Tag Archives: global awareness

Laboring Through the Day

When I was young, my parents told us kids that Labor Day was a day set aside for families to labor together. Clever spin. Every year, on the first Monday of September, we were awakened early to start a day of cleaning out the garage… or weeding the garden… or scrubbing floors… or canning peaches… or whatever.

Funny thing—even after all these years…

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Before Freedom…

Human trafficking statistics:

800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year.

50% are children, 80% women and girls

1 million children are exploited by the global commercial sex trade, every year.

70% of trafficked women and girls are trafficked into the commercial sex industry.

$32 billion–Yearly profits brought in by the human trafficking industry.

$15.5 billion of that is made in industrialized countries.

244,000 – Estimated number of American children and young people estimated to be at risk

12-14 years – Average age of entry into prostitution

In 2009, the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit in the U.S, along with theU.S. Attorneys’ Offices, charged 114 individuals, and obtained 47 convictions in 43 human trafficking prosecutions (21 labor trafficking and 22 sex trafficking).  This is highest number of prosecutions and defendants charged in any given year.

That’s all??

That’s the bad news.  Next post, better news.

 “If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”

William Wilberforce


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You Go, Egyptian Girls!

“No!  We can’t let men do these things!” an exasperated young teen exclaimed after yet another girl told of the sexual harassment she endured.  They all had stories of harassment: at home, at school, on the street. 

I had gone to Cairo to observe a cutting edge  program being introduced into public schools.  It both taught girls to say no, and fostered sensitivity in boys.  That was before Arab Spring hit Egypt.  Afterward that teen emailed me: “Now everything will be different.”

Well, things are different, though not in the way she expected.  In Tahrir Square last week, some 50 women held a march demanding an end to ongoing sexual harassment.  An even greater number of supportive men joined hands to make a circle of protection around them. No one expected the mob of hundreds of  men who descended, forcing their way through the protective circle. The guards fought back, punching and swinging their belts, but the mob of intruders was too big.  The mob pushed the guards aside, then turned on the women.  First they heckled, then they attacked.  And I don’t mean just with mass ridicule, either–although that would have been bad enough.  They really attacked. Shocked witnesses called it “terrifying” and “ferocious.” 

The mob groped the women, then they forced their hands down the women’s clothes.  They separated small groups of women and forced them into a corner where they proceeded to assault them.  When the women finally managed to escape to a nearby building, the mob still wouldn’t quit.  They gathered outside and shouted insults at the women.

So, has the standing of those brave Egyptian women who fought so hard for freedom really changed?  Don’t bet on it. 

What has changed are the women themselves. Instead of slinking home, beaten and scared, they hold their heads high and sign up for self-defense classes.  Even better, they teach their children that there is another way.  A better way.  Ask one of those women and she will vow,  “No!  We cannot let men do these things!”


“The Egyptian girl says it loudly, harassment is barbaric!” 

Chant at Tahrir Square rally


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Happy re-birthday, John Newton

Easter Sunday was John Newton’s 264th re-birthday.  

On April 8, 1748, three agonizing months after a horrendous storm all but ripped apart the merchant ship Greyhound and swept all supplies overboard, the wrecked hulk drifted close to the shore off Lough Swilly, Ireland.  When the good people of the village caught sight of it, they rowed their longboats out in search of survivors.  There were only nine.  One was John Newton.

But John was more than a survivor. Notorious as an obnoxious blaspheming troublemaker, the worst of the worst, he

Once Blind, The Story of John Newton

had encountered God’s Amazing Grace.  John Newton was a new man.

People often ask me, “You’re a 21st century abolitionist? Where did that come from?”

From my acquaintance with John Newton.  Yes, yes, I know he was born centuries before me.  But I have been privileged to explore his story in depth for the two books I wrote on his life. And after so much research, after delving so deeply into his own writings, I feel as though he is a dear friend.

John Newton was a vile slave ship captain who became a hard-hitting evangelical preacher in the garb of

John Newton,
The Angry Sailor

an Anglican clergyman. He was also an unabashed and unstoppable abolitionist who passionately spoke and wrote from his own slave trading experience. In the end, he risked everything—his reputation, his wife’s emotional well-being, even his cherished right to preach—in order to bear witness to the slave trade horrors he knew to be true.  He had been a part of it. Determined to help bring about laws that would stop the slave trade, he shocked England with the truth, and he helped to turn the nation’s heart against the African slave trade.

Today, most people know John Newton as the author of Amazing Grace. The words, sung to the soul-wrenching tune of an old slave song, are his testimony.  They are the story of his life.

John Newton lived to see the first anti-slavery law passed inEngland in March of 1807. He died nine months later at the rich age of 83.

Happy re-birthday, John. I look forward to spending 500 or 800 years chatting with you in heaven.

“Every generation seems to have people who make a habit of embodying evil, people who have to look up in order to see the bottom. When they come to know God they are examples to others of God’s amazing grace. I was one of these.”

John Newton


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George Clooney and Me

George Clooney went to Sudan without me! 

No great surprise, I suppose, considering that he has no idea who I am.  And that his visit to the deadly border region between Sudan and South Sudan had to be kept hush-hush.  And that he was meeting with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, who would likely have shut the door in my face.

I do think George Clooney is good-looking, and I think he’s a great actor.  But most of all, I appreciate his commitment to using his privileged life to help the people of Sudan.  Lots of famous people talk about helping a particular project.  They pose fetchingly with a poor little kid from the region and offer emotional sound bites, then make their way to comfy accommodations.  But George is serious about his involvement.  He went to war-torn Sudan in January 2011, just as the people there were casting votes to separate into two countries.  George was so moved by what he saw that he helped found the Satellite Sentinel Project (it uses satellites to track soldiers’ movements and attacks) in the hope of heading off more aggression. He even got malaria like as real anybody. Now, after this latest trip, he is testifying before a U.S. Senate committee.

My last visit to Sudan was before the cease-fire and vote to split the country.  I must say, I have never heard such heart-wrenching stories as were poured out in the refugee camps.  And never have I been so inspired by the dedicated resilience of a people. I would love to go back and follow up on that trip.  So many new stories to hear!

God calls us to seek justice for the oppressed, to stand in the gap and offer protections, to provide a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. I want to be such a voice.

George left me behind, but never mind.  I’ll find a way to go to South Sudan on my own.  Maybe I’ll even send George Clooney a postcard saying: Wish you were here.

“We are only successful as a human race by how we look out for the people who can’t look out for themselves.”

George Clooney

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Charles Dickens and Me

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

When I was in 7th grade, my teacher Mrs. Eckert announced to our class that would be reading A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.  We thumbed through the book and groaned in unison. Too long!  Too old-fashioned!  Too hard!

Still, I wasn’t one to duck my assignments.  My mother wasn’t one to allow me to!  So I grudgingly began. Paris and London.  Revolution and respite.  Charles Darnay, the reluctant French aristocrat and Sydney Carton, the British barrister who defended him in court and just happened to look amazingly like him.  And Lucie Manette, the sweet young thing loved by both, but married to Charles Darnay.

I didn’t know much about the French Revolution when I began the book, but by the time I finished it, I understood a great deal.  Excesses of wealth and power, and the horrific response they spawn.  I soaked in the plot twists :  Madame Defarge in her husband’s wine shop, knitting, knitting, knitting. I discovered underlying themes: Sin and redemption.  Death and resurrection.  And most wrenching of all to my twelve-year-old heart, the power and sacrifice of love.

With Charles Darnay imprisoned in the Bastille awaiting the guillotine, Sydney Carton had him drugged and secreted away in a carriage headed for London, then he took Charles’ place in prison.  To Lucie, Sydneyvowed:

I will give my life to keep one you love beside you.

Sydney Carton went to his death without regret.

It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done.  It is a far, far better place I go to than I have ever known.

Charles and Lucie made it safely back toEngland.  They named their baby son after Sydney.

Imagine being able to touch hearts and move society to action through words on a page! I wanted to do that!

Thank you, Mrs. Eckert, for introducing me to Charles Dickens.  Thank you Charles Dickens for being the spark for my own writing career. 

Oh, and happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens!

“Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.”

Charles Dickens

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18 Trafficking Did-You-Knows

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  I’m so glad.  As a self-avowed 21st Century Abolitionist, I desperately want people to know about the horrible scourge of slavery.  That includes human trafficking.

Ten years ago, when I first started writing about 21st century slavery, people had trouble believing this was actually happening.  People–especially girls and women–kidnapped, bought and sold?  Forced to work as slave labor… or prostitutes?  “You writers,” one radio interviewer huffed after Daughers of Hope, my first book on the subject, came out.  “You do like to grab hold of some fringe cause and blow it all out of proportions.”

That was then.  Today, after so many celebrities have dipped their toes into the abolition waters, most of us know something about human trafficking. 

 Here are some facts you may not know:

  1. Approximately 40 million people are held as slaves today, more than ever before in history.
  2. Trafficking takes many forms, including forcing victims into prostitution, making them labor as slaves, tricking them into debt bondage, forcing them to serve in wars, harvesting their organs.
  3. The average cost of a slave is around $90—an all time low.
  4. 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation.
  5. About half of all trafficking victims are children.  80% are under 24. 
  6. An estimated 30,000 victims die each year.
  7. Family members often sell children and other family members into slavery.
  8. According to a 2009 Washington Times article, the Taliban buys children as young as seven years old to act as suicide bombers. The price? $7,000 to $14,000.
  9. Countries that rank high as a source of trafficking includeBelarus,Russia,Ukraine,Albania,Bulgaria,Romania,China,Thailand, andNigeria.
  10. Victims are trafficked to many countries.  High on the destination list areBelgium,Germany,Greece,Israel,Italy,Japan, theNetherlands,Brazil,Turkeyand theU.S.
  11. Most human trafficking in theU.S.occurs inNew York,California, andFlorida.
  12. Human trafficking has been reported in all 50U.S.states,Washington,D.C., and in someU.S.territories.
  13. The FBI estimates that over 100,000 children and young women are trafficked inAmerica.
  14. Women are trafficked into theU.S.mostly to work in sex industries.  Others are trafficked in to work in seatshops, in people’s homes, and in agriculture.
  15. Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes because it is hugely profitable and it involves little risk.
  16. Human trafficking is estimated to bring in somewhere between $9 billion and $31 billion.
  17. In less than five years, it is expected to surpass the drug trade.
  18. According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights challenges of this century, both in theUnited Statesand around the world.

 (All these statistics are estimates, of course. Human trafficking is so shadowy a crime that it’s difficult to get accurate statistics.)

Today, January 11, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  But President Obama went a step further and named all of January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  Thank you, Mr. President.


“Too often the strong, silent man is silent only because he does not know what to say, and is reputed strong only because he has remained silent.” 

Winston Churchill


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