Date of Event: 
February 10, 2012 9:00am



This week in History: 

January 9, 1776 -- Thomas Paine publishes the pamphlet Common Sense, making bold arguments that Americans should demand their freedom from Great Britain. He attacked the idea that people must live under a king. He wrote that "the sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. Everything that is right or reasonable pleads for separation." By the end of 1776, Paine's pamphlet had been more widely read than anything yet published in the thirteen American colonies. Paine is also known for his frequently quoted statement in December of that same year: "These are the times that try men's souls." (The Crisis)


Most of us have heard about the African slave trade of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In recent years, movies and advocacy groups have exposed mainstream culture to the brutal and inhumane conditions that the African slaves endured. For example, the 1997 movie Amistad cinematically highlighted the overcrowding of slave ships and the treatment of Africans as animals as well as highlighted the idea of slaves as expendable cargo. Although the interest in historic slavery has help to explain the plight of past peoples, it has also sheltered modern society to the injustices still facing people today. Few of us are aware that the practice of slavery and human trafficking are still alive and well today around the world, sometime even occurring in our own metaphorical backyards.
Researcher Dr. Kevin Bales, President of Free the Slaves in Washington D.C. and Professor of Sociology at Roehampton University in England, estimates that there are about 27 million slaves around the world today. This number is actually four times the total amount of slaves used during the historic African slave trade. Within the United States alone, researchers have roughly estimated 250,000-300,000 slaves currently work within this country. Ignorance has played a crucial part in the continuation of slavery and human trafficking in the modern world. Dr. Balesnotes that modern day slaves in Pakistan may have made the shoes you are wearing and the carpet you stand on. Slaves in the Caribbean may have put sugar in your kitchen and toys in the hands of your children. In India they may have sewn the shirt on your back and polished the ring on your finger.”Professor David Batstone, author of Not For Sale: End Human Trafficking and Slavery and Professor at the University of San Francisco, explained how he was shocked to discover that girls in his favorite Indian restaurant were actually slaves who were forced to work without pay and threatened harm if they tried to escape.     
Dr. Bales estimates that human trafficking and slavery produces gigantic profits, an estimated 30 billion dollars a year. It is arguably the most profitable illegal business in modern society next to arms dealing and drug trafficking. The difference between modern slavery and historic slavery are not openly discussed and, therefore, become more easily disposable. Slaves in the past were often considered ‘a good investment’and, at times, fed and cared for, while today’s slaves are considered expendable and short-term commodities. The rise in human population and the increase in impoverished peoples has enable modern slave traders to have a larger population to exploit. In their eyes, once a slave has been used to his/her breaking point, it is justifiable to discard and replace them with another victim. This is especially true of the most vulnerable of victims, women and children. At present, both groups make up an estimated 70-80% of modern slaves. Many of them are often sold into sex slavery. The excruciating pain and humiliation inflicted on these victims is mindboggling. In Southeast Asia, children (as young as eight years old) are sold into sex slavery and raped dozens of times a day by sex tourist/pedophiles.  
If you were unaware about modern day slavery, you might be shocked by this information. You may even doubt whether this is truly happening, especially if you are living in First-World Nation like the United States or Finland. I was shocked when I first learned that my current residing state of Florida is actually one of the international entry points for human trafficking in U.S. (alongside California, Texas, and New York.) Even more shocking is the fact that tiny and secure Finland has had cases of human trafficking. In a 2008 speech by the President Tarja Halonen at the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) Conference in Helsinki, she noted that Finnish people need to be aware of the different forms of human trafficking and that it occurs on a daily basis. She argued that awareness could led to prevention.
So is there anything we can do about this? Are we going sit still when we know that slavery is happening in our back yard? When the ancient prophet Isaiah saw injustice in his day, he cried out “Seek justice, recue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Is 1:17). This biblical call for justice is a call for all of us today. So what can you do about it? You can find out more about domestic and global slavery by visiting the following websites: or, or you can contact your local government officials and ask what they are doing about human trafficking. Remember, your action can help save a life and a soul.
 Pictures from our Town Hall Meeting on Healthcare







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