Simply put, human trafficking is a modern term for slavery. Anytime a person is held in a forced labor situation, regardless of the reason, it is defined as human trafficking.
The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
Experts have noted that human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world and one of the most lucrative. Overall, the International Labour Organization estimated the human trafficking industry at over $31 billion per year in 2005. Some estimate that as many as 29 million people exist in slavery worldwide, more than twice the number of slaves transported during the entire Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The problem is clearly large and growing. What does the Bible teach about human trafficking? This question cannot adequately be answered without a clear understanding of God’s value of human life. The Bible records that, when God created humans, He created them in His image (Genesis 1:26). Every life is of great value, and God loves all individuals.
As a result, God teaches love for our neighbor (Matthew 19:19) as well as love for those in need (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus was the one who taught the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Further, Proverbs 31:8-9 teaches us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” These principles certainly all apply to those hurt through the illegal practice of human trafficking.
How can people today practice these biblical principles of helping those in the bondage of slavery? First, we must pray for those in bondage. As James 5:16 notes, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” God’s power is clearly required for any adequate change to occur in the problem of human trafficking.
Second, we must speak out on behalf of those in need (Proverbs 31:8-9). Those in our schools, businesses, churches, and community often are unaware of the problem of human trafficking and how to help. Perhaps God is calling you to be one of the people who would speak out and help provide justice to those without a voice in this area.
Third, we must act to help those in bondage. These actions can involve a variety of means, ranging from volunteering in an anti-trafficking organization to financial giving to teaching about the topic where you live. A growing number of organizations have emerged in recent years that provide new opportunities for Christians to serve in this area. International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org) provides many international opportunities, while others, such at Mercy Movement (www.mercymovement.com) concentrate on addressing the issue in the United States.
One additional way to provide practical assistance is through supporting fair trade and survivor-made products. Fair trade products include items sold by those who adhere to practices that remove any unfair labor practices, especially slavery. Coffee, teas, chocolate, and fresh flowers are common products that offer fair trade alternatives to help keep slavery out of the supply chain.
The retail chain Ten Thousand Gifts is an example of this practice applied to an entire store, while the Christian organization Worldcrafts (www.worldcrafts.org) offers the opportunity to buy international gifts from artisans who have escaped slave situations and other poverty-related conditions.
In summary, human trafficking is a gross indignity against men, women, and children who have been created in God’s image. As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to pray, to speak out against human trafficking and modern slavery, and to live in ways that help create change in the lives of those impacted by this tragic crime.