Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Obama's Human Trafficking Speech

Did you watch the President's speech about Human Trafficking today?  No matter what our political affiliations are, human trafficking is a human rights issue I hope we can all come together to fight against.  If you don't want to watch the speech, you can read it in its entirety here.  I've added some helpful links to the great organizations and initiatives mentioned today by Obama.

These were my favorite parts of the speech...

"[Human trafficking] ought to concern every person because it is a debasement of our common humanity.  It ought  to concern every community because it tears at our social fabric.  It ought to concern every business because it distorts markets.  It ought to concern every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.  I'm talking about the injustice - the outrage of human trafficking which must be called by its true name - Modern Slavery."

"When a man desperate for work finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field working, toiling for little or no pay and beaten if he tries to escape - that is slavery.  When a woman is locked in a sweat shop or trapped in a home as a domestic servant alone and abused and incapable of leaving - that's slavery.  When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed - that's slavery.  When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family...runs away from home, or is lured by the false promise of a better life and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists?  That's slavery.  It's barbaric.  It's evil, and it has no place in a civilized world."

"We are especially honored to be joined today by advocates who dedicate their lives and at times risk their lives to liberate victims and help them recover.  This includes men and women of faith who like the great abolitionists before them are truly doing the Lord's work.  Evangelicals.  The Catholic Church.  International Justice Mission.  World Relief.  Even individual congregations like Passion City Church in Atlanta and so many young people of faith who have decided their conscience compels them to act in the face of injustice.  Groups like these are answering the Bible's call to seek justice and rescue the oppressed."

"For all the progress we've made, the bitter truth is, trafficking also goes on right here in the United States.  It's the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker.  The man lured here with the promise of a job, his documents then taken, and forced to work endless hours in a kitchen.  The teenage girl forced to walk the streets.  This should not be happening in the United States of America."

"There are more than 20 million victims of human trafficking around the world."

"Congress should renew The Trafficked Victims Protection Act.  Whether you're a conservative, liberal, Democrat, or Republican, this is a no-brainer.  This is something we should all agree on."

"Every business can take action...Companies have a responsiblity to make sure that their supply chains, stretching into the far corners of the globe are free from forced labor.  The good news is, more and more responsible companies are holding themselves to higher standards...that includes the New Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking.  Companies that are sending a message:  Human trafficking is not a business model.  It's a crime, and we are going to stop it."

"Every faith community can take action.  By educating their congregations, by joining in coalitions that are bound by the love of God and a concern for the oppressed.  And like that good Samaritan on the road to Jericho, we can't pass by indifferent.  We have to be moved by compassion.  We've got to bind up the wounds.  Let's come together around a simple truth that we are our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper."

"Every citizen can take action by learning more, by going to the website we helped to create, slavery footprint.org, by speaking up and insisting that the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the products we buy are made free of forced labor, by standing up against the degradation and abuse of women.  That's how real change is made - from the bottom up."

"Right now there is a man on a boat casting a net with his bleeding hands knowing he deserves a better life - a life of dignity - but doesn't know if anyone is paying attention.  Right now there is a woman hunched over a sewing machine glancing beyond the bars on the window knowing if just given the chance she may one day sell her own wares - but she doesn't think anyone is paying attention.  Right now there is a young boy in a brick factory covered in dust hauling his heavy load under a blazing sun thinking if he could just go to school he might know a different future, but he doesn't think anyone is paying attention.  Right now there is a girl somewhere trapped in a brothel crying herself to sleep again and maybe daring to imagine that some day - just maybe - she might be treated not like a piece of property but as a human being.  Our message to them today is - to the millions around the world- we see you.  We hear you.  We insist on your dignity and we share your belief that if just given the chance, you will forge a life equal to your talents and worthy of your dreams.  Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time and the United States will continue to lead it..."

"The change we seek will not come easy.  We know that every life saved in the words of that great proclamation is an act of justice: Worthy of the "considerate judgement of mankind" and "the gracious favor of almighty God."    

Obama mentioned a few survivors and their stories in his speech today.  Read about Ima Matul and Sheila White.  Their stories of survival and how they are working to free others who have been trafficked are inspiring.

Be a Modern-Day Abolitionist

These are our favorite organizations working to eliminate human trafficking and the underlying reasons behind this injustice.  Connect with them!  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.  Support the work they are doing!

Mercy Project - they will free their first group of child slaves next week in Ghana.  They are not only freeing children from slavery, they are working to heal the broken structures that cause kids to be trafficked in the first place.

Free the Captives - an incredible organization in Houston working to bring justice to trafficked victims and to educate communities about human trafficking.

International Justice Mission - a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems - police, courts and laws - effectively protect the poor.

Thoughts about the Speech Today 

I'll admit - I put very little hope in man-made proclamations and governments - no matter what brand of politician is in office.  The issues Obama addressed today are enormous and complex.  The reasons for modern-day slavery are vast and woven into the very fabric and belief systems of many cultures around the world.  As Americans, we often do not understand the framework in other cultures that allow human trafficking to affect millions of people world-wide.  We hardly have a grasp on why and how modern-day slavery is happening right here within our borders.  We're not all that sure how our own spending habits and corporate policies (or lack thereof) play into the puzzle of human trafficking and modern day slavery.  So I'm always a little nervous when we, as Americans, begin to assert that we know how to bring about change in foreign countries.  Poverty, discrimination, racism, sexism - these sad realities fuel human trafficking, and they are each very difficult to address and legislate in other countries (and oftentimes in our own country). In some cultures long-standing ideas about women, children, race, and religion would require a substantial shift for human trafficking to be eradicated or in some cases - acknowledged. Obama had my attention when he began talking about how our government plans to work with other nations and with existing organizations to address the injustices of modern day slavery here and abroad.  No matter who ends up in the White House, it's exciting to hear these partnerships between nations, cultures, law enforcement, corporations, and existing, anti-human trafficking organizations could one day become a reality.

It was moving to hear the President address these issues and talk with resolve and force about this variety of human rights violations.  When modern-day slavery makes national news, I think we have reason to celebrate. I'm grateful any time these injustices are discussed in public forums.  However, I think the most striking comment Obama made today was this one:

"Every citizen can take action by learning more, by going to the website we helped to create, slavery footprint.org, by speaking up and insisting that the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the products we buy are made free of forced labor, by standing up against the degradation and abuse of women.  That's how real change is made - from the bottom up."

I was reminded that change happens when I decide to care.  Change happens when individual people like you and like me decide human life and dignity matter more than "every day low prices" and much more than our own comfort and convenience.  Change happens when every day people see injustice and decide to actually do something about it.  Change happens when we're honest and admit that money talks louder than anything else, and we have the power to vote for the kind of world we want to live in every time we reach for our debit card.  Change starts right here at the bottom by people who will never speak at a fancy conference - by people whose names will never end up in a history book - by people who will never have an organization named after them - by people who will never own a URL. Obama's speech caused me to once again ask myself these questions -

What am I doing to ensure that I hand over a better world to my children?  What am I personally doing to fight for a world free of injustices like human trafficking, forced labor, and child slavery?  As a follower of Jesus, how am I modeling for my children the gospel lived out as it relates to freedom, justice, and the sacred value of human life? Right here - at the bottom - how am I laboring towards a day when all men are free and every soul knows its worth?

Related Links:

International Justice Mission responds to Obama's Speech.

 Find out how many slaves work for you at Slavery Footprint - this is a good combination of interesting and awful.

One of my favorite resources - The Better World Shopping Guide

Did you watch the speech today?  What did you think?


Anonymous said...

Change also happens when the traffickers themselves come to know Jesus and the societies in which they operate have a kingdom minded approach to the world.

Kayla said...

I am extremely touched by this. I'm an advocate for Compassion International, which finds sponsors for children all over the world. My calling as an advocate is finding sponsors for girls and boys living in red light districts in India. This is where the sex work happens in India and there are children actually living there. I have recently found sponsors for five boys from one of the communities.

Hendrick Family said...

Anonymous -

I obviously agree with your comment, but also wanted to point out that there were many Bible-believing, church-going slaveholders in our country for years. People knowing Jesus doesn't automatically mean the end of human slavery. Looking at our own country's history, I'm grateful for the multi-faceted approach of ending slavery - grassroots abolitionists risking their lives (many of them Christians) AND laws that were passed to free slaves and protect former slaves (as well as ensure their rights).

I think a multi-faceted approach is still important. Governments, churches, communities, and individuals working together to end slavery.


Jen said...

I just have a very hard time accepting his views on human trafficking when he is openly supportive of taking the lives of children before they are even born. He is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, and I am unable to separate the two issues and support him on anything.

Hendrick Family said...

I don't like or support his views or policies about abortion, but I am thankful for these initiatives mentioned in the speech (some of which are not government policies but instead coming from the private sector). I also think there are times when party loyalties need to be set aside so we can work together to bring about much needed change.


Shawna said...

Earlier this month a co-worker of mine attended a presentation on human trafficking put on by BVCASA. They talked about Traffick 911 and the red flags to watch forhttps://www.traffick911.com/page/what-is-human-trafficking

I was shocked to hear there were mothers who spoke about their daughters (families right here in Bryan!) who had be approached and/or enticed by pimps. One girl, who was later released, was taken to Dallas/Ft. Worth. Apparently Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Houston are on the top of the list for human trafficking in the USA.

Allan and Nicky said...
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Nicky said...

applaud any politician who takes on a tough and explosive topic with candor and good research....I have followed the work of IJM for years and now Mercy Project. But the key is in these words of yours Heather .....Change happens when individual people like you and like me decide human life and dignity matter more than "every day low prices" and much more than our own comfort and convenience. Change happens when every day people see injustice and decide to actually do something about it...... I grew up a white girl in Apartheid South Africa.....the change seemed impossible but if each person just does their part, if hearts are turned and action follows then the world will change and so much greater and truer when God directs our paths. Your President may not be perfect but I applaud his eloquence on this topic (and several others) and wish for such leadership in Canada.

WalkingMissMolly said...

It's not just abortion he supports...ealier in his career, he was the sole Senator to speak out AGAINST the Born Alive Child Protecive Act. (Chicago issue, Christ Hospital in Chicago, finally went federal) He felt that a baby born-alive during an abortion should not receive medical care since that was not the intent of the mother when she came to the hospital. Bush signed it into law. (of course Obama didn't vote against it...just "present" as usual. (sorry...I'm from chicago and very tired of chicago politicians)

Mike Cornelia said...

I am so glad President Obama touched on this matter. Child trafficking is turning into an epidemic and it needs to be brought to light with the public. The world can be a very dark and disgusting place, but I think there is more good than bad out there. I hope enough people come together to end this sick form of slavery. I am still in disbelief that people engage in this "business" and consider it a way to make a living.