Thoughts After The Not For Sale Global Forum

Oct 26, 2011

I have a lot more sympathy for those mothers out there that travel for work. This is only one of about two trips I have made over this past year without my kids and it is not easy for me to leave. I know I am leaving them in good hands with my husband and so it is not necessarily the emotion of leaving that is difficult, but the logistics of it all. So much of the day-to-day part of being a mother is challenging to put into words, let alone put on a piece of paper as instructions for someone else to follow. There is excitement in the planning to leave so although there is a bit more work, it feels well worth it. On the other hand, returning from the trip, is another story and I am convinced that it doesn’t matter if it was two days or two weeks, there will be at least three days of adjustment and added workload to get oneself and ones family back in order. So as I sit at my desk thinking through my weekend at the Not For Sale forum on human trafficking, I am also thinking of the dishes that will need to be unloaded in a few minutes, the laundry that is sitting next to me, and the floors that I must clean before tonight as I hate stepping on food while walking around in my socks.

It has been four days since I attended The Global Forum on Human Trafficking which is Not For Sale’s annual conference. One question that the co-founder, David Batstone, posed the first day continues to stick with me  – How do we create a world where there is zero tolerance of human trafficking? What I appreciate about Not For Sale’s approach is that they often think outside the box and although they are non-profit, they have a number of different social enterprise models as a response to this question.

The first day of the conference we heard from a number of good speakers that highlighted the realities of where the new-abolitionist movement is today, such as Mike McCarthy- VP of the CNN Freedom Project,  John Ortberg – pastor Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, and Mira Sorvino – actress and activist. But now that some time has passed from the event, there are four speakers that were most memorable to me. The first is a pastor from South Korea, Eddie Byun, who highlighted the huge problem of human trafficking in South Korea where koreans are being trafficked to the United States by a very well-integrated and coordinated group of traffickers. He reminded us all that this is true evil fueled by greed and lust and the traffickers are deeply bound to their love of money. Because of this reality we see how this “issue” has a strong spiritual component. What he said reminded me of I Timothy 6:9-10 where the apostle Paul writes, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Pastor Byun said, “The laws of the physical point to the spiritual relm” and even where there is incredible darkness  a little light is greater. He pointed that faith communities have a vital voice in ending modern day slavery and encouraged the church to be involved in care and restoring hope. He encouraged faith communities to live a life of love rather than categorizing the differences that we encounter. 

The second speaker most memorable to me is Douglas Alexander who is currently the Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in Britian and is the Member of Parliament for the Paisley and Renfrewshire South constituency. To be honest, I have never heard of him before, but I was impressed. He came across what we all wish our politicians would be – honest, clear spoken, intelligent, willing to collaborate, and with a great deal of compassion. Now I didn’t have dinner with him nor have done any sort of research to back up my claim, it is just how he came across when I heard him speak. He addressed the question of how does one get the attention of political figures to act on behalf of victims of human trafficking. He reminded us to see politicians as a vehicle rather than the enemy, to be as specific as possible in what we are asking of political figures, and to take the time to use our voice to remind politicians what is right and wrong rather than what is right and left. Later he reminded us, “Strategies change minds. Stories change hearts” and  “Represent Locally – Think Globally”. He mentioned these it in terms of being a politician, but I see the connection for all people, including moms like me.  

The second day’s lineup of speakers was incredibly impressive – with Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, being a highlight. She was incredibly graceful with a very fun sense of humor and the ability to laugh at herself while talking seriously the plight we are on to re-abolishing slavery. As impressive as she was, there are two other speakers who had a bit more impact on me. The first is a women by the name of Betty Ann Boeving. I have had the fortune of meeting Betty Ann a year an half ago in Washington D.C. after she taught a break-out session at a World Vision conference. I was impressed with her then and continue to be as I have follow her efforts in the Bay Area. Her heart lies in connecting all parties in the anti-trafficking arena to work together and collaborate. Her efforts have led the founding of the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition which has connected many organizations, faith communities, law enforcement, government offices to begin to collaborate at the local level. She encouraged collaboration and shared best practices. She talked about ways to sustain engagement in the fight against slavery and shared that when speaking to new audiences she gives actions for those who can give, 10  minutes, 10 days, and 10 months. From plugging in the National Human Trafficking hotline number into one’s phones to reading a book about human trafficking – these small steps move people from awareness to greater engagement.

The final speaker I found most memorable from my weekend is Sean Litton – the VP of Field Operations for International Justice Mission – . He impressed the importance of being relentless in the pursuit of justice where modern day slavery is having a “field day on the poor and vulnerable.” He shared that IJM partners with local governments to enforce their own laws and does not leave until they are. It is so logical and yet so difficult in many of these countries that IJM works in. He stressed multiple times that “Impunity must end.” He shared a few of IJM strategies that work and encouraged others to use them – 1) start with law enforcement – reward good behavior and work with media to highlight local law enforcement’s efforts. 2) Recognize that the crimes are profit motivated and so need to attack the profit end of it 3) Do something and stick with it – hard work over time and be disciplined about it.

After reading countless books on the issue, following multiple organizations fighting modern day slavery, and now hearing literally dozens of speakers I continue to feel strongly that the voice of the hard-working, child-rearing, car-pool running, bill-paying everyday person is needed. If you are ready to use your voice start with reading a book on my recommended reading list, buying more fair-traded items such as coffee and chocolate, asking one person what they know about human trafficking. Don’t think about it anymore – begin to engage.