Hills and valleys throughout East Tennessee awoke Monday morning in full dress rehearsal for Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The nation-wide event, which calls for people to respond by wearing white, takes place today, January 11, 2011, and white is indeed the word. Every county in the southern region of East Tennessee complied, showing up with a snowy wardrobe of three to ten inches of snow.
So, He might not have sent the snow just for this event, but I have to believe, somewhere inside me where stories grow and desire binds me to the place where God lives, that our Father dressed the ground for just such an occasion. As far as I can see, everything is still white.
In response to the overwhelming numbers of individuals trapped in modern-day slavery, January 11 was set apart as a day to remember the horror and injustice of human exploitation. Statistics show that more people suffer from trafficking exploitation today than the total number of African slaves oppressed from the 16th to the 19th century. Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to declare freedom from such abuse, but slavery has not ended.
The means of transportation have changed. The methods of coercion look nothing like the kidnapping raids of days gone by, but the humiliation, forced labor, sexual assault and oppression remain as evil as ever.
The trafficking trade booms not just in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, but also in small town America. As we wake up and dare to open our eyes to see, we find trafficking as close as our own living room. Coffee cups and pastries decorated the table recently as I sat and heard first hand how individuals are moved from small town USA to “slave blocks” via Craig’s List (even without the adult services section), other internet sites, the streets near our churches, and the hallways of our schools.
Our eyes must open and remain open. Our cry to God must be, “Whiter than snow. Yes, whiter than snow. Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” Freedom for those trapped by human exploitation and trafficking starts with our open eyes and prayers. It becomes a reality as we join together to take one single step and then another. Let’s move!