At the North Carolina Council of Churches, our work is often guided by Isaiah 1:17, which advises,“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” In my work I often focus on calling people to see the sacred worth in strangers and immigrants and farmworkers in their communities. Farmworkers are often at-risk for labor trafficking due to their immigration status, recruitment debt, isolation, poverty, and the lack of strong labor protections.
Human trafficking is much broader than just labor trafficking — it can range from one person coercing another to perform criminal activity to joining a large, organized crime ring. Labor trafficking includes forced work, like agricultural work and housekeeping, while sex trafficking specifically refers to forced sex work, such as forced prostitution and forced sexual relationships. Sex trafficking also refers to anyone younger than 18 who participates in sex work, because minors cannot legally consent.
North Carolina is currently ranked seventh on the FBI’s list of states most likely to be a locale where trafficking occurs and is also in the top five for most calls received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline. There are several reasons for this high ranking. First, one of the largest military bases in the country is located in North Carolina, along with several other bases around the state, which creates the perfect avenue for trafficking people in from other countries. Likewise, North Carolina’s agricultural industry’s need for cheap labor promotes the number of trafficking victims. Finally, the major highways running throughout our state create plenty of access to truck stops, “gentlemen’s” clubs, and hotels for traffickers to stop at while passing through.
Project NO REST is a collaborative effort focused on increasing awareness of sexual trafficking that occurs among children and youth involved in the state’s child welfare system, especially those in foster care. The project, which stands for “North Carolina Organizing and Responding to the Exploitation and Sexual Trafficking of Children,” aims to reduce the number of youth who are trafficked in the state—which ranks 8th in the nation in potential cases—and to improve the outcomes for those who are involved. Project NO REST is interested in finding out what churches in North Carolina are doing to combat human trafficking and seeks to gauge interest in these types of ministries. If your church is involved in a trafficking ministry or interested in helping to combat trafficking, please take this short survey. It should require no more than five minutes to complete. All results will be confidential. Thank you for your time, and you may direct any questions to Jennie Wilburn at firstname.lastname@example.org.