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Human Trafficking – Women and Girls of Sacred Worth - January 30, 2014


Photo: HFHP Ambassador Nancy Brown and United Methodist Women in Kansas Fight to Freeze Human Trafficking

By: Nancy Brown, Healthy Families, Healthy Planet Ambassador

Do you know that Human Trafficking, a modern-day form of slavery, is the second largest criminal industry in the world after drug trade?  Do you know that the Super Bowl will bring in thousands, actually hundreds of thousands, of people who will either be perpetrators or victims of human trafficking?  Do you know that the highways within our states and communities are routes of traffickers and victims, and you may pass them on the road or sit next to them at a restaurant?

But what about closer to home?  Victims may be serving food in restaurants, cleaning hotel rooms, washing windows, manicuring nails or landscaping yards.  What do we know about the people in service industries in our communities?  What do we know about the root causes of human trafficking?   Just what do we know?

Fortunately there are many people and organizations both within and outside the Faith community who know a lot, and they share their knowledge in many ways.  In my community, reporters from the Kansas City Star have written articles and provided coverage about the impact of human trafficking, as well as participated in community forums.  My church, The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, has a Human Trafficking Ministry.  The Difference Makers, a group of United Methodist Women from St. James United Methodist Church in Missouri and The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas, recently held a well-attended Intercept Human Trafficking Event, also the focus topic of United Methodist Women around the Super Bowl.

The Book of Discipline of the global United Methodist Church affirms the worth of all people and their right to comprehensive reproductive health services and family planning information.  So many Boards and agencies reflect those principles within their policies and practices, such as the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women. The General Board of Church and Society has grassroots initiatives in seven Annual Conferences focused on engaging local communities on the issue of human trafficking.  GBCS works with the United Nations, specifically the Commission on the Status of Women, on efforts to end human trafficking.

Recently Healthy Families, Healthy Planet, a program of the General Board of Church and Society, hosted a webinar to discuss the challenges and realities human trafficking survivors face when seeking reproductive health care, noting the way our culture contributes to the marginalization of women and girls.  Healthy families, Healthy Planet works to educate and advocate both within and beyond the United Methodist Church for funding programs and policies that support access to maternal health and voluntary family-planning services around the globe, significant for women and girls everywhere, and specifically for victims of human trafficking.   

Attending the Webinar, I was struck by the intersections of the life of women and children throughout society, as well as my own life.  How often do I move past those in my path without responding or even seeing their pain and needs?  How can I respond to the needs of women and children suffering because of human trafficking?  What can I do to advocate on behalf of those who have no voice, specifically around the issues of health care and the destructive impact on their bodies and souls?  How can I be a voice of hope in their wilderness?  But my questions go beyond me.  They extend to the local and global church.

A challenge was issued at the webinar through a specific question:  What would the church look like if women and girls were seen as children of God with sacred worth?  What if the church helped move them out of the wilderness, out of the grasp of those who objectify them, helping them to move from being victims to survivors?  What if we, as children of God, helped our own congregations and communities to recognize that all women and girls are children of God with sacred worth?  What would the world look like?

I had many take-aways from the webinar, but was left with two main thoughts resonating in my soul.  One was the words of William Wilburforce:  “You may choose to look the other say but you can never again say ‘I did not know.’”  And the other is the challenge issued by Healthy Families, Healthy Planet.  “What would the church look like if women and girls were seen as children of God with sacred worth?”  Women and girls of sacred worth?  Not just those in our churches, but within our families, our schools, our organizations, our communities, our society, our nation and our world!

United Methodists are not only people of faith, but people of advocacy and action.  Together we can transform the world by recognizing that all women and girls are children of God with sacred worth!

For more information:  http://umc-gbcs.org/blog/the-god-who-sees-a-church-that-sees-hagar-and-human-trafficking

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Nancy Brown is a retired Kansas State Legislator, a lay leader in the United Methodist Church, a board member of the United Methodist General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, a member of the Connecting Council and Mercy and Justice Team of the Great Plains Annual Conference, Social Action Chair of United Methodist Women at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, and Ambassador for Healthy Families Healthy Planet.