Today Slavery and Human Trafficking: Still a Reality for Millions

Slavery did not end with the Civil War,” says Patrick Atkinson, Founder of The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons ( ).  “In fact, it is a much bigger problem today than it ever was,” says Atkinson.  “Modern-day slavery now involves tens of millions of people, worldwide.”

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. “With this Presidential proclamation, the public, and particularly Americans, are reminded”, says Atkinson, “that the buying and selling of people as if they were nothing more than human flesh is still the reality for millions of innocent people, particularly young women and children, around the world.”

When most people hear the term “human trafficking”, they think of the immigrants illegally sneaking past Customs and Border Protection officials along one of our nation’s borders.   However, what these people are thinking about is actually “human smuggling” — a term used when there has been a contractual agreement by one person to transport another person, usually across international boundaries. When they arrive on the other side they are allowed to go free.

According to Atkinson, “human trafficking occurs when an individual is forced or tricked into doing something that they do not want to do, usually to work in sexual prostitution, pornography, or labor.  Force or the threat of force is most often used, but drugs, deceit, or the use of a specially-challenged child or adult are also very common. It all comes down to whether or not a person has been forced or tricked into doing something that they do not want to do.”

Human trafficking is the modern term for slavery. It is the modern equivalent of a tragedy that has existed throughout human history.  The United States Department of Justice estimates that 100,000 American youth under the age of 16 are trafficked within the United States each year. 22,000 people are illegally brought into the United States against their will each year, primarily to work in the nation’s sex industries.  17,000 American citizens are forced to work against their will around the world, again, primarily in the black market sex industries.

Dating back as far as recorded history, the slave trade industry is known to have existed in China as far back as the 18th century B.C. during the Shang dynasty. In the 2nd century B.C., the island of Delos, in the Mediterranean, was reported to have turned over thousands of Roman slaves daily. In India, the regulation of the slave trade was recorded in Sanskrit Laws written in the 1st century A.D.  Slaves were a major objective of Viking raids between 800-1050AD.  Thirty-five thousand European Christians were enslaved by the Barbary pirates of northern Africa between the late 1500s and early 1600s. Throughout the centuries, slavery has been a universal plight for all of human history.

Today, the International Labor Organization estimates there are 12.3 million people being held against their will, as slaves, at any given time. Of these, 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. 80% of these victims are women; 50% are children.

As international executive director of the international humanitarian agency, The GOD’S CHILD Project (, Atkinson witnessed the mass kidnapping of several dozen villagers in Malawi, Africa, in 2001.  Helpless to do anything as he watched villagers being forced from their homes and herded at gunpoint into the back of covered trucks, afterward Atkinson founded The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons (ITEMP), as a borderless sub-program of The GOD’S CHILD Project.  Since then, he and dozens of ITEMP and GOD’S CHILD Project staff and volunteers have assisted thousands of children and young adults in Southeast Asia, India, Africa, Central America and the United States.

“The classic situatation,” says ITEMP’s Operations Director Charles Moore, “is when people flee from impoverished farms or villages towards larger cities, searching for a better life.”  Once there, the children, teens and young women are frequently raped or drugged, and forced to sleep with well-paying foreign men who have traveled as “sex tourists” in search of illicit sex. Children, particularly, are occasionally maimed or blinded and forced to beg on street corners, as popularly depicted in the Bollywood hit movie, Slumdog Millionaire. In some countries, young boys and teens are drugged, lightly trained, and forced to take up arms as child soldiers. In yet other countries, children are forced to dig through burning mountains of rotting garbage to scavenge for recyclable cans, bottles, and cardboard.

In southeastern Africa and India, there is a vibrant trade in human organs, used in traditional religious ceremonies.

Human trafficking does not occur only in distant lands, but also occurs in cities and towns across the United States. An estimated 100,000 under-aged American children are worked as prostitutes within the United States each year. “These are our children. This is our future generation, our offspring, our souls, sold for sex to anyone who will pay,” says Moore.

“Since this can all be overwhelming,” says Atkinson, “the easiest response is to simply not believe that the problem exists.”  To educate the country, and particularly the young and vulnerable, Atkinson, Moore, and other ITEMP and GOD’S CHILD Project volunteers make hundreds of presentations each year to several thousand listeners.  At the end of each presentation, Atkinson asks his audiences to learn more about human trafficking and to help the victims with the audiences’ love, support and prayers.

“The victims need to be seen as real people,” Atkinson implores. “We need to see them as someone’s son, daughter, wife or mother.  We need to love them, so that we lose our fear to help them,”

“Secondly,” Atkinson continues, “These victims also need your support.”  Organizations like The GOD’S CHILD Project and the Institute for Trafficked, Exploited & Missing Persons are voluntary-driven, low-budget organizations that risk all to help free these enslaved victims. Support these programs as best you can so that they can continue to save these children and young adults.

“Finally,” Atkinson admonishes, “remember to pray for the victims, as well as for the traffickers.”  Many of the victims will simply never escape from their lives of horror, but they may find strength in knowing that there still are people who care about them.  “As for the traffickers,” Atkinson says, “pray from them as well.  May God have mercy on their souls.”


Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 11:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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