The dusty air held a chill the night we drove through the red-light district in a Southeast Asian border town.
Teenage girls stood outside darkened store fronts wearing bold-colored casual miniskirts and tank tops.
Bright TVs flashed inside the stores, momentarily illuminating nervous men who kept one eye on the tube and one eye on the girls outside.
I was glad to be was tucked away safely in the cab; my husband sat in the truck bed. As we drove past, the girls brazenly shouted provocative invitations.
Most of them didn’t look older than 18. They probably weren’t.
Our missionary friend told us that many of the girls had been trafficked here. Tricked by distant relatives — lured by the promise of education and a better life and unaware of the fate awaiting them — or sold to provide for their family, they were stuck.
They were slaves. And this is not an isolated case. Their stories are all too common around the globe today, and it starts with trafficking.
Human trafficking is the gateway to modern-day slavery. If you think that slavery is a shameful thing of the past, think again. Slavery is real, and it’s much more prevalent than we want to think.
Currently more than 30 million people live in slavery — more than any other point in history. It is today’s disgrace.
The gut-wrenching truth is this: 1.2 million children a year are trafficked into some form of forced labor (UNICEF). Worldwide, 2 million children are trapped in the commercial sex trade.
Sadly, this market for human trade is growing. The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion (U.N.).
I can’t wrap my head around it, the whole vile business of exploiting another human being to gain a profit. It’s so wrong, so backwards.
At the very core it’s an insult to God Almighty, in whose image we are made. Beyond that, it’s an affront to humanity’s most basic Golden Rule — treat others the same way you want them to treat you (Luke 6:31).
How can we react when we see the problem so big, so impossible? First of all, we should trust God’s promises and His character. God is a God of justice and mercy (Isaiah 30:18b), and He is not unaware.
He sees the suffering of the trafficked across the earth, and He does care. The wicked will be punished, although we might not see their judgment come in this lifetime. We can be sure it will come.
Secondly, we can realize that we have been commanded to “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” (Zechariah 7:9).
Let the pain of trafficking around the world seep into your heart. Don’t block it out; don’t allow yourself to become callous to the suffering around you. Be compassionate. Then channel your outrage at injustice – pray and act.
Pray for the children stuck in the international sex trade. Pray for the girls waving along that pitted dirt road in Asia. Pray for the children who are — at this very moment — being trafficked away from their families and who are headed for a life of slavery.
January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. If you made it to the end of this post, you are now aware.
Let’s not stop here, though. Learn more about trafficking and modern-day slavery through the International Justice Mission (IJM). Get involved.
If you can afford it, send a donation to IJM to give them a jump start on the battle against trafficking in 2013.
Most of all, keep your eyes open and your hearts aware of the suffering of others — then show compassion to them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Evelyn Rennich is a Compassion sponsor who loves being mom to two young boys. You can read more from Evelyn at Smallish.