In the opening chapter of Genesis we are told that God “created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them” (1:27, NRSV). This means that all people, in all places, at all times are people in whom God’s image resides, people that reflect God in the world.
As God’s people we have a responsibility to care for all of the created order. This includes the work of “resist[ing] evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” (United Methodist Hymnal, 34) One of the growing forms that evil, injustice, and oppression presents itself is human trafficking.
According to Linda Bales, program director with the Board of Church an society:
After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today. The International Labor Organization estimated that in 2005 more than 12 million people around the world have been forced to work against their will under threat of punishment.
The United Nations defines human trafficking as recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Everyday Latino/a people are victims in human trafficking. Their desperate need to find a new life, their lack of resources, their hopelessness, make them prime targets for exploitation. This takes a variety of forms from abduction and slavery to coercion into indentured servitude Latino/a people get caught in this web that seems to have no end.
The Christian church cannot sit back and ignore this plight. Latinos in the United States cannot ignore the plight of our brothers and sisters who find themselves in these circumstances. We must speak out against this rising practice and also to begin to ask ourselves how our laws and immigration policies facilitate this evil in our midst.
Are we working paying living wages to those who do work for us? In our homes? In our churches? Do we demand that business owners in our congregations and in our communities do the same? Do we in our desperation to get our family members into the United States set them up to become victims of this heinous crime? Are we preaching/teaching/living a full gospel that includes liberation for all people in all places?
There is no question that as Latinos of faith in this country we need to speak out. This “speaking” begins by self-evaluation of our motives, dreams, and ethic. Only when we begin to recognize our own doings in the oppresion of our own people can we begin to find redemption for ourselves and for the victims of de-humanization in our communities.
We as Latinos of faith need to understand that as Christian we “believe in the paschal mystery: the cross and resurrection of Jesus as the culmination of life lived for the poor and for the victims” (Jon Sobrino in Where is God?: Earthquake, Terrorism, Barbarity, and Hope. Orbis, 150) Let us align ourselves with those who need it most. Let us proclaim loudly that all people are made in God’s image. Let us continue to resist evil in everyway. Let us become active participants in the promise of resurrection by being agents of transformation in every structure of society.
If we as God’s people do not liberate those in bondage, who will?