PASTOR COLUMN - Think there's no slavery in America? Think again

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Several research groups have come up with a shocking statistic. More people in our world today are held in some form of slavery than at any time in history. Almost 80 percent are female, and at least 50 percent are young children.

We know the situation is bad in countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh - but surely not here in the United States of America, the "land of the free?" Tragically, we need to recognize that approximately 200,000 people in our country are victims of some sort of slavery. Commercial sex claims 46 percent; domestic servants 27 percent; and sweatshops, agriculture labor, restaurants and hotels claim the rest. It is estimated that almost 20,000 persons are brought into the U.S. annually to be forced into some kind of abusive servitude, even though, according to the United Nations, all the laws of the world oppose slavery.

The sinful love of money is one reason for the ongoing slave trade. Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating up to 32 billion dollars a year, of which $12 billion from the sex trade involving children under 14 years of age. It has also been shown that 25 percent of customers in this sex trade with children are Americans.

We know that Jesus loved children. He was not tolerant of those who abuse, or "put a stumbling block," before them (Matthew 18:6). In one of our Lord's first messages, he stated his purpose in coming to us was, "to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, and to let the oppressed go free" (Luke 4:18,19). In both the Old and New Testaments, we read of God's love of justice and the call to God's people, "to do justice, love mercy (kindness), and walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). The Church is called to bring this message of freedom and justice into our world.

How can we do this?

We can pray, read and learn about this situation, and then take whatever action God will open up for us. This was Jesus' mission. As the church, being "the body of Christ", it must also be our mission.

The Rev. Randy Klassen is a pastor who is retired from the Evangelical Covenant Church. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at catherinehicks@wwub.com.

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