For most of us, the word slavery conjures up images of biblical Egypt, ancient Greece or the early American South. Large-scale slavery ended in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation, right?
Wrong. The fact is, more people are in slavery today than at any time in history.
The pandemic has spread to all corners of the globe. It’s a bigger, darker and uglier problem than most realize. And here is the painful truth: Modern slavery is so widespread that if you personally aren’t contributing to it, then one or more of your neighbors down the street probably is.
The Global Slavery Index estimates that 30 million people around the world are now slaves. That’s more than the population of Australia. It’s more than twice the total number of Africans who were shipped to North and South America throughout the entire 360-year history of the New World slave trade.
In 1850, the average cost of a slave in the U.S. was the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s currency.
A slave today costs an average of $90.
Numerous historical accounts depict how savagely many of those slaves in early America were treated. How are people being treated right now who were bought at not even 1 percent of the price?
You don’t have to wonder. Do an Internet search, and you’ll find detailed descriptions.
Eighty percent of victims are female. Fifty percent are children. The average starting age of slave children is 12, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. But many are much, much younger. And while most are forced into hard labor in sweatshops or fields, an estimated 1.75 million worldwide are sexual objects that are purchased, sold, used and discarded—all for the traffickers’ profit.
Land of the Free?
The majority of today’s slaves reside in Asia and Africa, but the practice is far from limited to Third World nations. In July of 2013, U.S. law enforcement officials rescued 105 child victims of sex trafficking and exploitation in cities across the country. It was the largest child sex-trafficking crackdown in America’s history, but wasn’t even a drop in the massive cesspool of the nation’s sex-slave problem. The Justice Department estimates there are between 100,000 and 150,000 sex slaves in the country. Many are foreigners. The rest are citizens—trafficked and enslaved within their own borders.
The first category includes an estimated 50,000 people, almost all women and children, who are brought into America every year. Traffickers find these people in poor countries and promise them legitimate jobs in the States doing things like domestic work or waitressing. Some victims are simply abducted. Many poverty-stricken parents sell their children to men who promise them better lives.
When Third World nations are struck by natural disasters or war, sex traffickers rub their hands together and see dollar signs. At those times, they can find families ripped apart. They can find women and children alone and trembling, separated from husbands and fathers. Amid the smoke and rubble, traffickers have an easier time finding people desperate enough to believe their satanic lies.
Then there are America’s homegrown slaves. Many in this category began as adult women fleeing abusive circumstances at home or working as prostitutes. The rest come mostly from the 2.8 million American children who run away from home each year. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one third of these are picked up by traffickers and pimps who promise shelter, food and respect. “Recruiters” include young men or women who seek out vulnerable-looking girls at theaters, parties, shelters or shopping centers. By pretending to become a girl’s friend or boyfriend, recruiters can quickly win the victim’s trust and then turn her over to pimps or traffickers.
Both the American citizens and the overseas victims are targeted because of vulnerability and weakness. Some have made personal decisions that have contributed to their enslavement. Others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. In either case, they are people in dire need of help. Traffickers search them out, then use their vulnerability against them.
To transform the captured victims into willing slaves, traffickers use a variety of methods. Sometimes they keep them pumped full of narcotics or tranquilizers. Other times, they use physical force over a long enough period of time to destroy the victim’s will to resist. With imported slaves, traffickers often threaten their victims, saying that if they attempt escape, their families back home will be punished or killed.
How can it be that millions of people are enslaved all around us? How is it that their oppression is worse than most slaves of any bygone era? Is it because of the handful of demented traffickers? No. Traffickers and pimps would have no incentive to enslave victims if there were no demand.
Are You to Blame?
It wasn’t long ago that people had to exert some effort in order to view pornography. Now a person has to exert effort to not view it. Pornography websites receive more visitors each week than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. In fact, over 30 percent of all data transferred across the Web is porn.
Many of the countless terabytes of porn are made by licensed companies and feature professional, consenting adults. But a staggering amount is “amateur pornography.” Some adults and all children depicted in this amateur genre are in some level of enslavement or exploitation. And since more and more pornography is user-generated and user-uploaded, it is increasingly difficult (often impossible) to determine the origins and legality of the material. The sobering truth is that anyone who uses pornography could be contributing to the demand for sex slaves.
As users grow numb to “normal” pornography, they begin to seek out darker, more deviant material. Often that darker material involves children of all ages. From 2002 to 2012, pornography in the U.S. experienced an unprecedented boom. An fbi report said that during that time frame, the nation saw a 2,500 percent increase in arrests for child pornography. Forty percent of those arrested had also raped a child. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which works to identify and locate children depicted in pornographic videos and photos, assessed 17.3 million images in 2011. That was four times more than the 2007 figure, and the number is climbing every year.
Another cause for the explosion of sex trafficking/slavery is the multiplying number of legal commercial sex businesses. Areas full of strip clubs, pornography stores, escort services and brothels become meccas for sociopaths who use children or other enslaved people for sex. It is impossible to bring an end to sex trafficking without eliminating legal sex-oriented businesses that are multiplying in the cities of the world. Yet access to these businesses is championed in the West as a right that free people are entitled to. The thinking is, people should be free to live how they want, free to watch whatever videos they want and free to buy whatever products and services they want. Such thinking makes them free to perpetuate a system that literally enslaves people.
Freedom is among the most chased-after ideals in mankind’s history. The quest for it has driven people into intense protests, revolutions, civil uprisings and even world wars. In America today, many continue to battle for what they perceive as ever greater freedoms, such as the right to saturate the country with pornography and sex shops. But so much of what people call freedom is actually slavery.
“My addiction to pornography and my sexual problem has really taken a toll on my mind.” That was the explanation given by a Cleveland man arrested in May 2013 for kidnapping three girls and enslaving them for a decade. Shortly after his conviction for 937 counts of kidnapping, rape, murder and other crimes, he hanged himself in his jail cell. This man’s “freedom” to consume pornographic material warped his mind and made a slave of him and his three victims.
That example points to the fact that there are far more slaves in the sex-trafficking industry than even the most concerned activists calculate. Besides the hundreds of thousands of literal enslaved victims, there are also the traffickers and pimps, who are slaves to crippling greed. And there are even more users—users of slaves and users of pornography featuring enslaved people—who are slaves to lust.
Paradoxically, the people who most loudly decry the slavery of blacks in America’s past are generally the most outspoken defenders of the pornography/sex-oriented industries that help propagate modern slavery.
This paradox—and the whole of the booming slave trade—teaches a profound lesson, if we are willing to acknowledge it: the truth that mankind is simply incapable of solving its own problems. As Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
The Bible explains that people are generally unable to recognize their own evil motivations—in fact, they often even view them as virtue (e.g. Jeremiah 17:9). Throughout this world, people pressing for ever greater personal license are brazenly rejecting God and His law. A lot of this rejection has been labeled as battling for increased freedoms, but the label is a deception. The results have been horrendous.
Of the modern nations of Israel, chiefly America and Britain, the Prophet Isaiah said this: “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. … The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds” (Isaiah 1:4-6; Revised Standard Version).
This world’s estrangement from God has left it spiritually and morally diseased. Atrocities like modern slavery are symptoms of the disease.
‘I Will Rise Up to Rescue Them’
How concerned are you about the crimes and injustices being suffered by some 30 million slaves—one out of every 230 people on our planet today? Wouldn’t you agree that this nightmare demands resolution—that those people need deliverance?
What is the solution to the ineffably evil modern sex-slave trade? If you are honest, it must start with you. On an individual level, we can and must avoid the industries that fuel the sex slave trade. If you are disturbed by what these industries are doing to your fellow man, be sure that your personal behavior is doing nothing to contribute to them!
On the national and international levels, however, this evil won’t be cured by anything short of a global revolution.
Mercifully, exactly such a revolution is just on the horizon!
During Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, He witnessed some extremes of human suffering. He relieved that suffering among those He healed and preached to personally, but He also made clear that He wasn’t on Earth at that time to use His power to overthrow the existing world order (e.g. Matthew 26:51-54; John 18:36).
However, He did promise to return in power and glory, and that at that time He would obliterate injustice!
Psalm 12:5 records God saying, “I have seen violence done to the helpless and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do” (New Living Translation).
No more will a 20-year-old hitchhiking woman be picked up and enslaved for seven years, chained up inside a ventilated coffin beneath her captor’s bed anytime he isn’t using her for sex.
No more will a handicapped boy have to spend ages 5 through 12 stored like luggage in a van, taken from house to house to be raped by anyone willing to cover the driver’s fuel and food costs.
No more will a slave child’s tongue be taken out with a soldering iron because she complained about her captor’s sexual demands.
No more will a 16-year-old immigrant, lured by the promise of a housecleaning job, be handcuffed to a bed, pumped full of heroine and raped by scores of sociopaths for months on end until she dies.
No more will a 10-year-old Colombian girl be ensnared by a drug gang who auctions off her virginity to the highest-bidding foreign tourist.
One master enslaver lurks behind all of this world’s lechery, exploitation and enslavement. Satan the devil has taken the people of the world captive (2 Timothy 2:26; Revelation 12:9). He is immensely powerful and has tormented mankind with all kinds of darkness and suffering. And people have been duped to actually choose to follow him!
Ultimately, however, the devil is no match for God’s infinite might (Matthew 4). Jesus Christ promises a time when no person is ever again subjected to satanic enslavement and abuse. He will “save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor” (Psalm 72:4).
How many “children of the needy” exist today? How many oppressors need to be corrected right now? Many millions in each category. And the mighty God is not passive about the oppression of the weak. Such brutality fills Him with visceral wrath, and He promises that He will not allow it to go on. He can and He will bring true freedom to all men, women and children!
Based on Bible prophecies, educator Herbert W. Armstrong painted an inspiring picture of the godly kingdom that Jesus Christ will soon usher in: “All crime and organized rebellion will be put down by force—divine supernatural force. … See, now, a glimpse into a world of no illiteracy, no poverty, no famine and starvation, into a world where crime decreases rapidly, people learn honesty, chastity, human kindness, and happiness—a world of peace, prosperity, abundant well-being.” He wrote these hope-filled words in his inspiring booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like, which we offer to you at no charge.
Men, women and children all over the Earth need this new world as never before! Reports like the one about those 105 American children make the need inescapably clear. The good news is that nothing can stop the global revolution that will free them!