“To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men.”
These words were written by a poet named Ella Wilcox around the Civil War. In America today we have this idea that the Civil War ended slavery. That, however, is not true. In fact, there has not been a single day in the history of The United States of America that slavery has not existed.
Human trafficking is the coercion or persuasion of women or men into modern day slavery (most often sex slavery), or more plainly, the sale of human beings. We hear about human trafficking in terms of, “this isn’t really here, it’s overseas,” but there is no better way to get away with a crime than when you think it doesn’t exist in your neighborhood. Many people know what human trafficking is, many people would agree they stand for the abolition of modern day slavery, and many have even heard stories of victims locally or overseas.
At Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, students from various backgrounds met together in an attempt to shine a light on this horrific crime against humanity. We heard stories of men, women, and even children who were forced into sexual acts against their will, beaten, broken, and had all hope and love drained from their lives. Trafficking victims can be written off as prostitutes, immoral beings, and even less human than others because of what they have been forced into. All of us are guilty of it— I know even I have looked down on girls selling their bodies on the streets, never giving a second thought about why they are where they are.
Students and faculty found their hearts broken over the realization that these are children of God being forced into slavery—something most of us would agree had ended long ago. After long amounts of prayer, sobbing, and wrestling to find God in amidst the crisis, we came to our conclusion.
Many times we ask God, “What are you doing about this!?” when God is looking back at us and asking the same question.
What are we doing about this?
It’s easy to feel compassion when we hear these brutal stories of victims of this torment. For most people, that is all we do. We feel compassion, we might donate a few dollars, and that is the end of our fight. It’s no wonder slavery still exists today— if the abolitionists like Ella Wilcox did this, who would we have to speak against this crime?
Ella Wilcox called this lack of participation sinning by silence. She says in her poem that that, “The few who dare, must speak and speak again to right the wrongs of many.”
Sometimes it looks like a daunting task to end something as big as human trafficking. It is a billion dollar industry holding millions of people in bondage. During our awareness week at Southeastern University, we learned that it has to start somewhere. Like Ella Wilcox said, it starts with a few who dare to speak. As believers, we must become the voice to the voiceless. We need to start understanding that as the church, we need to do more than just feel a heart of compassion for those in oppression. We need to be the hands and feet that God has called to service—not only to speak out about these crimes—but to take a stand against trafficking.
As university students, it might seem difficult to get involved. Sometimes we can feel so small but it is many small acts combined that end things like human trafficking. It starts by speaking out. In a day of technology we can write Facebook posts, tweet about it, blog about it, and reach out to others to take a stand against this crime. It starts with a single voice to bring many voices against human trafficking—and that is the same way that slavery was abolished in the past.
Ella Wilcox’s poem does not give a happy ending. However, it does end with hope. Hope that one day we can bring freedom to all people. She says that, “until God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed and given back to labor, let no man call this the land of freedom.” Even after the civil war, slavery was an issue that was very alive for Ella. This same issue is very alive for us. We must stand together and do the one thing we all have the power to do—