“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 prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Then [Jesus] rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sad down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” –Luke 4:18-21
Jesus began his ministry by reading this passage from Isaiah and continued his ministry as told throughout the gospels doing just as Isaiah describes. Releasing the oppressed and proclaiming freedom to the prisoners is central to the gospel.
While it’s impossible to verify exact figures, experts estimate almost 30 million people are living in modern-day slavery. The International Labour Organization estimates that 4.5 million of these people are victims of sexual exploitation.
Women and girls around the world—in both developing and developed countries—are caught in a web of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation that exchanges their freedom and dignity for sexual pleasure—paid for by men and the traffickers who purchase them. These women and girls—image bearers of the Most High—are targeted and manipulated into prostitution, often lured into drug addictions, threatened, beaten, and even held against their will.
I’ve only recently become aware of this massive injustice and am learning every day how sex trafficking pervades our world. Even my state, Minnesota the land of 10,000 lakes, hymn sings, and Minnesota Nice faces a reality of 213 girls sold into the sex trade monthly, according to the FBI. Forty-five girls under 18 are sold online or through an escort service every weekend in Minnesota.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children conservatively estimates that 100,000 children are exploited each year for prostitution in the United States. Twelve to fourteen is the average age girls in the United States first become victims of prostitution. None of these figures takes into account women over the age of 18.
Hope for Abolition
But there is hope. The underground railroad is being re-imagined by law enforcement, advocacy groups, rescue organizations, and grass-roots advocates. The movement is gaining momentum, but it is far from mainstream. Much more needs to be done to engage the collective conscious of people all around the world who have power to bring an end to this injustice.
We must take up the torch of 19th century abolitionists who were compelled by their faith and understanding of the Bible’s condemnation of slavery to proclaim freedom to the oppressed. Christians—and especially Christians who are already taking a stand against patriarchy—must take the lead in bringing an end to the slavery of women and girls in our world.
What can an ordinary person do to join the abolition movement?
- Learn to recognize the signs of human trafficking and report to authorities.
- Support legislation that treats juvenile victims of prostitution as victims, not criminals.
- Reject pornography, strip clubs, and other forms of sexual exploitation.
- Speak up when others are demeaning women in their jokes, words, or actions.
- Invest in our youth, especially girls who lack healthy family or peer relationships.
- Raise our boys to respect women.
- Donate money to organizations that rescue sex trafficking victims and provide rehabilitation services.
- Pray—cry out for God on behalf of the women and girls who are enslaved around the world. Pray for their protection and freedom, and for them to feel the deep, deep love of God.
Will you join me in calling for an end to modern-day slavery?