Seeking Million Signatures on Anti-Trafficking Petition

Post a Comment » Written on February 11th, 2008     
Filed under: News
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (February 11, 2008) – As the Evangelical Covenant Church strengthens its focus on the worldwide tragedy of human trafficking, one Covenanter is working with an international organization to halt the $10 billion-a-year industry.

Alicia VerHage, a 2002 graduate of North Park University and a member of Kalamazoo Covenant Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has been interning with Oasis International and STOP THE TRAFFIK. She is helping to collect a million signatures from around the world to present to the United Nations (UN) on Wednesday. People still can sign the petition at the STOP THE TRAFFIK website.

“It is a just cause, it is our spiritual mandate to care for the poor and vulnerable,” VerHage says.

Although slavery was officially abolished worldwide in 1927, the UN estimates that today there are 27 million individuals forced to work as slaves and domestic servants. The U.S. State Department estimates 17,500 new slaves are brought into the United States each year, many of them as domestic help.

Women Ministries of the Evangelical Covenant Church, in collaboration with the Department of Compassion, Mercy and Justice, recently introduced the Break the Chains initiative to increase awareness and provide resources to local churches and individuals to join the abolitionist movement. The 2008 project also will raise funds to support the Hindustani Covenant Church and the International Justice Mission – both work with women and girls being sexually exploited in India, a nation considered to have the largest number of slaves. The Break the Chains website has information on what various ministry areas in the denomination are doing in response to this growing problem..

“It was very impressive to be able to tell my colleagues about my denomination and that it was ready to get on board,” VerHage says. “They were impressed at the quick response and hopeful that like-minded people really could engage in the efforts.”

VerHage recently moved to South Africa, where she is working to promote the Chocolate Campaign to encourage people to buy fair trade chocolate. “This is connected to the issue of trafficking because many young children are currently being trafficked to and from places in West Africa to harvest cocoa beans,” she says. “Although all of us love a good piece of chocolate, I don’t think we would want to have a child suffer for our indulgence.”

According to the Break the Chains website, “nearly 43 percent of the world’s cocoa farms are located in Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) where thousands of children are slaves” and working in the industry.

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