A Head and Heart about Human Trafficking
by Mark McCleary
The first couple, Adam (male and female) were designed and created by God for partnership—the man from the ground (Gen. 2:7) and the woman, with the substance of man’s rib, and from the ground (Gen. 2:21-23). Since then, every human being has been born with union of a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg via her birth canal. After the Fall, females were predicted to suffer at the heartless headship and hands of their male counterparts (Gen. 3:16). It is out of this disparity that human trafficking or a modern version of slavery of women has evolved. This article concerns both information and challenge for you, me, and others to have the heart and head to do something constructive to free females caught in the throes of this inhumane but growing social nuisance.
Female Human Trafficking
This subject became of personal interest for me after I read an article in the school magazine, Horizon, published by my alma mater, Nova Southeastern University of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This disturbing and troubling social phenomenon has been described as a form of coercion and or holding of a person [female] against her will in some type of labor. The most frequent forms of coercion have been sexual, forced labor, or domestic servitude. The latest research reports that the principle places involved in this practice have been Albania, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Thailand, Ukraine or the more underdeveloped areas of the globe (Adventist News Network, 2000). According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), Florida ranks third in the United States, behind California and New York, as human trafficking hotspots.
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime reported that human trafficking is big business with estimates of $36 billion per year, and projects that it will surpass the illegal arms and drug trade if it is not addressed. Ralph Benko, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that “800,000-900,000 victims per year” (Adventist News Network, 2004) are trapped by force, fraud, and coercion. These statistics signal the need for our involvement, and for rescuing and restoring these victims. Such involvement can assume the form of providing information and referrals for helping identified victims.
There is widespread ignorance about human trafficking. This ignorance is highlighted by the reported statistics of 87% of these victims having had health care contact while being victimized. In addition, 63% have been attended to in emergency rooms without being recognized as being victims of human trafficking. After reading these frightening statistics, I was motivated to write this article and encourage readers to join the international education campaign against human trafficking. It is a part of the “first step” initiative for “raising awareness” (Ardis, Stenbakken, Adventist News Network, 2000). The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 provides legal impetus to my voice and other initiatives and is a part of the worldwide responses to rid itself of this social blight. It was from this ethos that the White House spent over $80 million over three years to rescue human trafficking victims (Adventist News Network, 2004).
Nova SE University and Human Trafficking
After I graduated from Nova’s School of Humanities with a Ph. D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution in 2013, I began receiving my monthly School Magazine, Horizon as an alumnus. I learned so much as I read about Nova’s involvement in the campaign against human trafficking in my spring issue. Prior to reading the article, my awareness was rooted in hearsay and the three Taken movies starring Liam Neeson, which dramatized the, terror, exploitation, and danger involved in human trafficking. I also learned that Nova joined the international and domestic efforts to educate and generate awareness about human trafficking when some of its staff formed Health Educators Against Traffickers (HEAT). This nascent Nova venture is supported by private donations in its effort to identify victims and refer them and caretakers to needed resources. Today, HEAT has evolved into CREATE—Coalition for Research and Education Against Trafficking and Exploitation. CREATE’s progenitors are two female professors of the Health Care Sciences Department of Health Sciences, Brianna Black Kent, Ph. D. and Sandrine Gilliard-Kenney, Ed. D. who launched it in January 2005 (Horizon, 2016). HEAT and CREATE are the pragmatic responses of a small sample of concerned individuals and has inspired the development of another initiative against human trafficking, MAPS—Multicultural Association for Pre-Health Students. Along with Nova’s Criminal Justice Club, MAPS has sought to provide information and awareness about human trafficking. Their efforts have used newspapers and websites to get their word out in order to effect positive transformation to a troubling phenomenon. I am happy my school improved my understanding and more proud that it prompted me to be alert and write so others can join the fight against this embarrassing social problem.
Seventh-day Adventist Involvement with Human Trafficking
After reading of Nova’s involvement in the fight against human trafficking, I wanted to know where my church stood on this subject. I discovered that the leading advocates and promoters among Adventists have been women. It was the Women’s Ministry Department that first joined the protest against human trafficking after attending the U. N. sponsored World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995 (Adventist News Network, 2000). Congressional investigations into human trafficking have been “welcomed” according to Ardis Stenbakken, SDA spokesperson. These investigations and other interested persons and organizations helped spur Adventist women to join coalitions against human trafficking in an effort to attain greater learning and coordinate efforts to help solve this social problem. Most of these initiatives are launched by non-profit organizations who have sought to bring attention to this international aberration by collaborating with whomsoever shares their vision by largely distributing information. These distributing efforts have been expressed primarily in the form of posters, brochures, and powerpoint presentations as well as intra-agency briefings.
Within our SDA global fellowship, August 27, 2016 was designated as Abuse Prevention Sabbath. This date marks the 10th anniversary for such emphasis by the SDA Church leadership, yet I have been largely on the periphery of its scheduling and awareness efforts. This tension between official notification and my personal attention highlights the challenge of getting our head and heart involved against human trafficking. The SDA leadership’s efforts to raise awareness among its constituency is commendable and a part of the international campaign to prevent human trafficking.
In January 1995, the SDA Church provided guidance by publishing the statement below that provides impetus for the Church’s annual Abuse Prevention emphasis as well as its constituents putting their individual and group heads, hearts, and hands in present-day initiatives against human trafficking.
Women are entitled to the God-given privileges and opportunities intended for every human being—the right to literacy, education, health care, decision-making, and freedom from mental, physical, or sexual abuse
Conclusions and Recommendations
This article highlights the poignant and ugly fact that humanity can behave very badly with each other. It encourages reflection on the rhetorical query, “Am I my brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9)? It also describes a few of the many worldwide individuals and organizations dedicated to intervening and ridding the global community of this social blight. Furthermore, this article includes the involvement of the SDA Church in the struggle against human trafficking; that there are heads and hearts against this social evil and that there is a need for more until this form of inhumanity is removed from the reports of the U. N. and other agencies such as the White House, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, or the Women’s Ministry Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
In order to exhort us to move from information to intervention, I recommend that you join me in raising awareness about this disturbing form of inhumanity where you are. I plan to distribute this article among my congregants and then my many email and website “friends”. The posting of this article by Adventist Today media is a part of this distribution effort. Perhaps, you can do similarly by sharing its content or developing your own message against human trafficking and, then spreading it like the leaves of autumn. Second, I applaud the SDA Church and anyone I encounter that has been helping to rid the world of this social misbehavior. How about organizing an anti-human trafficking seminar or workshop with experienced practitioners featured as presenters with handout materials and how-to ways for practical intervention?
The redemptive prophet, Isaiah, predicted tidings of salvation (Isa. 61:1-9). The gospelaire, Luke, records Jesus’ hometown sermon which included the deliverance and liberation content of Isaiah’s prophecy (Luke 4:16-19). I suggest you read them in order to absorb their essential message. Whatever praxis or modality you develop and implement, I trust it will ultimately help deliver, liberate, and redeem victims of human trafficking. I believe there will be rejoicing in heaven and peace and goodwill on earth. Be sure that you realize that your future reflections and corresponding intervention will be generated and sustained by your head, heart, and hands. Yes, I am my brother’s [sister’s] keeper and I purpose to keep my head, heart, and hands involved in order to help rid the world of this embarrassing practice or at least dramatically reduce its impact until Jesus comes to remove all existence of evil.
“Adventist Urge Action to Halt International Trafficking of Women,” Adventist News Network, February 28, 2000 (https://news.adventist/go/2000-02-28/adventist-woman-urge-action-to-halt-International-trafficking-or-women/)
Rowe, Taashi (2004). “Adventist Church Joins Coalition against Worldwide Human Trafficking.” Adventist News Network, November 8, 2004.
Solomon, Michelle. “Breaking Free: NSU’s CREATE Combats 21st Century Slavery
Through Education Awareness.” Horizon (Spring 2016), Nova SE University.
Mark McCleary is the senior pastor of the Liberty Seventh-day Adventist Church in Windsor Mill, MD. He’s earned a D.Min from Palmer Theological Seminary, and Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis from Nova Southeastern University. He and his wife Queenie have been married for over 40 years, and have three grown children.