Tales From Abroad: The Christian and the Slave Oct25

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Tales From Abroad: The Christian and the Slave

“During my time on the streets of New York I was abused, shot, stabbed, raped, kidnapped, trafficked, beaten, addicted to drugs, jailed, and more all before I was 18 years old” (Smith, 2012). This was the brutal reality of eight years of Barba Amaya’s life and, unfortunately, she is far from being alone. Approximately 4.5 million people are victims of sexual exploitation, accounting for 22% of all human trafficking victims (“21 million people,” 2012) That leaves over 16 million other people who are victims of forced labor exploitation (“21 million people,” 2012). Sex and labor trafficking are the two categories of human trafficking, which is defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation” (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, n.d.). Many Americans believe that human trafficking is only in other countries, but Barba’s story reveals that is simply untrue and the issue is closer to home than we may think. The Polaris Project estimates that the total number of victims in the United States ranks in the hundreds of thousands (“The Facts,” 2015). I believe if more people knew how many victims were in the same country, state, and even city, they would be more likely to rise to action. While I think we should always be looking to care for those overseas, it seems we are more likely to act when the issue is occurring in our own backyard. Even more crucial to the call to action is hearing personal testimonies. Some of the most sobering focus on what happens when the victim does not meet the expectations or requirements of the offender. Kolab, a young girl from Cambodia, explains, “They expected me to make $200 to $300 per night; if I did not, they punished me by stripping and beating me with a stick until I fainted, electrocuting me, cutting me and pouring salt water on the cuts, and placing my hands

into a bamboo press for up to 20 minutes” (“Kolab & Phalla,” 2016). In addition, one woman who managed to escape and begin an organization to fight human trafficking describes a “hilot,” which is a midwife “who terminates unwanted pregnancies by violently pounding on a woman’s stomach until she miscarries” (“Kolab & Phalla,” 2016). These are the harsh realities for over 21 million people in our world and we cannot ignore them. As Christians, we must look to the Bible to gain insight on how to approach this issue and act as Jesus would.

As we begin to assess the issue of human trafficking in light of the Bible, we must first explore God’s view of human beings. Genesis 1:27 reads, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (New International Version). The first people to hear this were likely the Israelites during the Exodus, people who were potentially feeling very insignificant and worthless. This passage was likely meant to convey the importance with which God views them and all human beings. Genesis 1:27 reveals that God intimately created human beings to be different from all other creation and to be similar to Him morally, spiritually, and intellectually. While most of us are not in any type of exodus, we all experience difficult times and desire to feel important. The main principle of this passage seems to be that humans are special to God and that they are meant to live as He would live. This means we should view others as God’s image-bearers and treat them likewise. In light of human trafficking, I think Genesis 1:27 should encourage us to treat both the victims and the perpetrators as people deserving God’s love and mercy.

Matthew 25:35-40 teaches us ways we can treat others with God’s love and mercy. Jesus states that those who care for people in need by feeding them, clothing them, and visiting them will inherit the kingdom that God has been preparing for them since the very beginning. He explains that if someone does these things, then they are basically doing it for Him. This passage

also emphasizes the absolute dominion of God with the repeated use of “King” and “Lord” while once again highlighting the importance of each human being. This would have been a pivotal teaching to the original audience of the first century converted Jews who were experiencing great persecution and un-rest in the Palestinian community. I believe the author was revealing that Jesus wanted the Jews to take care of each other during this hard time and know that God has been preparing a place for them in heaven since before creation. He seemed to be stressing that we are all special to God and we should show others that they are special to Him by helping them in any way possible, especially those who are the weakest and most vulnerable. Many of us are not being directly persecuted, but our world is in great un-rest and many people are suffering. We have tremendous opportunity to feed, clothe, care for, invite, visit, and love others. The victims of human trafficking deserve and require all of these things. It is important that we treat their physical needs first to show them that we care about them and want to help them. Once that base relationship is established then they may be able to open their lives to us, thus allowing us to love them and share the Gospel.

In addition to caring for the victims, we must also speak out for them. Proverbs 31:8-9 reads, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (New International Version). Other versions read “open your mouth” instead of “speak up,” which can be translated as break forth or speak without reservation (English Standard Version). I believe this passage was addressed to the young people in Old Testament society who were about to enter positions of prominence. I think King Lemuel is encouraging them to break any norms or barriers and speak up for those who cannot or will not speak up for themselves. He emphasizes that these people need to be defended by those who are wealthier and respected or else they will be

destroyed by their adversary. If this passage is, in fact, directed toward the young future leaders of society then it can easily apply to those of us attending universities. While we are living many years later and the world has become more accepting of people speaking out about their beliefs, we still have barriers to break. I believe it is still extremely difficult for many of us to speak up for the needy, not because we think the problems are okay, but because it tends to be easier to ignore them. Human trafficking, in particular, seems to be a very difficult issue to discuss. It is not often preached on or circulated. This may be because it goes against everything our hearts say is right and it is too much to bear or it may be because the issue is so widespread that we feel powerless to stop it. Regardless, I think we must accept the discomfort and speak out however we can. As the authors of Genesis and Matthew revealed, each life is truly valuable to God and if speaking out saves one life, then it is worth it. We cannot change the world, but we can change one life.

We must also investigate how to treat those in charge of human trafficking and how their lives can be changed. Deuteronomy 24:7 states that if someone kidnaps a fellow Israelite and treats or sells them as a slave, then they shall be murdered in order to purge the evil from the community (New International Version). During those times, liberty was viewed as a man’s right and if that was stolen from him, it was equivalent to destroying him. In addition, many of these slaves would have been sold outside of the Jewish community to avoid discovery, thus removing them from the church and Israelite community. These crimes were viewed as stealing spiritual, emotional and intellectual life which called for the criminal’s physical life to be taken. It is difficult to interpret Deuteronomy 24:7 because we are not coming out of the wilderness and entering an Old Testament covenant with God where theocracy is at rule. When Jesus came, he revolutionized the way we view crimes and law. He gave us a method of reconciliation that

allows anyone to be forgiven and return to the Lord. Jesus also taught us that we are no longer to take an “eye for an eye” and that both ultimate reward and judgement will occur in the future after our physical life is over. I believe the main purpose of Deuteronomy 24:7 in our modern day is to show that people are equally important and are not to be treated as property. While I do not think this passage means we should put kidnappers to death, I do think it means we should view kidnapping and human trafficking as a crime and we should support the government in enacting justice, but only to the extent that it prevents further harm.

Achieving justice for those being victimized shows our love for the victims, but we must also love the perpetrators. In Ephesians 4:32, Paul writes, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ forgave you” (New International Version). Ephesus, the home of Paul’s audience, was a city that worshipped goddess Diana and was plagued with sin. The citizens likely had little regard for each other and would not have been in the business of lifting each other up. I believe this passage would have taught the church a controversial message about loving each other to the point of putting aside their own individual feelings and forgiving each other when it is most difficult. I think the passage conveys the same message to our modern day world that is also plagued with sin, even if it is not always as obvious as the worship to Diana. I believe Paul is emphasizing that God gave everything to forgive us by sacrificing His Son, but it costs us nothing to forgive our fellow man. When it comes to human trafficking, I think this passage applies to our forgiveness of those who cause the pain of the victims. It is difficult to imagine forgiving someone for a crime this heavy, but God does not withhold His grace and we should not either. I believe it is also important to note that forgiveness can be the best way to show someone your love and to share the life of Christ; it may even be the one act that leads someone to Christ.

The Bible clearly provides several applicable teachings regarding the topic of human trafficking and we must translate those teachings into modern day applications. There are several practical ways to help alleviate human trafficking, both at home and abroad. We can support or sign legislation and petitions that fights against human trafficking, such as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. We can also attend rallies against human trafficking and speak up in our churches about the issue. Simply refusing to remain silent could lead to immense change. One subtle way to help end labor trafficking would be to shop fair trade and locally in order to not be a contributor to the perpetuation of the cycle. At home, we can reach out to the victims by inviting them to our homes, providing resources to places that can help, and treating them as children of God. Once the victims have escaped, we can also help them assimilate back into society through organizations such as the International Rescue Committee, that teach the survivors their new country’s language, how to use transportation, and how to obtain a job, among other things. Overall, the most crucial way anyone can help is through prayer. Prayer for the victims to be freed, for the perpetrators to find a different path, and for the restoration of our world. We live in a difficult time and the power of prayer is strong. God is listening and He is here.