WASHINGTON - The state of human trafficking, government efforts to curtail it, and a call to act justly in the face of slavery and oppression were featured themes during a panel discussion between two prominent U.S. senators and the leader of a Christian human rights organization.
Though often divided by ideological struggles on Capitol Hill, Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) came together on Tuesday at Georgetown University in Washington to discuss and denounce human trafficking in a panel moderated by Gary Haugen, President of International Justice Mission, an organization that works to fight human trafficking.
Both senators agreed that the issue of human trafficking deserved the attention of the country.
During the panel, called Ending the New Slavery: The Fight Against Human Trafficking, Clinton told about the various ways the U.S. government is working to combat trafficking, while Brownback exhorted those gathered to act by joining with organizations such as IJM to give new life to those being oppressed.
Brownback said that one of the reasons that he became interested in the issue was because Gary Haugen, the IJM president, presented him with a lock that had been used to restrain a trafficking victim in a brothel. It repulsed him to think that for many people, such victims had just become disposable people.
How awful a thought is the thought of a disposable person, he said. Each one is a precious beautiful child of God. We cant say its half a world away and ignore it.
Leave uncomfortable and act, said Brownback to the students and media gathered in Gaston Hall at Georgetown University.
After the panel was over, Haugen explained that as stewards of power entrusted to them by the American people, it was important to engage lawmakers such as Senators Clinton and Brownback
Part of our priority is to give these conscientious leaders a way to steward that power in a way that brings justice that rescues the oppressed, Haugen told The Christian Post.
One of the cases that IJM was directly involved in took place in March of 2003, when the group convinced the government to list Cambodia as a chronic offender of human trafficking, which would have penalized the country, stopping it from receiving U.S. funds.
In the panel discussion, Sen. Clinton said she supported using the marketplace and the nations resources to combat human trafficking. She said that although such measures as the Universal Human Rights Declaration drafted by the United Nations in 1948 had done much to bring a consciousness to human rights that more ought to be done.
Referring to attitudes about trafficking, Sen. Clinton said that through her work, she had found that people are often against the practice in principle, giving it lip service but dont stir to action, thinking that its just a part of the fabric of society in many of the countries where it takes place.
She mentioned that even in Washington, some ambassadors who visit the capital may have slaves in their respective countries. She said that even educated people relegate themselves to the idea that thats just the way things are.
Legalized prostitution is an issue that also affects human trafficking. Sen. Clinton said prostitution, which she opposes, is often just called a professional choice different from human trafficking, since certain countries monitor the activity as they would any other trade, using inspectors to maintain certain standards. Politically, she said that while ending slavery is a top priority, trafficking opponents may have to take smaller victories along the way, stopping short of demanding the certain countries ban prostitution.
In 2004 both Senators Clinton and Brownback, along with a bipartisan group of colleagues signed a letter sent to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to support rules aimed at protecting women refugees in the United States seeking asylum. They said they were concerned in protecting "women and girls from abuse such as honor killings, domestic violence, trafficking, sexual slavery and rape."
Rough estimates by the United Nations show that there may be between 700,000 to 2 million women trafficked across international borders, while trafficking within a nation's borders may be up to 4 million people a year.
The "Ending Slavery" human trafficking panel was part of the "Bipartisan Conference on Human Rights: Uncommon Leadership for Common Values," which took place on the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 1, in Gaston Hall at Georgetown University.
It was co-organized by Freedom House, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, International Crisis Group, International Justice Mission, and International Rescue Committee. Speakers in other panels at the event included Madeleine Albright, General Wesley Clark, David Gompert, Dr. Richard Land, Rabbi David Saperstein, and Congressman Frank Wolf.
To get more information about International Justice Mission, visit: www.ijm.org.