The word “slavery” usually conjures up images of a time long past where people were forced to labor for free simply because of the color of their skin. While we read about slavery in times past, it’s easy to wonder how such awful things happened and moralize about how we would never allow such things in our present world. Unfortunately, slavery is not just something we can read about in history books. While you sit reading in the comfort of your warm, safe home, there are over 20 million men, women and children to whom slavery is a very present issue. For these 20 million, it is a part of their everyday lives because they are currently living under slavery.
According to most sources, there are more slaves today than ever before in human history. Worldwide, slaves are typically used for labor. They are compelled to work under unsafe and unreasonable conditions; when they become unable to work anymore, they are often abandoned or even killed. Worse yet, about 22 percent of all slaves in the world are sex-slaves. Men, women and children are sold for use several times per day to undergo some of the worst horrors imaginable. On average, most children are sexually exploited beginning at age twelve, though some are infants when the slavery begins.
Profits made from human trafficking are estimated at anywhere between $30 and $150 billion per year. Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world and ranks in the top three criminal activities with the arms and drug trades.
After reading through this, it may be tempting to think that all this evil is going on in the depths of war-torn third-world countries, or perhaps in poorly policed nations rife with governmental corruption. You would be right to think so, but don’t stop there. Bring it a little closer to home. Human trafficking is alive and well in the United States. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH), there were nearly six thousand human trafficking cases reported in 2016 in the United States. You still might be tempted to relegate these activities to distant corners of our country, but that would be inaccurate.
The NHTH reports Florida as being third in the country for human trafficking behind California in first place and Texas in second. In Florida, there were over four hundred cases of human trafficking. Of those, 31 percent were children and 79 percent were sex-related. That makes it likely that about one hundred children in the state of Florida were saved from sex-slavery this year. How many more are out there right now experiencing unimaginable pain, fear, and anguish with no end in sight? If that doesn’t make your stomach churn, nothing will.
Knowing that there are currently over 20 million slaves in the world right now and that many are right here in our own neighborhoods. There are many slaves in West Palm Beach, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and all South Florida. While that is a scary and disturbing thing to think about, it is a good thing to know about because knowing there is a problem is half the battle. Now that you know about the problem, what can you do to help save a precious soul from slavery?
Due to the high volume of human trafficking that goes on in our state, there are many organizations based out of Florida that help combat modern slavery. There are also organizations that work on the national level and even on the international level. Consider giving to one of these groups or getting your church, small group, or youth group involved. What better way to share the love of Christ with others than by bringing them out of slavery?
Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches: A task force concentrating its efforts on educating the community through public awareness campaigns, identifying legislation & promoting policies to assist victims and prosecute traffickers. (www.htcpb.org)
Broward Human Trafficking Coalition: This group works to bring awareness, education and action to the communities of Broward County in order to fight the heinous crime of human trafficking. (www.bhtc.us)
Florida Abolitionist: Based out of the Orlando area, this group works to end slavery in the Sunshine State. You can help by donating or going online and being a part of their 24/7 prayer vigil. (www.floridaabolitionist.org)
Coalition Against Human Trafficking: This organization provides training to local communities and accepts donated items like bus passes, gift cards, office supplies, prepaid phones and phones cards. (www.stophumantrafficking.org).
The Florida Dream Center: The center provides help to women and girls in crisis and is often involved in rescues. They have a safe home for those in danger. They receive donations of time, money, and items. (www.floridadreamcenter.org/human-trafficking)
National Human Trafficking Hotline: This hotline helps get victims to safety in a number of ways. On their website, they provide a directory for emergency and long-term help, and even offer resources and events for training and education on trafficking. You can also view human trafficking statistics for every state. (www.humantraffickinghotline.org)
Operation Underground Railroad: This organization enlists ex-military operatives to work with foreign law enforcement to save child sex-slaves around the world in very dangerous situations. Not only do they save the kids, but they work with local law enforcement to arrest, try, and convict perpetrators. They also help victims get back to their families or to a safe, new family. They accept volunteers, donations and also offer corporate gift-matching. (www.ourrescue.org)
A native-born Miamian, Tami Gomez is a freelance writer for the Good News while she and her husband attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. They hope to become missionaries to the Far East. She can be reached at [email protected].