COVID-19 has created a global health crisis affecting millions of people in every community where SIM workers live and serve.
While SIM continues to help its medical ministries in need of resources through its COVID-19 Immediate Response Project, economists are now signalling a severe global recession, with unprecedented levels of unemployment, pushing more people into extreme poverty than ever before.
But of equal concern is a hidden global crisis triggered by these health and economic catastrophes: the crisis of human trafficking amongst the world’s most vulnerable people. Combatting trafficking is a significant spiritual battle and while this may seem overwhelming, the good news is that SIM is able to take steps to stop this crisis happening in our communities.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is the illegal process of trapping people by violence, deception or coercion and exploiting them for financial or personal gain. Research has shown that people who experience the following are at particular risk of human trafficking:
• Conflict, violence, natural disasters or public health emergencies.
• Loss of income and livelihoods.
• Family violence and people who lack caring, supportive relationships.
‘We are going to witness a tsunami of trafficking in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic’
“Serving in Mission already knows that human traffickers prey on vulnerability and will flock to where there are crises of any sort,” says Sarah Scott Webb, co-leader of SIM’s global anti-trafficking ministry, For Freedom.
“Human traffickers lure victims by promising a better life, with the chance of earning money or receiving an education, of helping their families. They trick, deceive, and sometimes force them into situations of exploitation, abuse and slavery, from which they cannot escape.”
For Freedom was formed two years ago, to coordinate SIM’s response and address the root causes of human trafficking by providing training, support and strategic guidance to SIM teams, workers, partner ministries and local churches involved in anti-trafficking work.
“Prior to COVID-19, an estimated 40 million vulnerable men, women and children had been trafficked into slavery worldwide,” adds Sarah. “This statistic will increase dramatically over the coming months as loss of livelihoods will leave desperate families extremely vulnerable to false offers of work as they look for ways to survive. We are going to witness a tsunami of trafficking in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Severe economic hardship caused by loss of income and livelihoods will lead to an increase of families resorting to selling their children into situations of child labour and child marriage as a source of income.
“It is predicted that COVID-19 will directly cause more than four million girls to be married within the next two years and millions more men, women and children will fall prey to trafficking promising work and decent jobs. Migrants living in camps will also be at particular risk.”
For Freedom is now appealing to SIM mission workers to be aware of the trafficking risks in the communities where they work.
“By building awareness of what trafficking is and how traffickers trick people, at-risk communities are being protected. Sharing Jesus love in this practical way opens doors to be able to share the good news of Jesus welcome,” explains Sarah.
“Over the next few months, we want SIM mission workers to be our eyes and ears about how we can help them protect vulnerable people in their communities and stop traffickers from maximising the situation.
“SIM is already working, engaged in many practical ministries, including health, sports, church planting and education to name a few, so we’re already in a prime position to put practical protective measures in place to keep communities safe from the risk of trafficking following COVID-19.”
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, support and guidance.
By Kerry Allan
- For Sarah and Karine Woldhuis as they lead For Freedom through this challenging season.
- For those left vulnerable and desperate in the aftermath of COVID-19.
- For the Lord to giver SIM entities and teams wisdom about how to keep vulnerable people safe in the communities they serve.