Wednesday, February 06, 2008

With so much deception, it's hard not to wander away

Sometime in 2003 (I don't remember the month), I read an article in National Geographic Magazine that literally changed my life. It was about 21st Century Slaves. Yes, slaves. Like the kind that you thought were done with after the Civil War, when in all actuality, there are more people in the world today who live in slavery or slavery-like conditions than in the 1700 and 1800s. Astounded? That's okay, I certainly was the first time I heard this. But maybe astounded is not so much the word as dumbfounded or indignant. How on earth can we think that we live in any kind of modern world or society when PEOPLE are still bought and sold like pencils, cars, or any other inanimate commodity? And why was I 21 years old the first time I heard about it? Why are we not fighting wars to erradicate slavery? Why is it not the top news story everyday everywhere in the world?

I couldn't get this reality out of my head, so when I went to grad school in 2005, I decided to dedicate what I could of my studies to this subject. For those who may not know, I got my master's degree in Public Health. Instead of a writing a thesis to culminate my degree, I did a semester long internship at a domestic violence shelter and a rape crisis center in northeast Georgia. I also wrote a capstone paper about the myriad of health effects on victims of sex trafficking. This is because most of the modern day slaves are women and children who are trafficked and held for the purpose of sexual exploitation. In layman's terms this equals forced prostitution. Long story short, these people are most of the time destitute, they are tricked into moving to a different country for work, and then forced into sexual exploitation and held against their wills. Often they are broken and brainwashed so that they are bitter and untrusting of those who want to help. Even if released from this hellish "profession," they are scorned by their family and friends because of what they haved been forced to do and left with serious health conditions that inhibit their ability to carry daily living, much less their ability to work.

It would be easy to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem and paralyzed by hopelessness. But we are not left without hope. There are many organizations that work with these victims, such as Free the Slaves, and International Justice Mission. My personal goal is to raise as much awareness as possible about this issue and try to educate people because knowledge is half the battle. Go to the websites above and learn more, or ask me because there is still a lot I haven't written here because of space.

"He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." -Micah 6:8

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Hi Kels, great post! Thank you for caring about the 27 million people still in slavery. I know it is a big and daunting problem, but I want you to know that after years of work a few months ago we published a plan for the eradication of global slavery. It is called Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves. You can see it and get it from Free the Slaves, or any bookstore (like Amazon).

We'd love to have you join with us in the growing anti-slavery movement.

Bless you heart!
Kevin Bales