By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
DONELSON — “The United States of America needs to use its moral leadership to end modern slavery around the world,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Corker at First Baptist Church here. His statement elicited applause from the about 300 in attendance.
Twenty-seven million people around the world are living in slavery because of human trafficking, “more than at any time in our world’s history,” reported Corker. He was one of several speakers for “Night of Hope Nashville” on ending human trafficking. First Baptist hosted the Oct. 13 conference.
To address human trafficking in the United States, a law was passed within the past year and a half to help law enforcement identify traffickers who are using the Internet, said Corker.
Additionally, to coordinate efforts by entities and groups across the world, a non-profit entity based in Washington D.C., will be started. Plans are for funding of about $50 million to be appropriated through legislation for the entity by the end of this year, he announced.
HIV and polio have been basically eradicated and slavery can too, said the senator.
“I am elected by you to try to solve problems and it is a huge privilege to do what I do, it really is, it’s such an honor … . It’s such an honor to come into contact with people like you who would come out on a night like this from across the community to be a part of this. …
“I don’t know of anything from a secular sense that makes people feel more whole than to give of themselves to help make another person’s life better.”
He shared that he has seen signs of human trafficking which is the modern form of slavery in the many foreign countries he visits in his work as chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The issue was brought to his attention by his chief of staff Todd Womack of Chattanooga.
While in the Philippines, he met with some young ladies who had been rescued from slavery, Corker shared.
“Slavery is a crime of opportunity,” he said, perpetrated mostly by small business people. This is true despite the fact that every country in the world has outlawed slavery, he added.
“Poor people don’t have access to justice,” he noted. In other countries and in our own, the criminal justice systems must be strengthened.
Of the 27 million people enslaved in the world, 12 million are in India alone, Corker cited. Twenty-four percent are enslaved today in sex trafficking while 76 percent are in hard day labor.
Also speaking at the meeting were Joe Sorah of the Tennessee Baptist Convention staff and Rusty Sumrall, director of missions, Nashville Baptist Association. The meeting was held by the NBA and TBC.
Sumrall said, “We believe that the church is in a unique place to engage needy people. …
“It is a dream of our missions committee of the Nashville Baptist Association that a year from now we would have a coalition of churches working together in the Nashville area to help fight trafficking … ,” he stated.
Sorah, compassion ministries specialist for the TBC, said that worldwide 26 percent of those being trafficked are children and on average every two minutes a child “is bought or sold for sex.” The average age of one of those children is 13. In the U.S. human trafficking is being conducted in every state, added Sorah.
Jesus in Matthew 18 and in Luke 15 directs people to honor and protect children, warns them of the consequences of not doing so, and tells people to help those who need shepherding, he noted. In the parable of the lost sheep Jesus tells of a shepherd who leaves his other sheep to find the one who was lost.
“The strong implication there is the Shepherd, Jesus, goes to find that one that has been taken away and if we call ourselves followers of our Jesus Christ we will do the ministry that our Savior did — we will go find the one that’s been led astray, that’s been captured.”
Sorah said he hopes that “we as a church would wake up to the plight of human trafficking.”
Leader of non-profit entity speaks
Finally, Ashleigh Chapman, president of the Alliance for Freedom, Restoration, and Justice, a non-profit organization, spoke.
“It’s not rocket science to fight against powers that betray souls. It just requires an awakening by us as individuals and us as a church … ,” she said.
She said human trafficking is hard to discover even by government agencies so she helps those agencies locate the criminals and victims. In Kansas she assisted officials and the cases of human trafficking rose from two a year to about 400 victims in several years.
Helping prevent human trafficking might be as simple as church members helping children in foster care or assisting a single mother so she does not leave her young girls at home by themselves. Or it might be as big as developing aftercare facilities, said Chapman, who is an attorney.
It also might involve getting to know a college student who admits that she is being forced to be a prostitute by a man who befriended her. He controls her by beating her and threatening her family.
Thankfully, church members as laypeople are leaders of schools, governmental agencies, businesses, and non-profits so they are situated to help, she explained.
Chapman noted that churches and Christians still struggle with whether to preach the gospel or serve the poor. They must follow the example of Jesus and do both, because “He always did both, always,” she declared.
She also referred to the first verse Jesus read aloud in the synagogue as He began His ministry — “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” Luke 4:18 (HCSB).
The alliance’s Engage Together initiative has developed curriculum to help churches address human trafficking, reported Chapman.
Training for churches to become involved will be offered on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Westview Baptist Church, Kingston Springs. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.