With deep roots in economic migration patterns and organized crime, not to mention the manipulation of basic human needs and aspirations, human trafficking is a complex issue both very global and very local in its scope. The International Labour Organization estimates that 40.3 million people globally were in what they call “modern slavery” at any given time in 2016, about 60% of whom were in forced labor and the remainder in forced marriage. Of the 24.9 million in forced labor, over 60% is in the private sector, about 19% is forced sexual exploitation, and the remainder state-imposed forced labor. Some people are trafficked across borders. Some are trafficked within their own city. The ILO estimates profits in the industry at US$150 billion.
While complex operationally, as a moral issue, human trafficking is about as straightforward as they come, which perhaps explains why it has been a galvanizing issue for faith communities. Numerous faith-based organizations and coalitions have emerged over the years to tackle various aspects of the issue, from prevention to rescue to services for survivors. Perhaps the most prominent is the International Justice Mission, which since its founding in 1999 has cultivated significant engagement in evangelical Christian circles. Recognizing the interest of faith communities, public sector organizations have developed targeted tools for their engagement, including UNICEF’s Interfaith Toolkit to End Trafficking and the US Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign’s Faith-Based and Community Toolkit, among others.
Additionally, many secular organizations addressing the issue have been founded by faith-rooted social innovators. And there’s one that, unless you’re a trucker, you may not know about. Since it's beginning in 2009 as an initiative of Chapter 61 Ministries, Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) has been mobilizing the trucking industry to use its eyes and ears on our highways to spot sex trafficking and partner with law enforcement to support investigations. Because they frequent truck stops, which are a common location for forced prostitution, truckers are in a unique position to help interrupt trafficking. By building awareness about trafficking among the trucking community and leveraging the industry through a certification program and other initiatives, TAT is building an anti-trafficking movement along US highways. In collaboration with another anti-trafficking organization, Polaris, truckers have made over two thousand calls to the National Trafficking Hotline, helping identify hundreds of likely trafficking cases.
Read more about the innovative work of TAT in this NationSwell article.