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Human trafficking I’ve been putting off writing this post. There are some things that are just easier not to think about.

They’re called “throw-aways,” people whom the world has no use for. Children who don’t have anyone to feed them, youth with no identification papers, people with no options. So the world finds a use for them.

There are more slaves in the world today than there were in the entire trans-atlantic slave trade of the 1800s. Approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked each year into exploitive labor, such as agriculture work, prostitution, or child soldiers. 2 million children currently are forced to work as prostitutes.

When I first heard about this several years ago, I found it hard to believe. I was living in Amsterdam, and I’d walked many times down the narrow canals of the Red Light District, known for the prostitutes standing and advertising their wares in the windows.

It would make my skin prick to see the European and American businessmen grouped outside the windows in their button-ups and ties, jeering and leering at the women. Amsterdam is one of the destinations for young women trafficked into prostitution. Some of those women who keep the red lights burning in Amsterdam are slaves.

Around the world, the situation is bleak. In Asia, countries like India and Burma and Thailand are from where many pimps get their wares. There are plenty of poor here, children no one would care or notice if they were to go missing. Little girls and boys whose parents can’t feed them, who are from minority races or tribes that aren’t valued in the larger society. The parents are offered money in exchange for their children. Sometimes the children are promised jobs working in restaurants or as maids. A better life. Many children aren’t sold, but kidnapped. As children walk, as they do each day, several miles to go to school or get water, they are an easy target.

Whether children are kidnapped or sold, some are then transported to brothels in big cities. They are abused and raped and sold as “companions” for western tourists over and over again.

Other children, in places like Africa, become soldiers, sex slaves of warriors, or workers in fields. I’d like to think that this only happens in faraway countries, but America is not exempt. Not only are American tourists some of the consumers of such “goods” abroad, human trafficking and sex slavery is alive and well in America.

What are we to do with the knowledge of such atrocities?

Abroad, Compassion promotes child advocacy. Country offices and projects promote advocacy and hold advocacy events to raise awareness of the value of children with parents and in the community.

For example, Compassion Honduras held events throughout the country this spring to educate children about their rights and how to respond to abuse and to educate parents, the church, the community, and local leaders about the value and rights of children.

When I first heard about these advocacy events, I didn’t really get it. Children are valuable — seems like a no-brainer, so why do we need an event to tell others that? But clearly not everyone knows and practices this message. Through community advocacy efforts, Compassion-assisted churches are bringing Christ’s message that children are infinitely valuable to transform communities.

Compassion International Asia has also developed a masters program in holistic child development to train and support those who work on the frontlines of children at risk, which is being implemented in seminaries throughout Asia.

At home, we can be child advocates ourselves, continuing to raise awareness of the needs and value of children in this country and abroad.

If you’re an American male, you can Take the Pledge to not participate in any way in the sex trade and protect the women and children around you.

If you want to learn more about human trafficking, visit International Justice Mission, one of Compassion’s ministry partners.