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20 October 2014

Waking up to the horrors of trafficking

Waking up to the horrors of trafficking

A few nights ago I dreamt that my family and I had been captured by IS in Iraq.

As is the way of dreams, it wasn’t really clear what we were doing in Iraq but the fact that we had been captured was crystal clear, real and frightening. The worst part of the dream was a slave-for-sex auction of the women. One of the women was my wife. Another was my 11-year-old daughter. The emotions were as vivid as the actions. I felt the fear, humiliation, confusion and shame for my daughter. It was just as horrific as you are imagining.

Everyone was scared. That fear paralysed everyone into passivity. No one did anything, challenged anyone or tried to resist.

And then I woke up.

I woke sweating and disturbed. My wife was asleep beside me and I went to check on our daughter.

What was just a dream for me and my family is reality for millions of women and children, made clearer with the recent news stories that IS are forcing thousands of women and girls into the sex trade.

Just this week, I read of a 15-year-old Yazidi girl who escaped jihadis after being captured and sold into marriage in Syria, as well as the story offour of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls escaping the islamist camp before they were trafficked for sex, six months after their capture.

Globally, one child every 30 seconds is trafficked into brothels, sweatshops or servitude.

Every hour, of every day.

Even close to home in the UK trafficking into labour is on the rise, according to a recent report from the Salvation Army.

As God’s people, we are called to challenge this abuse. Care for the vulnerable has always been on God’s heart, and we know He values children highly. We see this by Jesus’ references to children in the Bible, as in Matthew 18:3-6, where Jesus says: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven... Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Jesus feels pain for trafficked children far more than we do. It enrages him to see adults causing them to stumble and pains him to see others standing by and doing nothing.

Trafficking is an injustice that must stop. The good news: trafficking is preventable. Tearfund’s No Child Taken campaign is about working through local partners to protect children from trafficking. It's about valuing children just as Jesus does. Christians are teaching children and their parents in countries like Laos, India and Malawi about the risks of trafficking and helping them to stay safe. Christians are providing families with skills-training and starter kits, so that they can learn a new trade to support themselves and escape the poverty in which trafficking breeds.

And Christians can also help raise awareness about this atrocity. Tomorrow is Anti-Slavery Day, and no better day to take action to end slavery for children. You can give to support Tearfund’s trafficking prevention work. You can pray. You can even bake.

I woke up that night wanting to protect my wife and daughter.

The desire to protect your family is profoundly Christian.

Not to want the same for every family is profoundly un-Christian.

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David Westlake is the integral mission director of Tearfund