I’ve never been more stunned by the plight of modern day slaves than I was one warm November day I spent at a brick kiln outside of Lahore, Pakistan. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw young children toiling alongside their parents, baking burnt clay bricks in underground ovens. I remember playing with one of the smallest children as she chased a random tire along the red earth, pushing it along with a stick, the polluted air above us heavy with smoke, the heat from the kiln rising up in billows.
I remember standing there and thinking, This is unreal. But tragically – it is all too real. The brick kiln I visited is one of thousands and the child I played with is one of millions.
27 million, in fact. That’s the number of women, men, and children currently enslaved throughout the world. Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and it’s an opportunity for all of us to get engaged in one of the most important issues of our day – freeing the slaves.
I’m proud of my friend Noel Thomas whose organization Redeem the Shadows is engaging people around the world on an issue that Thomas knew he had to take action on. Thomas met with victims of trafficking during widespread travel throughout Europe and Asia. “After seeing victims first hand,” he told me, “I decided to dedicate my life and talents to fighting modern-day slavery.”
Last week 60,000 university students at Passion 2013 made a commitment to get more deeply involved in ending trafficking. Students from across the United States donated 3 million dollars to fighting the modern day slave trade.
To get involved, take some time to get informed. Each year the U.S. Department of State releases a report on human trafficking, offering in-depth information on where it happens and how many people are involved. The State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons is headed by Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who focuses on “global engagement against human trafficking,” as described on the State Department website.
There are so many organizations doing amazing work to fight trafficking, stop perpetrators, and aid victims. I’m especially happy to support organizations that provide a holistic approach for former slaves, including emotional and physical support as well as opportunities for former slaves to find a path toward self-sufficiency and sustainability. I’m including a brief list below of some of my favorite organizations that fight human trafficking. Please take some time to support an organization working to free today’s slaves.
One night last November I had the privilege of spending an evening with human trafficking survivor and advocate Somaly Mam. A woman who has survived more trauma and tragedy in her lifetime than most of us can imagine, Somaly escaped slavery in the brothels of Cambodia and began to reach the world with her remarkable story of courage and hope. “What I have been through, I cannot forget it,” Somaly said the night I met her. “But I learned how to forgive, how to open my heart and love.”
Somaly’s incredible account of slavery and ultimately freedom emphasizes the power of love in conquering the evil of human trafficking. That’s why I hope you’ll consider getting involved in supporting organizations compassionately providing for victims and seeking justice for the oppressed.
Resources for Getting Involved
Kristin Wright is a columnist and contributing writer at ReligionToday.com, where she focuses on global human rights and religious freedom issues. Kristin has covered topics such as bride trafficking in North Korea, honor killings in Pakistan, the persecution of members of minority faiths in Iran, and the plight of Syrian refugees. She has visited with religious minorities in Pakistan, worked with children at risk in Mumbai's “Red Light” district, and interviewed individuals on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kristin can be contacted via her website at kristinwright.net or email at [email protected].