Human trafficking is not just a problem that is seen in other places. When we think of modern day slavery we let our minds race to foreign countries. When we think of sex trafficking we allow ourselves only to see images of infamous red-light districts that seem worlds away. Sadly this isn’t the reality of the human trafficking problem. As disturbing and repulsing as those instances are, they are not the entire story.
Human trafficking is everywhere. No longer can we Americans live in denial of the facts that surround us. People are constantly trafficked through our own backyard whether it is for sex or for labor, and it is time for us to rise up and to say that we will not stand passively by while innocence is so defiled. Therefore it is important that we understand the nature of this problem. It is not the case that all those trafficked are carried over international boundaries. While this is a major problem, many of those who are subjected to involuntary servitude are US born citizens. This does not in any way make the crime worse since it is against US citizens; it simply gives us the awareness that this issue is complex and multifaceted, including both international and domestic dimensions.
One disturbing form of trafficking is child prostitution, and Atlanta is ranked among the top 14 cities plagued by this problem. The FBI estimates that every year 1.6 million children leave home as runaways; of these children at least 40,000 will become victims of sex trafficking. The Not For Sale Campaign of Georgia reports, “These children, Georgia’s children, can be so mistreated by pimps that their ordeal ends only when the children are killed.” And this form of trafficking is only one form of many to which Atlanta is home. Why is this the case? The reasons are plethora, but can be reduced to the following: the busiest international airport in the world assures a constant market for prostitution and large sports venues are normal attractors of sex traders. This is reflected in the fact that an estimated 200-300 young girls are trafficked every month in Georgia alone.
What will people of faith do about this alarming issue? Will we stand idly by while countless lives are destroyed? Or will we rise up and sound the call, announcing that we will not allow such innocence to be destroyed? The time is now for us to act. May the future hold stories of the Church’s bravery and audacity in the face of such overwhelming an issue instead of stories of its cowardice and disregard.