"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
Last Tuesday a video went viral about Joseph Kony – the Ugandan leader who has conscripted boys into his army and forced girls into the sex trade, both on pain of death. I thank God for this video put out by Invisible Children. I’ve dreamed of this, because people en masse are becoming more aware of the dark and hateful reality. Even if they’re new to understanding the relevance, they are starting to see the light. Awareness is the first step.
Early last week I felt burdened to draft this posting but was at a loss for how to make it relatable and even comprehensible. The Kony 2012 video is a starting place to understanding world-wide human trafficking. I was exposed to the horrors of human trafficking when I was 19 on a humanitarian aid trip to Southeast Asia. So here’s a rant, but I pray that its so much more. Here are the facts of injustice, here’s the truth in all of it’s ugliness. Our habits help it continue, our lack of awareness allows it to grow. It’s not an easy fight ahead but an uphill skirmish the whole way, for years I’m sure. Human trafficking is slavery – it’s forced prostitution, forced labor, child soldiers, and even the sale of people.
In preparation for my humanitarian aid trip to Thailand and Cambodia, we were briefed in what to expect before we went. It was awful, just in learning what has happened and continues, I had nightmares for months. Then in Cambodia we met around 30 girls, ages 5 – 18, who had been rescued from being trafficked. Now human trafficking had a face – a lovely, sweet, young face, sometimes with haunted, sad eyes, sometimes blissfully unaware of the horrors they had escaped. For some of these girls, their parents sold them so they could have food on their table for the other children. Some had been abandoned to the streets. Some had become desperate to survive by any means necessary. They were now living in a girls’ home where they were taught trade skills, educated, and loved so they could re-enter society in a new and safe capacity. Their stories stuck with me, as did their faces. Sweet little girls who had done nothing wrong but were at risk of being thrown to jackals who would put a price tag on their virginity, whore them out, consign them to slave labor, and treat them like property. No different than the girls in Uganda that Kony abducts. In Thailand, we helped in an “orphanage” where many of the children had been left on the city streets by their hill tribe families. We were in the Golden Triangle – where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Burma meet – a hot spot for drug and human trafficking. Had it not been for this home, many of these children would surely have fallen prey to traffickers.
Sure, we know this stuff happens in Asia and Africa. But what about in your city? Atlanta, GA is a hotspot for trafficking. So is Vancouver, B.C. which is practically in my own backyard. My beloved Bellingham lies on the main trafficking route between Vancouver and Seattle. And the women, the men, the children who are trafficked: they are of any race, any age. The majority of pornography found on the internet is performed by women who are drugged/forced/beaten into doing it. Who’s paying for that? And that chocolate we pick up for our Valentine’s – where did that come from? Were children in slavery forced to harvest those coffee beans I ground this morning? You don’t have to take an economics class to understand supply and demand. Somewhere along the lines we are demanding what these traffickers are selling. Freedom isn’t free, or even cheap, but if I can make choices that don’t contribute to the problem, it’s a practical way to stop trafficking.
The video about Joseph Kony and the truth came as a shock to most. Once you know the truth it’s hard to ignore it, hearts and emotions are invested in the pain of others. I’m so glad people can start to see the truth, see the faces of trafficking for the first time. I’m glad because I dream this will extend beyond putting up posters on April 20th. I dream that it will extend beyond seeing one man in cuffs. I dream that we will choose to keep fighting for the freedoms of those who can’t fight for themselves, a voice for the voiceless. I dream that we will learn about how human trafficking takes place around the world, about how it could be happening in their own back yards, and learn the signs of trafficking. I dream that we will all have eyes to see something out of place and make a call to save someone’s life, to give them freedom and equality again.
My dream is that each of those beautiful, unforgettable faces live in freedom.
Want to help in the fight against human trafficking? Check out: www.stopthetraffik.org. Get out there on April 20th and cover your city in posters. Talk about human trafficking. Stop The Traffik is a great resource for other practical ways to help end the trafficking of people. And don’t stop.