To the Marin County faith leaders gathered together for a program on human trafficking, the message was clear: human trafficking is happening here; it’s happening now; and people of faith must do something about it.
Nearly 40 Christian, Mormon, Pagan, Jewish and Buddhist leaders gathered for the event on October 21 at the First Presbyterian Church in San Rafael, California. The event was organized by the Marin Interfaith Council, a United Religions Initiative cooperation circle.
“There is no greater mitzvah [commandment] than the redeeming of captives,” said Rabbi Stacy Friedman of Congregation Rodef Sholom as she lead the group in a textual study of the Torah. She emphasized that the Medieval Jewish Philosopher Maimonides said everything – even a Torah scroll – should be sold to redeem captives.
She said that, in our community, these captives are those being trafficked for sex or labor.
Diana Doubleday, a leader of the Marin Organizing Committee and a member of Congregation Rodef Sholom, encouraged participants to put aside the notion that trafficking victims come from other countries: in 2012 the California Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Work Group determined that 83% of sex trafficking victims they identified were U.S. citizens.
“Sex trafficking is starting to surpass drug trafficking because [traffickers] can sell a girl over and over again,” said Lynn Bauer of Fairfax Community Church.
Doubleday said people who become victims of trafficking all have one thing in common: they are vulnerable.
“Be aware of people in vulnerable emotional situations,” said Reverend Alison Hendley of the First United Methodist Church in San Rafael.
The most common places to find victims are in the sex, restaurant, construction, hospitality, agriculture, landscaping, fishing, manufacturing and home care industries, said Bauer. Doubleday said people should follow their gut and report anything that doesn’t seem “right” by calling the Human Trafficking Hotline at: 1-888-373-7888.
“Preach on this issue!” she encouraged. “And we can exponentially increase awareness.”
Awareness, or community education, is one of three approaches she recommends to tackled human trafficking. The other two are legal prosecution and victim services.
There are no shelters in Marin County for victims of trafficking.
Follow this link for a factsheet, list of resources (or these Look Beneath the Surface resources) on human trafficking. If you want to share best practices about how your interfaith group can address the issue of human trafficking, contact the Marin Interfaith Council by following this link. You can also comment below!