I watch a lot of crime documentary television shows. A Forensic Files marathon with a salty snack, and I’m content for a couple of hours. I marvel at the stories, particularly when witnesses come forward who claim to remember details about a victim or potential suspect – what they were wearing and their hair – weeks or months after the encounter. Though I’ve not been in a situation where I have been called upon to answer such questions, I do, from time to time, wonder if I could. Do I pay close enough attention to the people around me to answer questions about them if I were asked later? I’m in, and I’m out. Very busy, you see?
I don’t see.
And maybe that’s a behavior that I need to change.
I went to seminary in Atlanta, and as I would fly in and out to return home on breaks, I would see the signs all over the airport about the dangers and signs of human trafficking. Atlanta’s airport is one of the largest centers of human trafficking in the world. The travel industry, hotels, and airplanes have been co-opted in the devastation of millions who are the victims of traffickers.
With a quick web search of “Detroit human trafficking,” I saw pages of results about police task forces and medical professionals working to end human trafficking. I opened a story about 12 hotels being sued in the metro area. A lawyer, representing a survivor, recounts some of the events that are the basis of the lawsuit. The survivor claims that as she was brought in and out of hotels, sometimes visibly bruised, no one made eye contact with her. Read: they didn’t see her.
As of January 2020, there were 36 similar cases across 21 jurisdictions.
In 2009, the 76th General Convention passed a resolution calling for the protection of all victims of human trafficking and to support legislation and action for the victims’ “recovery and reintegration” into society. The 79th General Convention passed a resolution that advances the focus of our collective energy to include the travel and hospitality industries.
Resolution C032: Against Human Trafficking
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That consistent with Resolution 2009-A167 of the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, which “calls for the protection of all victims of human trafficking,” the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church supports the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism (“The Code”) adopted by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking); and be it further
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church encourage programs and ministries of The Episcopal Church to give preference to tourism companies and businesses, including but not limited to hotels, airlines, and travel agents, that have signed The Code when making arrangements for meetings and travel to meetings; and be it further
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church encourage programs and ministries of The Episcopal Church to make available opportunities for advocacy and education with tourism companies and businesses, including but not limited to hotels, airlines, and travel agents, that have not signed The Code when they are used for arrangement for meetings and travel to meetings; and be it further
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church urge all dioceses, parishes within the dioceses, and members of The Episcopal Church to give preference to tourism companies and businesses, including but not limited to hotels, airlines, and travel agents, that have signed The Code when traveling and to engage in advocacy with tourism companies and businesses that have not; and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church website make available current information on the status of companies that have signed The Code, which can be found at http://www.thecode.org/who-have-signed/members/.; and be it further
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 79th General Convention recommends that information describing human trafficking, and training for identification of possible cases of human trafficking be added to the Safe Church Policies of The Episcopal Church.
In part, the resolution urges The Episcopal Church and its members, dioceses, and congregations to make travel and tourism arrangements with companies and businesses that have signed on to “The Code,” as a way to support anti-trafficking initiatives.
I further add that the 76th General Convention urged congregations and diocese to observe Human Trafficking Awareness Day in their liturgical life. The United States established January 11 as our National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The United Nations has established a similar day called World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. That date is July 30. This week. Let’s remember.
Let us pray –
Just and Righteous God, your children, cry out to you to protect the vulnerable. Come to the aid and rescue the victims of human trafficking. Empower us with boldness and courage, by your Holy Spirit, to see them and help them in whatever way we can. Judge the perpetrators of violence against your human creatures. Help us be humane and firm in the legal apprehension and prosecution of your children who have forgotten or perhaps never known your love. For the sake of your Son Jesus, who offered himself so that we all may be free from any form of oppression, hear our prayers. Amen.
~ The Rev. Anthony Estes for the Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council