I had a violent confrontation with reality Monday while sitting in a classroom. Ready for another a normal 80-minute class, I instead was shaken by my professor’s casual mention that Europol suspects many migrants vanishing from European refugee shelters are becoming victims of human trafficking and child slavery.
I’ve heard the word before regarding a practice which once propelled our nation into the Civil War. I’ve heard about human trafficking, and like any decent person, I’ve condemned it while emphatically waving a fork over my salad at the dinner table.
But what did I do about it?
Major media outlets across the globe confirm thousands of migrant children have vanished into European streets and countrysides after crossing the Mediterranean Sea. While gobbling up this information beside photos of crowded boats and the tiny faces of children who might or might not be safe somewhere on the Italian peninsula or who knows where, I stumbled upon sites for the END IT movement and the Allies Against Slavery. These organizations are working to end slavery worldwide, including in the United States.
Then it hit me. Friends, we are sitting in our rooms and apartments staring at screens while people here and around the world are being bought and sold. And what are we doing about it?
A sentiment I often hear, and sometimes agree with, is that all the photos and stories of tragedy and loss reported by media outlets around the world are overwhelming. People say they have their own problems and can’t take on anything else.
Even so, I firmly believe something has gone very wrong when I hear children are denied a childhood. It should shock me to the core. Sitting in class Monday afternoon, it washed over me in waves. Scrawled across my class notes for the day are the words, “Wait — slavery is still real. What is happening?”
This year the Theater department’s theme asked, “What would you kill for? Die for?” That got me thinking, and now I have a question for Index readers, “What will you fight for?”
If and when we begin to grasp what’s going on in the world, it will overwhelm us. It will hurt us. It will make it hard to sleep at night. Will you let that stop you?
I don’t know about you, but it won’t stop me.
So where to start? Become informed. Fire up the nearest internet device and read through articles and videos from END IT and Allies Against Slavery. Put the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline number in your phone. It’s true that individually we do not have the power to end slavery, but in the words of Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission president, “Nothing happens just because we are aware, but nothing will ever happen until we are aware.”
Bethany Boyle is a senior communication major from St. Louis, Mo.