(Photo: AP / Johnny Green / PA)
The "Weekend of Prayer To End Slavery and Trafficking," which kicks off Friday and goes to Sunday, hopes to mobilize prayers and awareness in America to end modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
Tim Gratz, director of Keys Coalition and a vice chair of the Weekend of Prayer, told The Christian Post that this annual multiday event had in its roots in previous smaller scale efforts. "Tomas Lares of Orlando, Fla., had a national prayer event last year but on a much smaller level last year," said Gratz. "Two local anti-trafficking groups, one from Maryland and one from Key West, associated with him and soon added several other anti-trafficking leaders from several other states who formed the leadership task force."
Gratz also told CP about the many things that can be done and needs to be done in order to end modern human trafficking. "First, foremost, we need God's guidance and counsel. Effective legislation is important. So is reducing demand, and there is a well-established link between pornography and the demand for commercial sex," he said.
"Prevention is also important. Most of the sex-trafficked children come from very troubled backgrounds. We need to reach these children, show them God's love, give them a purpose, and train them to be aware of those who would exploit them commercially."
The Weekend of Prayer corresponds with Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which falls every Jan. 11 per a 2007 resolution from the United States Congress. President Barack Obama also declared this month National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Weekend of Prayer has around 50 endorsing organizations and church bodies, including Advocates For Freedom, the Assemblies of God (USA), Christian Medical & Dental Associations, End Slavery Tennessee, the Family Research Council, the Free Methodist Church, Lighthouse Ministries, and Shared Hope.
Susie Harvill, executive director for Advocates For Freedom, told CP that her organization has been involved in Weekend of Prayer since its formation three years ago. "We are a non-profit organization bring awareness to Mississippi of the problem of Human Trafficking," said Harvill. "In Mississippi, the public has been our best resource in finding victims. They see what law enforcement does not. The more we inform, and involve the public the sooner this will change."
Margie Shealy, VP for Communications for Christian Medical & Dental Associations, said that her group's CEO received a letter in November about the event. "Christian Medical & Dental Associations has been active for several years now in educating our members on the signs of human trafficking, as well as providing care for victims. So it was a natural fit for us," said Shealy.
She details the many efforts that CMDA is involved in to combat human trafficking, including a recently released film titled "Trade of Innocents" and a program called "Global Health Outreach." The program "Global Health Outreach is our short-term missions program. We take several trips throughout the year to undisclosed areas to minister to the victims of human trafficking," said Shealy. "One…is leaving this weekend and another in a couple of weeks. We prayed specifically for those trips and the leaders and participants of those trips."
According to Gratz, as part of the multiday observance Weekend of Prayer organizers will be holding a major rally Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., at 2:00 p.m. EST.