Recharging Social Action Batteries
by COURTNEY JONES*
I attended the Living Justice Seminar in December 2007 in order to recharge my social action batteries.
After two grueling weeks of end-of-the-semester assignments and finals, I headed to New York City for the seminar, which was sponsored by the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner, part the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. United Methodist Women’s Mission Giving supports the Living Justice Seminar program. Living Justice Seminars are specially designed for young women and focus on different issues of social justice.
Human trafficking was the main topic for our event. I learned human trafficking is defined as taking someone out of her/his element, either physically or psychologically, and forcing the individual to do something against her/his will. Human trafficking is slavery. I hadn’t thought about it like that, but human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It’s alarming that a change in terminology can desensitize my thoughts so easily. That’s probably why human trafficking is the third largest global crime concern, under illegal arms trade and the illegal drug market. And why approximately more than 30,000 people are trafficked into the United States every year, 80 percent of those trafficked are women and girls.
The personal stories we heard during the seminar were even more compelling to me than the statistics. One girl, Propei (who couldn’t have been older than 10) wanted to be a nurse so she could help people. Her older sisters had been sold into sexual slavery. When asked if she thought her mother was going to sell her, she replied, “No, my mother loves me.”
Immediately after the filming of her interview, Propei was sold into sexual slavery. Another girl, Lucita, was 15 years old when she was married against her will and gave birth to a baby girl. Within a year, she was a single mother, struggling to provide for her family when a neighbor told her she could connect Lucita with a good job working in a factory in the United States. Lucita decided to emigrate; she crossed the border to a van she was told would be waiting for her. She was blindfolded and taken to a brothel.
These convicting stories led me to ask two questions: How am I contributing to this problem and how can I help? These questions were also on the hearts of the other 11 women participants at the end of the seminar. The positive news for each of us was: human trafficking is my problem and I can do something about it! These are some of the ideas we had for what we can do to make an impact in the issue:
Do research. Find out about laws and policies in your area. Research any local incidences of trafficking. (Many of us found out about specific occurrences of human trafficking in our areas that we would have never imagined happening.) Find organizations you can partner with that are addressing these issues.
Raise awareness. We can share the stories we’ve heard, distribute pamphlets on our campuses or speak at campus ministry events. We can also use school radio or television to talk about human trafficking. Everyone can share information on human trafficking with their church and arrange groups to participate in United Methodist Women’s Seminar Program in New York City.
Take action. Write representatives of Congress about legislation related to this issue, including immigration legislation. You can volunteer at organizations working with trafficking survivors, provide housing for them or hold fundraisers to support these organizations.
We want to see change! If one of the young women who attended the Living Justice Seminar is in your conference, invite her to share with your United Methodist Women unit or circle.
*Courtney Jones of Valdosta, Ga., is a member of the Women’s Division Teen and College Women Consultative Group. She works as an intern with the division, specifically focused on teen and college women, traveling to conferences and doing workshops with young women.
Date posted : Jan. 10, 2008