Baptists speak out against human trafficking - Word&Way

Baptists speak out against human trafficking

The issue of human trafficking occasionally makes national headlines, such as during Super Bowl weekend. But for the millions of people caught in it, trafficking is a daily reality.

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Jeff and Alicia Lee and their 6-year-old son Ethan in Macedonia. (CBF Photo).Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Jeff and Alicia Lee and their 6-year-old son Ethan in Macedonia. (CBF Photo).According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, somewhere between 12 and 27 million people globally are trafficked today, such as in forced labor or sexual exploitation. Most of the victims, especially of sex trafficking, are women and girls.

Alicia and Jeff Lee, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Skopje, Macedonia, recognize the problem of human trafficking as they minister to victims. The Lees believe churches must act to stop human trafficking.

“Trafficking is an evil that can be found in any town, city or state in the U.S. and around the world,” the Lees noted in a joint email response. We implore churches and members of the body of Christ to get educated about the various forms of trafficking and what the situation looks like in their community.

“Reach out to the anti-trafficking organization in your city or region to learn more and see how you can get involved,” they added. “Be an advocate! Learn the signs of trafficking and who to call when you see something that doesn’t feel right. Volunteer! Your local anti-trafficking agency would welcome your help in the office or at an awareness event, organizing a donation drive at your church or serving in the shelter for survivors.”

The Lees partner with Open Gate, Macedonia’s only anti-trafficking agency. The agency’s work includes a telephone helpline, an emergency shelter, supportive services and repatriation for victims and advocacy and lobbying efforts.

“We are inspired by their tireless effort, their overflowing compassion and their unwavering dedication,” the Lees explained. “We support their work in various ways and our partnership has grown and changed over the years. From English translations in the office to home-visits with Skopje’s most at-risk families, to limited financial support for special circumstances beyond their funding and now to refugee support.”

In addition to work by missionaries abroad and church ministries in the U.S., Baptist groups have also spoken out against human trafficking and have urged governmental bodies to take stronger actions to prevent trafficking.

A 2013 resolution adopted by messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention’s meeting in Houston, urged Baptists to “commit to pray for the victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation” and to “educate themselves” about “how to prevent it and how to minister to those who have been victimized by it.”

The resolution also offered support for “public policies at the local, state, national and international level which combat human trafficking” and praised “the important work of persons in law enforcement, education, medicine, counseling and other professions who address human trafficking.”

The Missouri Baptist Convention adopted a resolution on the topic in 2014.

The General Board of the American Baptist Churches USA similarly condemned slavery and human trafficking in a 2008 resolution. They urged “American Baptist churches and individuals to participate with ABCUSA in the cause against slavery.”

“Recognizing that the struggle to end human trafficking and slavery surpasses our wisdom, strength or life span,” the ABCUSA resolution adds, “we will persevere trusting that what is impossible by human effort alone is indeed possible with God.”

In October of 2015, the American Baptist Home Mission Societies joined an effort of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in calling on the U.S. Congress to pass ‘The Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015.’ The legislation, which still awaits a congressional vote, would require large corporations to track and disclose conditions of human trafficking, child labor or forced labor in product supply chains.

As Baptists speak out against human trafficking, they ground declarations in biblical teachings about the value of human life and the duty of Christians to speak out for those suffering from injustices. Alicia and Jeff Lee believe that taking action to minister to victims of trafficking and to prevent trafficking is part of the command of Jesus to “proclaim release to the captives” and “let the oppressed go free.”

“As Christ-followers,” the Lees explained, “we are called to be like Christ who said in Luke 4:18: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’”