Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Brethren representatives attend conference on human trafficking.

In the wake of the unanimous support for the Annual Conference resolution on Slavery in the 21st Century, two Church of the Brethren staff members participated in an Ecumenical Conference on Human Trafficking in New York City on Sept. 29-Oct. 1. The conference was sponsored by the National Council of Churches and the United Methodist Women's Division. Attending on behalf of the Church of the Brethren were Anna Speicher and Phil Jones.

Much of the conference focused on the very serious and extensive problem of sex trafficking, which is a multibillion dollar industry worldwide and victimizes millions of women and children in this country and abroad. Other types of enslavement were also addressed, particularly those that are most commonly found in this country, such as slavery in agricultural, hotel, restaurant, and domestic work.

While there are laws on the books that prohibit slavery and impose penalties on traffickers, there are still many loopholes and successful rescues and prosecutions are few and far between. There is a great need for more education and outreach to law enforcement officials, to those who are currently held in bondage or are vulnerable to being enslaved, and to ordinary people who are unaware of the existence of this problem let alone its depth and breadth.

Participants in the conference included representatives from many faith communions, including Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Mennonite, as well as Church of the Brethren. Some previously knew very little about modern-day slavery; others have been addressing the issue for some time. Also attending were many representatives of faith-based organizations who are tackling some piece of the trafficking issue.

The Church of the Brethren is among the few faith communions that have issued broad-based denominational condemnations of modern-day slavery. The Church of the Brethren Study and Action Guide on Modern-Day Slavery was made available as a handout at the conference and was well received as a helpful resource (go to

The conference was valuable as a step in the process of combating this horrific problem. It was heartening to see so many people of faith either interested in or already committed to action. It was people of faith who were primarily responsible for abolishing the institution of legalized slavery in this country in the 19th century. In the 21st century there is again a pressing need to work together to "proclaim release to the captives." Judging from this conference there is heart for this critical ministry across many faith communions.

--Anna Speicher was the presenter for the Resolution on Slavery in the 21st Century to the 2008 Annual Conference. She has studied the issue of modern-day slavery along with her academic study of the history of the abolition movement. She also serves as editor of the Gather 'Round curriculum jointly produced by Brethren Press and the Mennonite Publishing Network.

Source: 10/22/2008 Newsline

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