by Keith Carey
What do internally displaced people, refugees, and victims of human trafficking all have in common? They are all homeless and helpless, and they are in need of our prayers and assistance. We will now discuss these three types of unfortunate people.
Internally Displaced People (IDP)
According to Wikipedia, an IDP is someone who is forced to flee their home, usually because of natural disasters or armed conflicts, but they remain within their country’s borders. Traditionally, the goal has been to return such people to their homes after an armed conflict or natural disaster is over. The idea is that we need to get people back to the situation they were in before the problems arose, and ensure that they re-establish their social networks. However, experts note that it may not always be best to send people back to their homelands. Perhaps the problems that led to their flight to safety are not completely resolved. Furthermore, conflicts, earthquakes, and floods may destroy economic and social structures, sometimes irreversibly. There may not be anything worthwhile to return to, especially if they have no property or land to continue their livelihood.
The one major difference between IDPs and refugees is that the latter seek shelter outside of their country. This might be one of the reasons it’s so hard to determine how many refugees there are. Some sources count both IDP’s and refugees together. Others count each group separately. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) counted 8,400,000 refugees at the beginning of 2006, the lowest number since 1980 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refugee). An article written by Matt Rosenberg published on the Ask.com web site estimates that there are now 11-12 million refugees worldwide, and he notes that this number is much higher than it was in the 1970s (http://geography.about.com/od/globalproblemsandissues/a/refugees.htm).
One of the major controversies today is regarding which nations should take in refugees. As a general rule refugees go to adjacent countries. For example, Thailand takes in many refugees from chronically troubled Myanmar, just as they took in refugees from Laos and Cambodia during the Communist wars of the 1970s. Likewise, Pakistan has taken in the largest number of refugees from neighboring Afghanistan, a country that has been in a state of war for decades. It is very difficult for developing countries like Thailand and Pakistan to absorb so many people. They do not have the resources to set up refugee camps, and they already face problems with unemployment and poverty. Adding foreign refugees to the labor market makes their problems even worse. According to a report by the United Nation’s refugee agency, more than 80 percent of the world’s refugees are taken in by developing countries (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2011/0620/On-World-Refugee-Day-UN-warns-that-poor-countries-bear-greater-refugee-burdens).
Pakistan has 710 refugees for every dollar of per capita gross domestic product (GDP), while Germany, the industrialized nation with the highest number of refugees, has only 17 refugees for every dollar of per capita GDP. Many experts point out that a country with a strong economy can better absorb refugees than a country that is still developing.
A very dark side of human nature comes to mind when we consider worldwide human trafficking. Human trafficking involves capturing and selling human beings to exploit their labor or use them for commercial sexual purposes. In such situations victims are threatened or violently forced to endure slavery or prostitution. According to an article in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_trafficking), human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. As for illegal profits, it is the third most profitable—the illicit drug industry and arms running are first and second. In 2004, the money “earned” through this evil trade was between five and nine billion dollars. In 2008, the U.N. estimated that nearly 2,500,000 people from 127 countries were being trafficked into 137 countries. Some would argue that these estimates are inflated because they come from anti-trafficking NGOs. However, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime believes that human trafficking earns more money for criminals than the drug trade; they say it is a 15.5 billion dollar industry (http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/category/the-facts/).
People become victims of human trafficking either by being captured and taken by force, or by being deceived into cooperating with the traffickers. Upon arrival, the victim is told that the rules have now changed. They must “repay” the cost of their transportation through their labor or through prostitution. Usually all their belongings, especially their passports are taken, and they are held against their will.
In cases that involve prostitution the situation becomes especially inhumane. Girls who were told that they had a job waiting for them in a restaurant or a home are sold to brothels. To condition them for the hellish treatment they will soon endure night after night, the traffickers beat and rape them until they are compliant. From then on the girls will be used to service several men a night. Some of them work in massage parlors, for the pornography industry, or as strippers in nightclubs.
Typically the girls will be used sexually until they become HIV positive, and then they are sent away. If they make it back to their communities and families, they are not accepted because of their recent past. Ironically, it is often their parents or another relative who sold them to the traffickers in the first place.
Children are trafficked for a variety of reasons. In addition to prostitution, there is child labor, servitude, the harvesting of their organs, recruitment of child soldiers, and illicit international adoption. Those who labor as slaves are typically locked in a stuffy room where they toil 14 hours a day, get very little to eat, and sleep on the floor.
How Can They Get Away With It?
An online article written by the Not for Sale Campaign points out that modern communication tools and relaxed banking laws make it possible to easily exchange assets internationally. Illicit businesses can operate without being detected using computer technology. (http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/about/slavery/). Such a situation allows most traffickers to act with impunity.
The same article pointed out that traffickers recruit slaves from the most economically depressed parts of the world. They prey upon people who are economically desperate, leaving them vulnerable to traffickers. To make matters worse, the desperately poor have no social, economic, or political power to protect themselves from these predators. By moving their victims to far away locations where they are perceived as “foreigners,” criminals have put their victims in a position where they do not get sympathy from the local population.
What Can Be Done About it?
Local law enforcement agencies can or will do very little about human trafficking. However, there are a couple of efforts being made to help limit human trafficking. For example, the Not for Sale Campaign has created a consumer tool that provides data and transparency to the supply chains of retail outlets. The tool is called Free2Work, and it gives the consumer the chance to scan the bar code of an item and find out how the company fares in 50 areas regarding slave labor. It grades companies from A to F. This Free2Work tool can be downloaded as an application for common cell phones (http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/slaverya21stcenturyevil/2011/10/201110994925174703.html). To download the application, go to: http://www.free2work.org/?gclid=CNeot7uIvK0CFSJjTAodAlIm_A
Another way to combat slavery is simply through vigilance. A December 11, 2011, article in the Los Angeles Times told the story of an Egyptian girl who was smuggled into a Southern California neighborhood where she was kept as a slave for several years. Finally, a suspicious neighbor contacted child welfare authorities who rescued her from the house where she lived as a captive (http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/16/local/la-me-1216-shyima-hall-20111216). Needless to say, this would not work in parts of the world where law enforcement officials accept bribes from the perpetrators.
Perhaps the best solution at this time is to help Christian groups like International Justice Mission (http://www.ijm.org/). IJM has helped 1600 former slaves get linked up with relief agencies to provide them with physical needs, emotional counseling, and protection from their former owners. They have found that 93 percent of the former slaves that are placed in a supportive environment do not return to bondage (http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/about/slavery/#rs_9). IJM uses the local justice systems to hold criminals accountable for their actions. They also try to strengthen these judicial systems to protect other people who are at risk of being forced into slavery. You will pray for their work on day 21. Space does not allow us to describe other outstanding efforts by Christ’s followers to help these crime victims, but we are including some valuable web sites at the end of this article.
• Pray that the Lord will use Christ’s followers to extend His kingdom to trafficking victims and the criminals who abuse them.
• Pray for believers to be raised up to help internally displaced people and refugees wherever they may be found.
For More Information:
Last year two secular news sources published several stories on human trafficking. See the following:
For Christian efforts, see the following:
by Keith Carey
Dear Praying Friends,
This month we are praying for people groups that are victimized by human trafficking or forced to flee their homelands because of war or natural disasters. These issues affect all parts of the world, so we didn’t include a general map this month. In Southern California there live thousands of refugees from the wars that plagued Southeast Asia 40 years ago. Recently the Los Angeles Times printed a story about a young Egyptian girl who was being used as a slave a few miles from Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth. Fortunately for her, a neighbor noticed something seemed wrong and alerted the child protection agency. The girl was freed, and she is now preparing to work as a law enforcement officer. Others are not so lucky. Girls who are sold, kidnapped, and forced into prostitution are all over the world. Most of them will live as sex slaves and die a premature death.
We might wonder what we can do about this horrible tragedy. First we must realize that we are our brother’s keeper. We need to stay alert and be willing to act. There are also some excellent organizations that deal with these issues. You will read about them in the background article of this Global Prayer Digest. And don’t forget to pray! This GPD issue is only a starting point for those who want to pray for people who face circumstances beyond their control.
Keith Carey, managing editor, GPD