In the summer of 2014, I had the awesome opportunity to spend a week in Thessaloniki, Greece with the amazing team of The A21 Campaign learning more about the global problem of human trafficking, but more specifically in the context of Greece. Honestly, I was extremely honored to have rubbed shoulders with the dozen or so expat laborers in Greece from all over the world (US, Denmark, Sweden, Greece, Australia) that God has called as abolitionists for this season in time.
As the reality of 27 million slaves worldwide is coming to the light, people (like you and me) want to ACT. We want to DO something. This reality is powerful because awareness without action is useless and honestly just poor stewardship. Some of the best ways that we can act are to educate ourselves, help others become aware through our own giftings and creativity, and pray.
Here are a few things I learned or was reminded of that are worth highlighting in regards to properly educating oneself on human trafficking.
There are six main trafficking methods:
1. abduction (least common)
2. fake job opportunity (girls promised opportunity in a different city to make money)
3. lover boy scenario (a trafficker will pursue a girl and then once he has her trust, sells her)
4. family (family member will sell their daughter(s) in order to make money)
5. false immigration
6. false friendship
It is extremely difficult to prosecute traffickers because the girls that are trafficked are very rarely seen as victims. Most girls who are trafficked are prostitutes. The problem is that most people assume they chose to be a prostitute, when in reality most of them were sold, beaten, threatened and forced into a life of prostitution. In my personal, non-professional opinion, I think that the next big awareness piece after people understanding there are 27 million slaves in this world, is the understanding that girls who are prostitutes are most likely victims of sex-trafficking.
Greece Specific Information regarding Demand for Sex:
1. Prostitution in Greece is legal and socially acceptable
2. Of the 600 brothels in Athens, only 6 are legal
3. 60-70% of men use prostitution on a regular basis
4. 20,000-40,000 women are in the Greek sex industry
5. Women can serve up to 40 men daily
6. 50% of married men use prostitution
7. Prostitution a social activity
8. At age 15, dads take their sons to brothels as a rite of passage for manhood
Because of the Schegan Zone (borders/customs agreement) Greece is considered not only a transition country for trafficked girls but also a destination country. Basically, if they can get the girls in Greece, then they have access to all the other countries. It is similar to the problem we have in Houston; if they can get them to Texas through our Mexican border, then they can traffic the girls to any other part of the US with no problem or need of passport or papers. Also, the problem of sexual immorality in Greece is an ancient problem from as early as Biblical days. Prostitution and acts of sex have always been a part of worship and Greek culture. Rulers were known for having a wife, their lover, and then a harem of prostitutes. Nothing has changed. The sexual culture passed down throughout the ages (literally) is the main catalyst and sustainer of sex trafficking and the demand for sex.
So how do we abolish slavery when the root of this kind of slavery is in the thread of ancient civilization and culture? Where’s the hope, especially in light of the fact that less than 1% of the 27 million victims are actually rescued? I don’t know if we will ever see slavery abolished, but I am even more convinced the deeper I get into the trafficking fight, that the only hope is Jesus. He is the only one who can provide hope in the desperate and dark places that these girls are in. He’s the only one who restore identities; He’s the only one who can heal them. He’s the only one that can restore, redeem, and provide a platform for forgiveness and life. Christ transforms cultures and societies. Evil will always be present, but Jesus is bigger. As a pastor, I am more and more convinced that trafficking ministry or outreach at some level has to involve the proclamation of the Kingdom and inviting people to know the ONE who can give them life, redemption, and wholeness. Therefore, Church, we are the solution to abolish trafficking. It’s not the job of great organizations, or great campaigns, or even good hearted people…it’s the job of the Church to champion the cause of abolishing slavery. Church, we can’t back down from offering the Kingdom and abundant life to those entrapped or those victimizing. Therefore, Church, prayer is essential and the catalyst and the ground work for all activity for seeing slavery abolished. When we pray, we go to war. Don’t discount your prayers or minimize it to “not enough”. Prayer is the most effective and powerful action step we all can take to abolish slavery in our generation.
When we became followers of Christ, the spirit deposited literal gifts in each one of us to build His body- these are commonly known as spiritual gifts. He has also given us gifts of creativity through the arts, professional skill sets, and pure talent. Whatever gifts God has given us, we must leverage them for the Kingdom and towards the cause of seeing slavery abolished. Use your gift of photography, video, organization, administration, communication, etc and see how you can come alongside great organizations who are fighting trafficking. Put your gifts into play. Leverage them for the kingdom. We were designed to create. We are most alive and most like Him when we contribute our gifts for the purpose of the Kingdom.
Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are Not for Sale: A Memoir: I read this book about a year and a half ago and it was probably the best and most informative book I have ever read on trafficking and really understanding this billion dollar industry.
Human Trafficking Video: We watched this 3 hour movie in Greece. It offers a great understanding of how girls are trafficked and more information about trafficking rings around the world.
Nefarious: This is my favorite documentary on human trafficking. It provides great research and ends with hope.
The A21 Campaign: They of course are rockstars. Visit their website, learn, and be inspired to get on your knees and get going by using your gifts!
**All stats and information provided I received from the A21 staff in Greece.