Theological Reflections on Human Trafficking

Created in God's Image — What It Means to be Human

Christians believe that human beings have a unique place in God’s creation. Created in God’s image Genesis 1:26-27, humanity reflects the glory of God, and is given dignity and worth. We are also gifted with individuality, autonomy, reason and creativity, and with the capacity for knowledge and moral awareness Romans 2:14-15. 

Reflecting the nature of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we seek for relationships both with God and with each other. We are created with an innate longing for deep spiritual communion with our Creator Psalm 42:1.

God’s creative purpose for humanity also brings responsibility. Humanity is entrusted with the care of all of God’s creation Genesis 1:28-30. We are also called to value all people, since every individual is created, known and precious to God Psalm 139:13-17.

How Our World and Our Relationships Have Become Distorted

Often our attitudes, choices and behaviours fall far short of God’s creation plan for humanity Romans 3:23. In conflict, hostility and division, and in the mistreatment of people it is evident that relationships with God and with each other have become fractured and distorted. The use of power to abuse and exploit is further evidence of a broken world.

Why Human Trafficking is Slavery

Human trafficking dehumanises the victims, denies them their God-given value and worth, and robs them of their dignity and autonomy. Motivated by profit and greed, traffickers make commodities of human beings.Human trafficking dehumanises the victims, denies them their God-given value and worth, and robs them of their dignity and autonomy. Motivated by profit and greed, traffickers make commodities of human beings.

They prey on people in vulnerable situations such as poverty, desperation or debt bondage. Trafficked people are oppressed and trapped. They have lost their freedom through coercion, fear, false promises or deception. Their body, mind and spirit are affected.

God's Concern for Justice for the Vulnerable and the Oppressed in the Old Testament

Human trafficking is not new. The Bible tells the story of Joseph who was sold by his own brothers Genesis 37:28. Joel records how the defeated nation of Israel was scattered and its people traded Joel 3:3. Amos describes poor people being sold, trampled on, denied justice and oppressed by their own people Amos 2:6-7.Human trafficking is not new. The Bible tells the story of Joseph who was sold by his own brothers Genesis 37:28. Joel records how the defeated nation of Israel was scattered and its people traded Joel 3:3. Amos describes poor people being sold, trampled on, denied justice and oppressed by their own people Amos 2:6-7.

Yet God’s concern for justice is also made abundantly clear in the Bible. Set free from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites were called to live differently from the surrounding nations as God’s covenant people. They were never to forget what it was like to be enslaved Leviticus 19:33-34. The Levitical code set out God’s instructions to ensure protection and provision for disadvantaged, poor and vulnerable people such as aliens, widows or people with disabilities Leviticus 19:9-18.

The Psalmist testifies that God upholds the cause of the oppressed, the hungry, prisoners, those bowed down, aliens, the fatherless and widows Psalm 146:7-9. The prophets insist that God loves justice Isaiah 61:8, and call for it to “roll on like a river” Amos 5:24. The obligation is clear to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8.

The Good News of the Gospel

God went far beyond the call for justice and mercy. In Jesus the Word became flesh John 1:14. In self-emptying love and humility, God entered our world, making possible life “to the full” for all people John 10:10. The stated mission of Jesus, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-2, makes clear God’s redemptive purposes – particularly for the poor, those deprived of freedom, the suffering and the oppressed Luke 4:18-19.

Restoration, renewal and reconciliation are offered to everyone through Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection Ephesians 2:14-18. This powerfully demonstrates God’s love for us and the value placed on humanity. In Jesus, God was prepared to make this self-offering in order to re-create, renew and restore all of creation 2 Corinthians 5:17.

God's Kingdom on Earth

When we respond to God’s love we begin to live with different values – God’s values. We live the prayer “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10. We learn that to love God is to love our neighbour as well Mark 12:30-31. As people who have been reconciled to God we join in God’s reconciling work in creation 2 Corinthians 5:19. Like Jesus, we learn to care for the least and the lowest Matthew 25:40. In such ways, we strive to make God’s kingdom on earth a reality. This is a struggle – a spiritual battle Ephesians 6:12.

Practical Response to Human Trafficking

Our response to human trafficking is based on what we believe about God and God’s plan for humanity. We also have an obligation to listen and to learn from survivors of human trafficking. Their voices are central to shaping and transforming both our theological and our practical responses to trafficking. Their plight cannot be ignored. Their needs are urgent.

The underlying causes of trafficking should be acknowledged, such as the demand for cheap labour, cheap services or cheap products. If we have been complicit or unheeding in these areas we need to be challenged to change and to work for a world where there is equity and enough for everyone.

Both individually and as the Body of Christ, we are called to respond in prayerful and practical ways. Our first priority is to pray for people who have been trafficked. Also, where possible, Christians can be actively involved in initiatives that seek out the suffering and provide places of refuge and sanctuary. Freedom and dignity must be restored to those who have been oppressed.

The church seeks to stand alongside people who have been trafficked by protecting them and preventing this crime through speaking out to the powerful systems that enable this crime to thrive, systems that we are all a part of in some way. 

In conjunction with other concerned groups, the church has a duty to press for societal and structural changes, alongside legal changes where these may benefit those who are trafficked. It should also support moves to hold human traffickers to account while believing for and working towards the transformation of the lives of both those who are trafficked and their traffickers.

Source: Stop The Traffik