This weekend I was invited to an art auction for an organization called Love 146 which is focused on the issue of human trafficking. The name of the organization comes from an experience that one of the founders had when they went on an investigative call in Asia and uncovered a horror: an entire room filled with children offered to Western men for sex.
Most of the children they reported, looked vacant and numb as if they had no hope. Rob Morris the founder of the organization aptly said that they looked “robotic, black” They were passed around to others each night for sex. They were all known only by a number pinned to their clothing. They were listed on a MENU as well!
But there was one girl who showed a glimmer of hope in her eyes. Her number was 146. The crew later returned with authorities (since the organization is not a law enforcement organization) hoping that she had hung on to that hope, but they could not find her.
They named the organization for inspiring them to act, to create a movement that offers hope. Slavery still exists today. And these are the faces of the new abolitionists who are reaching out to the poorest of the poor–those who have nobody to fight for them and who have been deprived of their basic human right to their childhood.
I bought two pieces of art that night, not really because I liked the pieces (I did–but I don’t really need them) but because I was moved to do something, even something small. These are the stories of horror that easily move most of us to act, but there are many others that we forget about who are forced into an indentured servitude as well.
Friend and human trafficking expert Amy Fleischauer pointed me to this Mother Jones article that is truly eye opening. A snip:
LAST YEAR, some 60,000 workers arrived in the US under the federal H-2A guest-worker program, which allows agribusinesses to bring in foreign labor for jobs they say are hard to fill at minimum wage. Similar temp-worker programs in industries like seafood processing, tree planting, and hotel maintenance brought in an additional 59,000 workers, and 60,000 more came in through temporary programs for professionals in fields deemed to have labor shortages—teachers, nurses, computer programmers.
These men and women are bound to the companies that requested them. They remain on American soil at the pleasure of their employers, who can send them home at any time. As Mary Bauer, an expert on temporary-worker programs at the Southern Poverty Law Center, has written: “These workers are not treated like ‘guests’…Unlike US citizens, guestworkers do not enjoy the most fundamental protection of a competitive labor market—the ability to change jobs if they are mistreated.”
Many, like Intajak, arrive with crushing debt from recruiting fees. I reviewed the cases of dozens of Thai workers employed by Global Horizons who had paid between $11,000 and $21,000 in recruiting fees, money they had borrowed from banks or relatives, often with family or communal property as collateral. In theory, they were free to leave their job anytime. In practice, they were modern-day indentured servants.
This isn’t just in Thailand, folks. It’s in our backyard. It might be in your neighborhood (and it probably is just a few short miles from your home at the very least).
Today let us pray for those caught in the horrors of slavery–let’s call it what it is–slavery! Can you imagine? Think about how you might work in your corner of the world to end this problem. Talk to the companies that you frequent online and off about how they use workers both directly and indirectly. While some might not be using slaves directly on their payrolls–they indeed might be at a subsidiary or perhaps a company they use might also be using workers who have their human rights violated. The Mother Jones article above lists a few big players who do just that.
Also consider making a small donation to Love 146 or to another human trafficking organization. Lobby your state and national representatives to make this a priority.
And most of all pray for an end to slavery. And love 146 and all those who the rest of the world may have indeed forgotten.