I attended an interesting and informative, but disturbing, presentation this morning on human trafficking. I learned that human trafficking is not a problem limited to other countries but is of enormous concern right here in the USA. Sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and drug trafficking are three principal problems affecting large numbers of people in the U.S., with an especially significant impact on the young, who are particularly vulnerable. People who know how to take advantage of the chinks in a person’s armor caused by emotional or physical vulnerabilities or abuse lure and/or force kids and young adults into prostitution, slave labor, and service as drug mules, among other functions. The presentation touched me and made me want to share my newfound knowledge. But something about the presentation and the organization behind it gives me pause.
Partners Against Trafficking Humans (PATH) endeavors to find and help victims of human trafficking; it advocates on behalf of trafficked victims in Arkansas. The organization’s efforts are admirable. But, again, something about PATH gives me pause. My issues are found in the following paragraphs from the organization’s website:
PATH’s Mission is to advocate on the behalf of those victimized by sex-trafficking, provide trauma focused restorative care and educate our communities. This is done through a number of services with a primary focus on providing a safe environment for rescued victims of sex-trafficking, sexual assault and prostitution to heal in a therapeutic, residential program of restoration and community reintegration, through a variety of Christ-centered services and recovery programs, offering hope for healing, personal growth and future success.
Our Philosophy: God is at the center of all we do. We are committed to building God’s Kingdom and integrating faith, healing, learning and action.
Some might consider my objection to the injection of God and Christ into the organization’s philosophical foundation an example of my own bias and bigotry. Perhaps. But I view the religious context of the proffered services as revelatory; the insistence on bringing religion into a social service ostensibly aimed at helping victims escape traffickers strikes me as evangelism disguised as empathy. While I don’t doubt the sincerity of staff and volunteers in wanting to help victims of trafficking, it is impossible for me to classify their motives as purely altruistic. Because they bring religious belief into their activities, I can’t believe they are involved purely as humanitarians; they are, to one degree or another, “spreading the gospel,” as it were. While I have no evidence to suggest that the services provided to victims are overtly religious in nature, the organization’s proclamations of its religious core strongly suggests services predicated on religion.
All of my misgivings having been aired, let me go on to say the good done by PATH, and organizations like it, probably outweigh the damage done by covert or overt evangelism. I wonder whether, if confronted with my attitudes about its philosophy, the organization would refuse my offer to help, were I were to make one? I probably won’t ask. But, until I know, I cannot in good conscience offer money or other assistance to an organization that might use such resources to further a religious agenda integral to its efforts to extract and heal victims of human trafficking. At least that’s where I stand today.