The Secret Hero in the Trafficking Battle

The battle rages on. Across the globe, forces for good assault a great evil–human traffickers. Ruthless, shifty and complex, our formidable opponent lurks in red-light districts and shantytowns.

“More children, women and men are held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade…generating profits in excess of 32 billion dollars a year [GDP of Costa Rica] for those who, by force and deception, sell human lives into slavery and sexual bondage. Nearly 2 million children [population of Houston] are exploited in the commercial sex industry.” – International Justice Mission  (IJM)

Leaders rally coalitions to combat villains who perpetrate these crimes on innocent children. Pioneers like IJM and Not For Sale convene activists and churches to fight this injustice. Together, they bring freedom to the darkest corners of our world. I pray these organizations grow. I pray justice is served. I rejoice with each girl whose chains of bondage break. And, I mourn to think of the many who are not yet free.

These pioneers are not without allies, however. On the front lines, a quiet hero is emerging.  Inconspicuous, yet powerful, their chief ally wages war often without even knowing it.

Our hero? A good job.

Perpetrators rarely kidnap girls off street corners. More often, they lure girls into slavery with job offers. This explains why the poorest neighborhoods in the poorest countries are at greatest risk. Traffickers swarm in slums, offering parents a shot at prosperity. Give me your girl and I’ll get her a call center job across the border. They bait desperate families with financial opportunity.

Poor families are the bull’s eye for traffickers. Fewer poor families means fewer girls sold into slavery. How many parents in your neighborhood have gifted their daughters away to job placement agencies? Traffickers ignore our towns because our families aren’t starving.

Last month, I visited HOPE’s work in India. We work in a city known as a regional hub for the trafficking industry. I met with dollar-a-day families in slums throughout the city, watching our Indian staff breathe life into the oppressed. Jon, our country director, hates that his city is a target.

“We train the 6,000 families we serve how to spot a trafficker. And we help them start and grow businesses so the trafficker’s bait is irrelevant,” Jon told me.

HOPE International clients in India

Motivated by his faith to bless an at-risk place, my friend, Rick, recently opened the doors of a “trafficking-fighting agency” (pictured below) in another trafficking hotspot, Vietnam. This agency, a manufacturing facility, employs over 100 Vietnamese people. Linh, a beautiful young woman who was trapped in prostitution, now manufactures medical devices. She left a career of slavery for a life of freedom. The job changed her course forever.

Rick's "Trafficking-Fighting Agency"

The CEO of a medical devices business, Rick doesn’t sign petitions and he doesn’t raid brothels. Instead, he creates opportunities for dozens of people to engage in dignifying work. His business provides an upstream, economic solution to an economic problem by putting traffickers out of business.

“I think our Vietnam operation will surprise us and become more than we’ve dreamt. We reflect Christ’s purposes in this place: To be God’s instruments to reclaim, to reconcile, and to redeem. To make all things new. That’s why we are here.” – Rick

In the war against trafficking, we need to deploy more than activists. We need to deploy an even greater force against our imposing foe. We need to unleash our secret heroes—the job creators.  We need to affirm the big businesses, mom-and-pop shops, and social enterprises that create good jobs. We need to unlock the creativity of the human spirit to build new job machines, enterprises that strike the engine of the trafficking industry. We put the very fear of God in the heart of evil when freedom-fighters like IJM join arms with freedom-fighting job creators like Rick and HOPE International.

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