A Policy Statement of the North Carolina Council of Churches, October 27, 2009
A Theological & Moral Framework
The North Carolina Council of Churches (hereafter “Council”) unequivocally affirms the essential, inherent, and universal dignity of all persons, for “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them.”(1) This means that the value of any and every individual – all equally cherished by the Author of Life – must not under any circumstances be compromised, diminished, or infringed upon. At all times and in all way, the Council seeks to protect and promote the dignity and flourishing of the human person.
Consonant with this moral framework, the Council has unswervingly opposed those disordered relations between persons that instrumentalize the individual, reduce a person to a “mere means,” and/or threaten violence against a child of God.(2) To this end, the Council stalwartly and ardently contests the subjugation of human persons to coercive labor and/or relocation – especially as it is manifested in the practice known as “human trafficking.”
Global Phenomenon, Local Manifestations
The trafficking of persons entails the non-consensual relocation of persons by “force, fraud, or coercion”(3) wherein a person or persons are “abducted or recruited in the country of origin, transferred through transit regions and then exploited in the country of destination.”(4) Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world (behind only drug trafficking) – and is the fastest growing.(5)
The following schematic is used by the U.S. Department of State to define “human trafficking”(6):
The International Labour Office has estimated that the minimum amount of persons being trafficked at any given time to be 2.5 million.(7) The United States Department of State research completed in 2006 suggested that approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders annually – a number that does not include the millions of people trafficked within their own countries.(8)
According to the “Trafficking Protocol” of the UN General Assembly Resolution 55/25, the purpose of exploitation includes, but is not limited to: prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.(9) Most often, however, persons are forcibly relocated and indentured for the purposes of sexual exploitation. For reasons that should be abundantly clear, human trafficking has been aptly described as “modern day slavery.”
The U.S. Department of State has estimated that between 14,500 and 17,500 individuals – mostly woman and children – are trafficked into the U.S. annually.(10) Sadly, North Carolina is not immune to this global phenomenon. In 2007, reporter Kristen Collins from the Raleigh-based News & Observer published a series of articles that hauntingly described unconscionable exploitation of persons: “[One] woman was locked in a house for two years as a servant. Another woman was held in a hotel and made to prostitute herself.”(11) Reporter Franco Ordoñez of The Charlotte Observer found in 2006 that hundreds of persons were being “brought in and out of Charlotte every week to work at more than a dozen brothels connected to sex-trafficking rings on the East Coast….”(12)
Addressing the Issue
The 2000 UN “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children” is the only international legal instrument addressing human trafficking as a crime. The UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking summarizes its key points for implementation as follows:
- To establish, together with NGOs and civil society, comprehensive regional and national policies and programs to prevent and combat human trafficking and to protect the victims.
- To implement, together with NGOs and civil society, research, information and media campaigns and social and economic initiatives to prevent and combat trafficking in persons.
- To take measures to alleviate the vulnerability of people (women and children in particular) to human trafficking, such as measures to combat poverty, underdevelopment and lack of equal opportunity.
- To take measures to discourage demand, that fosters exploitation, that in turn leads to trafficking in persons.
- To provide training to relevant officials in the prevention and prosecution of trafficking in persons and in the protection of the rights of the victims.
The Council, seeking to address the scandal against human dignity that human trafficking poses, hereby determines:
Human trafficking epitomizes coercive violence against humanity, instrumentalization of individuals, and treatment of persons as a “mere means;”
Human trafficking, behind only drug trade, represents the second largest – and fastest growing – criminal industry in the world;
Human trafficking is a global phenomenon with local manifestations;
Human trafficking poses an insidious compromise, diminishment, and infringement of the inherent, essential, and universal dignity of the human person;
Be it resolved…
The Council will act decisively to discontinue and prevent the corrupt activity of human trafficking by supporting efforts of local, state, regional, national, and international organizations endeavoring to prevent and combat human trafficking and protect victims;
The Council will educate North Carolinians about this pernicious threat by implementing information and media campaigns to raise public awareness, inform public conscience, and encourage ministerial support to trafficking victims;
The Council will take measures to alleviate vulnerability and discourage demand in our local communities, especially by promoting equal opportunity and economic justice throughout the state of North Carolina;
The Council will actively seek and promote policy and legislation (at the local, state, regional, and – where necessary and feasible – national/international level) that advances the prevention and prosecution of trafficking in persons and in the protection of the rights of the victims.
The Council hereby calls on all member bodies to join us in these efforts.
In this we, the North Carolina Council of Churches, pray our “love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that [we] may be able to discern what is best… filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”(13)