Tasha is a 15-year-old runaway who was kicked out of a troubled home. An older man took her in, and he offered to care for her. Instead, he beat her and forced her into prostitution. Having nowhere to go, Tasha felt trapped and afraid to leave.
This is just one of the stories of human trafficking shared Jan. 20-21 at the Summit Church in Durham during an event called “Project Freedom: Human Trafficking Training – A Call to Action.” The event was presented by the Wake County Salvation Army.
BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Erica Snyder, who works with Wake County’s Salvation Army, talks Jan. 20 to a group about human trafficking. She encouraged churches to get involved in fighting this modern-day slavery.
More than 200 people attended the event to learn how they can become educated and involved in fighting human trafficking, and ultimately, help victims find a new life.
It’s an issue everyone – especially Christians – should be involved in fighting, said Brad Hambrick, pastor of counseling for The Summit Church.
“It is a subject … so easy to ignore,” Hambrick said. “[We can] become the hands and feet for something that is very strong on the heart of God.
“Some of Jesus’ strongest words were spoken against those who would do anything to harm a child.”
Some studies show that 12.3 million people are being trafficked for sex, labor or domestic servitude in the world today. Others contend that 30.5 million are trafficked. Because the industry is underground there is no way to know for certain the number of human trafficking victims, said Erica Snyder, with the Salvation Army’s Wake County office.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” she said. “With the Emancipation Proclamation slavery ended [in the United States], but in fact, it is just more underground than ever before.”
Human trafficking – which can involve force, fraud or coercion – has become the second largest criminal enterprise. Right now it is tied with the sale of weapons, Snyder reported during the event.
According to Snyder’s report, the largest criminal industry is drug trafficking. Human trafficking, which has become a $32-billion industry, is a growing problem that is happening in both the inner city and the suburbs. Human trafficking victims can be found in a nail salon, restaurants, a neighbor’s house and many other places.
The Wake County office began offering emergency and long-term case management services to foreign-born victims of human trafficking about six months ago. Since then the office has begun work on 19 cases of human trafficking – cases that involve 26 individuals.
“We’ve seen sex and labor trafficking here in North Carolina and know that we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg,” Snyder said.
The Southeast accounts for 19 to 23 percent of human trafficking in the United States, Snyder said. Snyder addressed reasons why N.C. is vulnerable to human trafficking.
One reason involves the interstate highway system.
“We are really well connected … you can go from New York to Florida [on Interstate 95],” Snyder said. “The same roads that drugs go up and down, [trafficked] people go up and down.”
Though the industry is growing, the monetary value of a human life has gone down through the years, Snyder said.
“In 1810 a person was valued at $5,000 to $6,000,” she said. “Today, a person can be sold for $550.”
There are things that people – specifically churches—can do to help fight human trafficking, Snyder said.
Some ways include offering more training events, providing counseling, donating a week’s offering to a local organization that fights human trafficking or donating clothing or food to shelters for trafficking victims.
“There are trafficking victims who identify with a particular faith,” she said, “and would be comfortable going to somebody in the faith community to get spiritual guidance and healing.”
Lisa Shaeffer is a member of the Summit Church and lay leader of its human trafficking ministry. She and a small group of members started the effort last fall to find ways to help victims.
The group plans to go to a South Asian country in September with Tiny Hands International. There, they will work with partners in the country who fight human trafficking.
The three purposes of the church’s human trafficking ministry, Shaeffer said, involves education, prayer support, and partnering with organizations that have a Christian perspective, such as the Salvation Army and Tiny Hands International.
“We don’t want to just save the body, but we want to reach the soul, too,” Shaeffer said.
“At Summit our motto is love God, love each other and love the world,” she said.
“We’re really trying to take a Christian approach to trafficking because it’s great to rescue people out of it, but … we’re trying to rescue the whole person.”
For more information about how your church can help, contact the Salvation Army at keepthebellringing.org. To report cases of human trafficking call (888) 373-7888.