The Church to End Global Sex Trafficking by 2020?

Can the Church end global sex trafficking by 2020?

Pope_Francis_meets_Barack_Obama Wikimedia Commons

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Last month, the pope decided to put an end to human trafficking. He called a meeting with key Muslim and Anglican leaders, and they all signed an alliance on March 17.

The result of this interfaith agreement is the Global Freedom Network, and their goal is to wipe out human trafficking by 2020.

Ka-pow! Ka-bam! Ka-bless! Take that, Forces of Darkness!

Hang on, now. Let me back up. Pretend I didn’t just make fun of the pope and his friends.

Before we start saying they can’t possibly eradicate human trafficking—an international crime which has occurred through all of history, and is currently becoming such a common criminal industry that some place it in the same tier as drugs and arms dealing—let’s look a little more at the situation.

I don’t believe that any attempt to raise awareness and decrease the prevalence of trafficking is ever wasted, and I actually think Pope Francis is (kind of) a badass pope.

According to the Global Freedom Website, which sites a UN 2012 report, about 2 million people are sexually trafficked every year. Only about one out of every 100 victims is rescued.

They have “identified 42 proposals for global urgent action.” Their plan basically breaks down into four parts:

  1. Raise awareness and educate others about the prevalence of global human trafficking.
  2. Help countries develop strategies for eradicating slavery.
  3. Facilitate support for survivors.
  4. Push for reform of current laws and enactment of new laws in individual countries, which would help end trafficking and support survivors.

That sounds nice, right? Vague, but nice.

Hold that thought while I point out that the Global Freedom Network does have a few ideas I find to be a little misguided. For instance, this is from a paper that was presented on the subject of sexual trafficking in Vatican City:

“. . . Technological breakthroughs based upon micro-electronic processing have, as is well known, promoted the marketing of sexual material: from DVD movies, photographs downloadable from the internet, the self-presentation fostered by the likes of Facebook, to sex tourism. Apart from imagery featuring children, it is un-regulated. Doubtless, we have all confronted and been affronted by the offer of ‘Adult movies’ in otherwise respectable hotels. That is a minor illustration of how normalization proceeds. However, this non-regulation is actively defended by the suppliers of computers who recently rejected the suggestion of a ‘non-dirty’ default setting, even if it could be turned off by the purchaser. In this way, ‘demand’ is stoked and part of the response is the estimated 58% of trafficked persons destined to be for sex work in Europe the Americas.”

Umm . . . Did they just suggest that sex trafficking is in part caused by the lack of ‘non-dirty’ default settings on computers? And the open nature of ‘the likes of Facebook’?

Because I’m pretty sure that’s f—ing ridiculous. I’m pretty sure even the most hardcore porn isn’t responsible for trafficking. This is like blaming video games for school shootings.

I do actually think faith-based organizations and churches can be extremely powerful engines for effecting social change, especially when it comes to an issue like trafficking. Maybe this is the latent Catholic in me, but people who regularly attend church often have deep empathy for their fellow beings. I’m not disregarding the existence of moral blinders, which can lead to ignorance and judgment (and stupid assertions like ‘porn is partially to blame for sex trafficking’)—I’m talking about faithful people trying to do what they think is right. Moral blinders or no, most church-goers are trying to do what they think is right.

Sex trafficking rarely falls in anyone’s “this is okay” zone, no matter what faith they follow.

Here’s a quote by Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (a prominent Egyptian official, considered by some the definitive authority on Sunni Islamic thought):

“The Quran granted humans their freedom to believe or disbelieve. Islam prohibited the kidnapping of women and children, and as slavery was prevalent in that age, Islam made freeing a slave equal to erasing sins, and made all humans equal in front of Allah, with only knowledge and good deeds to elevate one over another.”

I found that quote on the Global Freedom Network’s website.

In the film “3 a.m. Girls,” a sex trafficking survivor named “Ashley” was taken in by a couple who learned of her situation through their church in the Washington DC area (DC is a huge destination for trafficking). When they learned about the truth of trafficking, and that local survivors had nowhere to go, they realized they could help. And they were more than willing to do what they could. Without their church, they might have remained unaware of the situation, and Ashley might not have gained a safe home and loving family.

So at the grassroots level, I agree that faith-based organizations can help. They also have a lot of voice in the governments of the world, so that’s not something to discredit.

And with media failing to spread awareness of the issue in proportion to it’s prevalence, we have to rely on other sources to get the word out. That’s why I write this column. So why not the Church?

But wiping out all human trafficking by 2020? It sounds very sweet. Like when my friend’s son felt bad for killing a cricket, and wanted to stop anyone from killing any animals ever again. But 2020 seems to me like a tall order at best, and like a naïve wish on a star at worst—especially coming from the kind of thinking that connects sexy movies to sex trafficking.

What do you think? Can the God Squad wipe out trafficking by 2020?


L. Marrick is a fiction writer and freelance copywriter. 50% of proceeds from her book Working Girl, a memoir of her time working for a professional escort, go to sex trafficking non-profits. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @LMarrick.

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