the world when He taught us to pray this phrase. It seems like He really means for us to pray with all our hearts for His kingdom to come here and now, and that the following phrase, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” will be the result of His kingdom coming—now. The Bible is clear that God’s will won’t be done in every way or every heart until He comes again. But I think this prayer means more than merely “Please come again someday.”

I think it is supposed to be more immediate than that, and I think one reason is that when we invest ourselves in earnest prayer, God changes us and often begins to use us to do the things we’ve been praying about. Look at Nehemiah: he prayed and wept for four months about the fact that Jerusalem was in ruins, and then God sent him to rebuild the walls. So if we take this phrase seriously, maybe God will move in us to strengthen His kingdom today.

There is a kind of theology called “kingdom theology” that some people disagree with. I don’t want to get into an argument about that. But I do think that George Eldon Ladd, who some consider the first proponent of kingdom theology, had the most serviceable definition I’ve heard of the kingdom of God: The rule of God in the hearts of people.

With that in mind, I had a really neat “kingdom” day yesterday. I won’t go into the details here, but I felt as if God (the King) told me to do something and I (the subject) obeyed. That shouldn’t be an unusual occurrence, but something about this day was really cool. And at the same time I was hearing about other people—friends of friends, a student in our youth group at church—who, like me, seem to feel called by God to do something about slavery.

It’s like I got a glimpse of how God has been working in all our hearts, and as we obey, the kingdom comes just a bit more strongly. A Sara Groves song called “Kingdom Comes” basically says that when we live out God’s love even in trying circumstances, “That’s a little stone, that’s a little mortar, that’s a little seed, that’s a little water in the hearts of the sons and daughters. This kingdom is coming.”

In small ways, I can see it happening. And I’m not going to dismiss that phrase in the Lord’s prayer anymore.

Your kingdom come, Lord.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Break my Heart

Well, after a long week of Vacation Bible School at church, I'm ready to get back into life again. VBS is really fun, and I love to hang out with the kids in our youth group. But between work and VBS, I haven't been able to think of much else.

Today I felt like I needed something to engage once again with the issue of modern-day slavery. I needed to let my heart be broken again, and a short film called "Fields of Mudan" did it. Produced in 2004 as a thesis film for the Florida State University Graduate Film Conservatory, "Fields of Mudan" is a brief glimpse into the life of a very young Asian girl, Mudan, who has been sold into sex slavery. Another girl at the brothel befriends her, and in spite of the cruel conditions they are in, the two determine that they will continue to dream of a better future.

In the course of the 23-minute film I found myself sobbing. Sobbing over the cruelty of someone taking a child away from her family to abuse her like this; sobbing over the fact that there is such a demand for this among males. And wondering again if there is some way to lessen that demand. How could we do it? How could we get to the customers, show them their need for Jesus Christ and convince them that only God can fulfill their deepest needs? Any ideas would be welcome! If you have run across any organizations who are working along these lines, please let me know.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Back soon!

Sorry for the lack of posts the past few days. We are having Vacation Bible School at Church, and when I'm not at work, I'm editing VBS videos.

In the meantime, I would encourage you to look for a copy of the video "Modern-Day Slavery: Sierra Leone and Liberia," from WorldHope, FAAST and World Relief. It is only about 11 minutes long but powerful, and the DVD has a 2-minute version and a 30-second spot as well.

Amazing how much you can pack into a short video. Also amazing how God can put lives back together, even when they have been torn apart by human trafficking.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thanks, Friends!

Many thanks to some new friends at World Hope International, FAAST (the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking), The Salvation Army and Polaris Project, all of whom have corresponded with me or sent materials that should help me to gain some much-needed direction in a couple of areas:

1. Researching the extent of human trafficking in South Carolina
2. Charting the initial course of the Clapham Circle of Lancaster County.

It is going to take some time to go through everything these organizations have sent—and I can hardly wait! Every bit of information will help.

These past few months, I’ve had this fire burning inside me to make a real impact on the problem of slavery, but at times I’ve felt a little lost. Little by little, though, things are moving, and tonight I really don’t care what my specific role ends up being. I believe it will be doing something, somewhere, and I pray that God will use me as He sees fit.

He will, of course. I simply need to be receptive and obedient.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Learning all we can

If we are going to be committed to the abolition of slavery, we need to learn all we can about it and its companion-in-evil, human trafficking. By the way, these two terms are different ways of expressing pretty much the same thing. Slavery, of course, describes the condition of a person’s life when he or she is under the control of someone else; trafficking is when fraud, force or coercion is used to make people work or have sex against their will.

Anyway, I’ve found another video that I think is worth watching. It is called “Bound By Promises: Contemporary Slavery in Rural Brazil.”

This 17-minute documentary, produced in part by Witness, looks at men who have been promised good jobs but then have been enslaved in the charcoal industry. They are taken to camps deep in the jungle where they can neither escape nor be found. They are informed that they have incurred a debt that must be paid before they can leave. But as usual, the slaveholder finds all kinds of charges to add to the slave’s bill so it never can be paid.

One man’s wife obtained the phone number of the man who had enslaved her husband. She called, asking for her husband. The slaveholder threatened to change the number to stop her from calling and said that if she called again, he would tell her where to find her husband’s body.

The video gives statistics on the Brazilian government’s campaign to wipe out slavery. From the information presented, it looks as if the government is sincere in its effort but is falling far short of its goal.

The U.S. State Department’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons report, with which we Abolitionists should all become familiar, lists Brazil as a “Tier 2” country (Tier 1 is best, Tier 3 is worst). The report says that although Brazil has made clear progress in efforts against sex trafficking, progress has not been so good in the area of labor trafficking, which is the focus of this video. Although the criminal penalties for sex trafficking are commensurate with sentences for rape, the sentences for labor trafficking are only one-to-three years, which is not stringent enough.

On the positive side, the report notes that the government’s Mobile Enforcement Groups rescued a total of 3,390 victims of forced labor in 2006 and that victims were given immediate medical care, counseling and some compensation.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A Declaration of War—and Love

The utter brutality of slaveholders never ceases to amaze me. What gall, to simply take people by force and enslave them, beat them, threaten them, hunt them down if they escape, use them up, then throw them away when they are no longer useful.

And they don’t back down easily when abolitionists try to take their “property” or shut them down. Kevin Bales, writing in “Disposable People” about slavery in Brazil, says,

Human rights workers, trade union leaders, lawyers, priests, and nuns have all been murdered while working against slavery and abuses. Eight antislavery campaigners in the small town of Rio Maria in the state of Para had their names circulated on a “death list,” and six are now dead.

But I’m not at all surprised when Bales adds, “it doesn’t stop the reformers; all of the activists I met … faced these dangers with a calm resolution.”

I’m not surprised because although the slaveholders are motivated by greed and power, the abolitionists are empowered by love. And frankly, greed and power don’t stand a chance against love.

Listen, slaveholders: you’ve been flying under the radar for a long time, but you can’t hide much longer. The Abolitionist Movement gains momentum every day. You can’t stop us, because love is relentless.

Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8, NIV).

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Cut Above

What’s your impression of a bureaucrat? Someone who has a cushy government job? Someone who would take any political stance just to assure continued employment?

I don’t personally know anyone who works for a government agency, but let me tell you, I’m getting pretty impressed with the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

At the end of the 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report, the Drafters add a poignant note that seems to really show their hearts:

At the age of 22, Ko Maung left his home in Mon State, Burma with his new bride to find work in a neighboring country. The newlyweds dreamed of earning enough money to return to Burma and build a home for their children. Ko Maung’s wife went to work in a fish-processing factory; he took jobs aboard fishing vessels that took him to sea for two to three months. In 2003, he accepted what, he thought, was a safe offer of work on a fishing boat for two years. “You stay here,” he told his wife as he left. “I will come back with money and we can go back to Burma.” Later, his wife was told he had died during the final months of the fishing boat’s three-year voyage.

From accounts of survivors who made it back, Ko Maung and 30 other Burmese recruited to work on a fleet of six fishing boats died at sea from forced labor, starvation, and vitamin deficiencies. They had been forced to remain at sea for years, denied pay, and fed only fish and rice. Workers made repeated requests to leave the boats, but were denied. They requested medical attention but were ignored. As one after another grossly exploited man died at the end of the fishing voyage, their bodies were unceremoniously dumped overboard. They were used in forced labor until they could breathe no more. Those who survived were not paid for their work-which amounted to three years of enslavement.

This Report is dedicated to Ko Maung, who paid the ultimate price of slavery, and to his family whose dreams were crushed. Through the courage of his compatriots, and advocates who assist male victims of slavery, we have heard his voice of agony. We pledge to project his voice, breaking down the walls of indifference and corruption that protect businesses that rely on this despicable trade in disposable humans.

Thank you for your support. Thank you for joining us.

Rebecca Billings
Eleanor Kennelly Gaetan
Sally Neumann
Felecia A. Stevens
Kathleen Bresnahan
Paula R. Goode
Amy O’Neill Richard
Mark B. Taylor
Jennifer Schrock Donnelly
Megan L. Hall
Gayatri Patel
Caroline S. Tetschner
Dana Dyson
Mark P. Lagon
Catherine Pierce
Jennifer Topping
Shereen Faraj
Amy LeMar-Meredith
Solmaz Sharifi
Rachel Yousey Raba
Barbara Fleck
Carla Menares Bury
Jane Nady Sigmon
Veronica Zeitlin
Mark Forstrom
Jennie Miller
Andrea Smail

I’ve included the names of the drafters here because I think they deserve credit for a job well done. The annual report they produce is a key tool in the modern Abolitionist movement, and it seems clear that they produce it with both passion and compassion. Thanks, Drafters!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

IJM Helps Free 17 Slaves

The International Justice Mission continues to do great things, or should I say that God continues to do great things through IJM. Here’s a news flash I received today.

Its the same old pattern of someone incurring a debt and being tricked into slavery. But this time it looks like a positive ending, as 17 people were freed from a rice mill in South Asia.

By the way, I received a youth curriculum from IJM today: It’s called The Justice Mission, and it includes a dvd and a leader’s guide with five lessons. It is really well done, and I’m looking forward to doing the lessons either with the youth group or with the youth Sunday school class at Belair United Methodist Church.

The church is in Lancaster County, SC, where the Clapham Circle of Lancaster County will have its initial meeting this fall, if all goes well. If you live anywhere near here and are even vaguely interested in attending a meeting to see how you can fight modern-day slavery, please fill out the form at the left. There’s no obligation; this will just help me to track interest and make sure that people get info about the meetings.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tender Restoration

Victims of trafficking and other forms of abuse find protection and support at Baan Kredtrakarn, a government shelter in Bangkok which can care for up to 500 women and girls. While at the shelter, they are counseled, prepared for testifying in court, and given vocational training in hair-dressing and traditional Thai crafts such as basket-weaving, flower-making, spinning, and weaving. The shelter's goal is to help reintegrate them into society so that they can lead productive lives. Photo by Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department.

People who are rescued from slavery have a hard road ahead. They have been so thoroughly abused that they need a lot of help getting to a point where they can function again. Thankfully, some people are helping to restore victims.

The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons seems to have a good handle on the need for qualified aftercare, and their site has some photos with helpful information about some of these shelters. The photo above comes from their online gallery.

As we think about the gentle aftercare that rescued slaves need, let’s look at a Scripture passage that talks about the tender care given by God’s servant, the Messiah:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.
—Isaiah 42:1-3, NIV

Let’s be His servants, too.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


Wow. I came across a powerful documentary on sex trafficking yesterday. From what I can tell, it has been called by two different titles, “Sex Slaves” and “The Real Sex Traffic.” It is about 49 minutes long, and if you are interested in this topic, I would recommend this film.

Of course, the subject matter is intense, and there is some profanity, but I felt that the film was valuable and educational. Writer/Director Ric Esther Bienstock and a small crew gained access to the lives of several former trafficking victims from the former Soviet bloc.

More surprising, they also interviewed a trafficker named Vlad about his trafficking a woman named Katia. Vlad knew Katia and her husband, Viorel, and he offered to go with Katia on a trip to Turkey to buy supplies for her mother's store. He said he was going there anyway and could help Katia find her way. Katia and Viorel trusted him. Then Viorel got a call from Vlad, who told him matter-of-factly, “I sold your wife.”

The documentary follows Viorel from Ukraine to Turkey as he desperately tries to locate and buy Katia back from the pimp who purchased her.

The documentary does a fantastic job of helping us see the devastation of the victims and their families, and Bienstock also includes some great director’s notes on the official Web site (see the link above).

I saw the documentary online at Google videos. I assume it is legal; I hope I’m not sending you to a site that has posted the video in violation of copyright law.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

6 a.m. here—5 p.m. there

At 6 a.m. in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States, it is 5 p.m. in Bangkok, Thailand. And for about 35,000 girls in Thailand who are in debt bondage,* another night’s horror is about to begin.

As we are dressing and getting ready for our workday, these girls are dressing and putting on makeup for tonight’s work, which will consist of being assaulted and abused by about 14 men, on average.

For some, this will be their first day, and they will resist. But they will be beaten, raped (probably repeatedly) and threatened. After a few days or weeks, their resistance will fade away, replaced by a numb shock or sullen resignation.

The younger ones will be the most traumatized; they understand so little of what is happening to them. Most will acquire several sexually transmitted diseases. Many will receive contraceptives with no letup so they can work more nights each month. If any manage to escape, they likely will be found by the police, abused for awhile and then sent back to the brothel, which pays the police regularly in order to stay in business. Aside from the physical damage, the psychological damage to the girls is incalculable.

Will you stop right now and pray for these young girls? Will you consider them your sisters, suffering in ways you and I can’t imagine, vaguely hoping that someday their nightmare will end? Pray that God will rescue them. Pray that He will do this through people or through His own mighty hand. Pray that He will do it through you and me.

“He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor. … he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight” (Psalm 72:4, 12-14, NIV).

Source: Disposable People, by Kevin Bales

*Debt bondage is when someone has incurred a debt—usually through the fraudulent actions of human traffickers—and now is working as a slave in a futile effort to pay that debt. The slave holders, of course, have no reason to see the debt paid, so they will continue to concoct ridiculous new charges to add to the slave’s bill.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Camels and Needles

I’m still working my way through Kevin Bales’ book “Disposable People.” I’d like to tear through it and digest it all at once, but in addition to a work schedule that has been insane lately, I find that the book too disturbing to take in large sections at a sitting.

Chapter two deals with sex slavery in Thailand, and much of Bales’ description sounds similar to the description of Cambodia an acquaintance recently gave me (see June 8).

Here are some of the points from Bales’ book:

“Within the type of Buddhism followed in Thailand, women are regarded as distinctly inferior to men. A woman cannot, for example, attain enlightenment. … Buddha warns his disciples about the danger of women: they are impure, carnal, and corrupting. Within these Buddhist writings prostitution is sanctioned …”

When a society has this view of women, it is little wonder that forced prostitution flourishes.

“Thai Buddhism also carries a central message of acceptance and resignation in the face of life’s pain and suffering. The terrible things that happen to a person are, after all, of an individual’s own making, recompense for the sins of this life or previous lives.”

So if a girl is sold into slavery and raped day after day, everyone—the slaveholders, the customers, even the girl—pretty much believe that she just needs to put up with it. She deserves it.

“Several recent studies show that between 80 and 87 percent of Thai men have had sex with a prostitute. Up to 90 percent report that their first sexual experience was with a prostitute. … Most Thais, men and women, feel that commercial sex is an acceptable part of an ordinary outing for single men, and about two-thirds of men and one-third of women feel the same about married men.”

So how can we ever hope to stop people from exploiting women if pretty much everyone thinks this industry is OK, or at least tolerable?

“In Europe and North America the police fight organized crime; in Thailand the police are organized crime.”

Feeling hopeless yet?

Humanly, there is little chance that a culture so twisted could ever be straightened out. But Jesus pointed out that what is impossible for humans is possible for God—like a camel going through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:23-26). And Eric Metaxas’ book “Amazing Grace” shows vividly how William Wilberforce and his fellow Claphamites not only changed laws about slavery but also brought about fundamental changes in the way people viewed life and society. It can be done—but only God can bring it about.

By the way, the fact that only God can do it doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. We’re supposed to do His will here on earth.

Finally, I don’t think we should leave this post feeling like Western culture is superior to Thai culture. That is a topic for a different post …

Saturday, June 23, 2007

No longer dormant

I came across this in a book recently:

“True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant” —Menno Simons, 1539

It clothes the naked.
It feeds the hungry.
It comforts the sorrowful.
It shelters the destitute.
It serves those that harm it.
It binds up that which is wounded ...

—from “Pilgrim Heart,” by Darryl Tippens, 2006 Leafwood Publishers, p. 63.

I feel like I have been dormant too long--lots of good intentions with little action. Trying to obey God and get moving at last.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Hero

Sorry I haven't posted for a few days; things have been really busy at work. On June 12, the U.S. Department of State release the 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report. I haven't read it carefully yet, but one section has short, inspiring descriptions of heroes acting to end modern-day slavery. Here is one such person:

Kailash Satyarthi, Activist: Global March Against Child Labor, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS), Rugmark, India
A global leader in the fight against child labor, trafficking and forced labor, Kailash Satyarthi has liberated more than 75,000 bonded and child laborers since 1980.

Mr. Satyarthi has worked relentlessly to free bonded children, to rehabilitate them with vocational training and education and tilted the force of public opinion against child labor. His organizations provide direct legal assistance and advocacy for victims. His efforts have taken many different forms, some of them on massive international scale. For example, in 1998 he organized the Global March Against Child Labor, across 103 countries with the participation of 7.2 million people, and more than 10,000 civil society organizations. It was the largest peoples' campaign on child labor that led to the ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labor.

Mr. Satyarthi is combating the use of child labor by creating domestic and international consumer resistance to products made by children in bonded labor. He started Rugmark, a program in which rugs are labeled and certified to be child-labor-free by factories that agree to be regularly inspected.

Recently, Mr. Satyarthi lead the South Asian March Against Child Trafficking, a month-long physical march across the Indo-Nepal-Bangladesh border to raise awareness on trafficking of children for forced labor, and to demand a South Asian regional protocol to combat trafficking for forced labor.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I’ve begun to read Kevin Bales’ book “Disposable People.” Bales, director of Free the Slaves, is a sociology professor who has thoroughly researched modern-day slavery. When people use the statistic that there are 27 million slaves in the world today, they are using Bales’ figure, one that he says is conservative but that he feels he can trust.

The term “disposable” brings out an aspect of modern slavery that I haven’t seen emphasized in the other literature I’ve read. Bales says that one difference between “old slavery,” the kind practiced in the United States before 1865, and the “new slavery” of today is that slaves used to be a major investment. And although they were often treated horribly, they were still seen as an investment to be protected.

“Slaves of the past were worth stealing and worth chasing down if they escaped,” Bales writes. Today, on the other hand, “There is no reason to invest heavily in their upkeep and indeed little reason to ensure that they survive their enslavement. … And there is no reason to protect slaves from disease or injury—medicine costs money, and it’s cheaper to let them die.”

So it seems that our world has sunk even lower than the world that supported a “legal” slave trade for so many years. Today slavery is illegal everywhere, but more people are enslaved than during the entire African slave trade of the past, and today’s slaves face even more perilous conditions. They are simply tools to be used up and ground under the feet of money-hungry monsters. When a slave is dead or no longer worth keeping, there are plenty of replacements out there.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Mercy, Lord

Today I asked an acquaintance from Cambodia if she and her husband see much human trafficking there. I expected her to say yes, but I wasn’t prepared for the details she provided.

She said that Cambodia has “a culture of prostitution.” Wives are expected to produce children, but for “fun sex” men go to brothels. In fact, if a wife knows “fun sex,” she is thought to be bad. Men often take their sons to a brothel for their first sexual experience. College-aged guys get together to see a violent porn movie and then act out what they’ve seen. If no brothel is handy, they might go and find someone to gang-rape as a male bonding kind of thing. My acquaintance said that even some pastors who have not had much biblical training think that prostitution is OK. That’s how accepted it is. Then there are the foreigners—from Thailand, Korea, Australia and the United States—who come looking for cheap sex, often with young girls.

Can you imagine what Cambodian girls are up against in a culture like that? Huge numbers of girls, often the poorest of the poor, are forced into prostitution within the country or are trafficked across borders to be sex slaves in other countries.

Lord, have mercy, and help us to rescue them.

The victimizers themselves are also destroyed. My acquaintance told me of a high-ranking police officer from California who came to Cambodia for a sex vacation but was caught and arrested. He committed suicide in jail. As much as traffickers and brothel owners try to convince men that this kind of lifestyle is normal and acceptable, the guilt and shame remain, and deep down, people recognize the lie. But some recognize it too late.

Lord, have mercy, and help us to rescue them.

Our culture is not much better, I think. Our laws may protect the vast majority from such horrendous acts, but people’s hearts are just as dark. We’re all sinners. Lord, have mercy. Come and rescue us.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A bit disappointed

I watched the Not For Sale documentary last night, and I'd say it is OK. I was a bit disappointed, though, by a couple of things.

First, while the excellent book of the same title by David Batstone covers several organizations that are fighting against slavery, and the documentary covers the same organizations, in some cases the documentary hardly mentions slavery. If you were to watch the video without reading the book, you could get the idea some of the organizations help poor people but not necessarily people who have been enslaved. Obviously it is great if they are helping poor-but-free people, but when the documentary is all about fighting slavery, I would think that the people making the documentary would establish that point more clearly.

Second, the documentary is set up as eight separate segments, each focusing on a different organization and most being interviews with the heads of those organizations. But sometimes the people ramble a bit, and tighter editing might have helped. What would have helped most, though, would have been for a narrator to carry us through the documentary instead of just having eight talking heads take a section each. I'm a journalist, and I think that one mark of an amateurish article is when the writer simply strings together a bunch of quotes separated only by attributions. As I watched this video, I felt like I do when I read one of those articles.

But the information is good and helpful, and when we hold the first meeting of the Clapham Circle of Lancaster County, I think I could show one or two segments without losing people's attention. Other organizations also have videos, however, and I may see about using one of those in addition to, or in place of, this one.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Help former slaves

The Emancipation Network (TEN) sells clothing and other items made by former slaves living in Nepal, India, Cambodia and other countries. That brings income to the former slaves and helps them to move toward self-sufficiency and a new life. It’s cool that TEN sells many of the items at house parties, which allows them to educate people about the problem.

I received my copy of the “Not For Sale” documentary today, and I can’t wait to watch it.