This morning, I somehow managed to drag myself out of bed and straight out the door for a jog. I’m hardly a natural runner (actually I find the process a serious struggle) so I need to keep myself well distracted if I’m to avoid slowing to dawdle. This morning I was trying to keep myself going at a reasonable pace up a hill, so started rhythmically counting every couple of steps – “1, step, step, 2, step, step 3, step, step….” – in what felt like 1 second intervals.
I couldn’t get past the 26th count.
Yesterday I learnt that every 26 seconds, a child is trafficked. One child, in the time I’d made it about a third of the way up that hill. At least two more children by the time I reached the top. 1.2 million boys, girls, and young women, every year, are trafficked for the first time, many being sold, lured or deceived into lives of sexual slavery. They ‘work’ as prostitutes, servicing countless clients a day in situations in which they have virtually no hope of escape.
I gained this insight into a vicious global underworld at, of all places, a high tea. The Destiny Rescue High Tea was the second event hosted by a passionate group of Bayside mums. Their first high tea last year was an almost unexpected success – selling out, even after relocating to a venue that could hold 150. This year they went higher, and around 250 women spent their Sunday afternoon at Sandgate Uniting Church, enjoying music, tea, divine homemade snacks and browsing the stalls of donated jewellery and crafts that were for sale. Final figures to be confirmed, but it’s estimated they will have raised about $20,000.
I’ll admit I’m not easily moved by statistics. I’ve been interested in issues of poverty, development and social justice for several years now, and it’s a field that is rife with these sorts of ‘make it real’ comparisons. But the statistics around human trafficking are something else. Not only is a child sold the equivalent of every 26 seconds, but the trade in human beings is estimated to be the second largest industry in the world – second only to the arms trade. One UN website estimates that up to 4 million people are trafficked every year. By comparison, at the height of the transatlantic slave trade, 80,000 people were trafficked each year.
Just by chance, only a few weeks ago I finished reading Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, which I honestly cannot recommend enough. I was shocked to learn that more women are killed and maimed through gender-related violence each year than by war, cancer, malaria and traffic accidents – combined. While human trafficking is not just an issue that impacts women, young girls and women are disproportionately represented.
There are a huge range of issues in the world today that need our attention. It is sometimes such an overwhelming list that it’s hard to know where to begin. As I talked with Michael last night I realised that what moves me so much about the issue of trafficking and sexual slavery is that it seems to embody the depravity and evil that exists below the surface of the human race. The ability to remove all intrinsic value from a person and treat them as a commodity – one that can not only be traded, but beaten, raped, abused, and left for dead – is to me a true embodiment of evil.
What’s more, many children are sold (with some, little or no knowledge of the real circumstances they will enter) by their own parents. Families driven by dire circumstances and poverty may make the gut-wrenching decision to sacrifice one child for the greater good of the family. This means, as the speaker yesterday so simply and powerfully put it, that nobody is looking for them. Children live in torturous conditions, with absolutely no hope of rescue – their parents, their governments, no one is looking for them.
It was the combination of these two realisations that moved me to need to help. It moved me to a place where inaction is no longer an option.
While the organisation is still fairly new to me, I am impressed by what I can see of the work of Destiny Rescue, who are based right here in Queensland. They have a range of programs, including prevention, rescue, and aftercare programs, as well as rehabilitation and vocational training. 100% of sponsorship funds go directly to the work overseas, with overheads and administration being funded in other ways. If this issue at all moves you, then I’d encourage you to take a look at their work, and consider their 26 Second Challenge. If you are inspired to do more, then contact me – maybe we could do more together.