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 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.