Thursday, March 30, 2006
Lauren Bethell Speaks in Alabama About Human Traffiking
Samford students hear of fight against sex slavery
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Every country in the world is involved in human trafficking, said Lauran Bethell, international ministries consultant with the American Baptist Churches.
Bethell, speaking with The Alabama Baptist prior to a March 16 lecture at Samford University in Birmingham, said, "All countries are either the origin, the destination or the transit country some, like Thailand, are all three."
The United States is a destination country, she said, the number of people trafficked in the United States is as high as 20,000. The number moves to an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 internationally, according to the State Department, which describes human trafficking as modern-day slavery, in which victims are trapped in forced labor and sexual exploitation.
Bethell, who has worked for decades with exploited and abused women and children, said human trafficking is now the second most profitable illegal trade in the world.
She received Baptist World Alliance's 2005 Human Rights Award and is based at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, Czech Republic. In 1987, she co-founded the New Life Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to offer young women vocational training as an alternative to prostitution and to provide rehabilitation for those coming out of prostitution and abusive situations.
It was in founding the center that Bethell got involved in fighting human trafficking.
"When we opened the center, the girls started talking about being tricked and beaten and taken to brothels to work," she said. "The world started waking up to the story in the mid-1990s."
Southern Baptists have been working to stop human trafficking since the late 1990s. Most recently, Southern Baptists promoted the End Demand Act that focuses on ending the demand for prostitution and was signed into law by President Bush in January.
Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) is addressing the issue of trafficking and sex slavery on the side of the victims, said Jean Cullen, WMU missions involvement specialist and coordinator of International Initiatives.
WMU reaches out through churches, holding seminars on trafficking and starting Acteens groups. And through its WorldCrafts program,WMU buys handmade items from artisans worldwide to sell in America. This provides a livelihood for the artisans, some of whom are trying to escape prostitution or trafficking.
Bethell, who spoke at Samford as the 2006 Marie NeSmith Fowler Lecturer in Christianity, Women and Leadership Studies, advised those ministering to victims to research "who is doing what, and why and how they are doing it." Then identify the victim's immediate need.