Across history and cultures, religious faith has consistently influenced the actions and opinions of society. Whether as a divider or unifier, there is no mistaking the global influence of religious authority and activity. This has been apparent regarding human trafficking, as many individuals are made aware of this injustice through their religious communities. Subsequently, these community groups are often the main source of information about human trafficking, which furthers their motivational power beyond their immediate circle of believers.
From a western perspective, this inspiration is most poignantly seen in the Christian faith. While Christianity consists of a diverse collection of practices, there is a strong unity across denominations regarding the need to address human trafficking. That said, the practice of Christianity is not norm in many parts of the world. In many non-western, predominantly non-Christian environments, there are active faith-based anti-trafficking groups collaborating and working within different sectors of society, influencing decision-makers and directly aiding those being exploited. The following faith traditions are just some of the many that are actively combating human trafficking and creating tangible results.
Faith practice: Buddhism
Organization: Dhamma Moli
What they do: The Venerable Molini and Venerable Dhamma Vijaya started a shelter and education center for young Nepalese girls who are vulnerable to human trafficking and child labor. Recognizing that traffickers often target smaller villages, the Venerable Sisters visit villages, talk with families about the reality of young girls being sold into exploitation (even without the parent’s consent) and encourage mothers and fathers to allow their daughters to be educated and live in the capital city under the Venerable Sisters’ supervision. You can read a 2013 interview with Venerable Dhamma Vijaya describing the daily life of the young girls in the project here.
Faith practice: Inter-faith
Organization: Global Freedom Network
Location: Multiple countries
What they do: In March, 2014, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed by representatives for the Holy See, the Anglican Communion, and on behalf of the Grand Imam, illustrating that “global faiths have consistently condemned modern slavery and human trafficking.” Together, these networks hope to mobilize “coordinated action and activity with international organisations, governments and national authorities, civil society organisations and NGOs, as well as people of good will around the world, to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking by 2020 throughout our world and for all time.” While their goals might be lofty, their ambition is fueled by a desire to see cross-religious cooperation and unity, a characteristic that should be recognized and encouraged in further discussions regarding human trafficking.
Faith practice: Judaism
Location: San Francisco, Calif.
What they do: This coalition consists of the National Council of Jewish Women, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, and New Israel Fund. Located in the Bay Area, the coalition partners with local and international organizations to address and combat human trafficking. This organization focuses specifically on the issue within northern California.
These organizations represent just some of the many individuals whose faith has fueled a desire to counter human trafficking in their communities. While the reality of religious differences and the heated debates within the anti-human trafficking movement across faith lines should not be discounted, it is noteworthy to also acknowledge the instances where disagreements have been put aside in the name of acting against this injustice.
Do you know of other faith groups that are actively combating human trafficking? Tell us about them in the comment section below.