The Salvation Army commemorated an “International Day of Prayer for Victims of Sexual Trade Trafficking” this past Sunday at the call of General Shaw Clifton, its international leader. “I called the Army to prayer once again for those exploited and irreparably damaged as victims of this dreadfully evil trade. The matter is a core issue for the Salvation Army today, just as much as it was in our early days.” Clifton said.
St. Thomas Salvation Army Advisory Board Chairman, local attorney Tom Bolt, noted to those gathering at the local corps headquarters on Sunday, “The United States government has declared one of the greatest threats to human dignity is human trafficking: the commodification of human beings. Human trafficking is a term used to describe all forms of modern-day slavery. No longer is this a term from the past, but a horrific reality in our present and, unfortunately, our future. The forms of trafficking are many and varied, but commonly involve victims entrapped in commercial sexual exploitation such as prostitution, or labor exploitation in sweatshops, domestic servitude, construction and agriculture.” Bolt said.
“There are an estimated 27 million trafficking victims in the world today, and the deplorable trade in human beings is growing!” Major Federico Craig, the local corps officer said. “Human trafficking is a nexus of evil, as traffickers perform all manner of incomprehensible acts of cruelty, brutality, humiliation, dehumanization and exploitation. The size and pervasiveness of the crime presents a formidable problem, but if we come together, we can fight to end these untenable human right violations.” Craig told the audience.
Sexual trafficking is the movement of women and children, usually from one country to another but sometimes within a country, for purposes of prostitution or some other form of sexual slavery. It includes the recruitment, transportation, harboring, transfer, or sale of women and children for these purposes. Most sexual trafficking also includes some form of coercion – such as kidnapping, threats, intimidation, assault, rape, drugging or other forms of violence.
Maria Ferreras, Program Chair for the local Salvation Army, noted, “We think that human trafficking only goes on elsewhere, but regrettably it is fact of life in St. Thomas. One only need travel down lower Main Street, a block from our new Market Square, to see young women brought to our island for sexual exploitation. It is a violation of law and our government has a responsibility under international law to act with due diligence to prevent trafficking, to investigate and prosecute traffickers and to assist and protect trafficked persons. It is clear that we are failing in this responsibility.” Ferreras said.
The June 2003 U.S. Government “Trafficking in Persons Report” and the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) indicate that almost 2,000,000 people are annually trafficked across international borders worldwide and between 18,000 and 20,000 of those victims are trafficked into the United States alone. This estimate includes men, women, and children trafficked into forced labour and sexual exploitation.
“Prayer, education, fund-raising and protection for the vulnerable, including children, are four powerful tools we are using,” General Clifton said. “We can pray for the victims, for their families, for the relief agencies, for all working to reduce and to frustrate the evildoers, and for the forces of law and order. Let us pray also for political leaders to have the will and wisdom to enact laws that will tackle this menace.”