guest
July 25, 2019Culture, Interviews

One-on-One with Raleigh Sadler on Equipping Churches to Fight Human Trafficking

Victims need neighbors, not superheroes.
One-on-One with Raleigh Sadler on Equipping Churches to Fight Human Trafficking
Image: B&H Books/Canva

Ed: Why is it so crucial that we start this journey with the word ‘vulnerable’? How does that change our perspective and understanding of the problem of human trafficking?

Raleigh: Upon hearing about the enormity of the problem, our first inclination is to go into hero mode. Taking the mantle of a Christian vigilante, we begin to think about ways that we can rescue people from the clutches of traffickers.

But this is neither a realistic nor a helpful assumption. To put it simply, we don’t need to be superheroes to fight human trafficking; we need to be neighbors. Traffickers prey on vulnerable populations.

When we approach those most vulnerable around us as fellow sufferers, we will find ourselves face-to-face with modern day slavery. It’s through our perceived weaknesses that we are best positioned to fight human trafficking.

Ed: Define what you mean by the term ‘human trafficking’?

Raleigh: Simply put, human trafficking is the exploitation of vulnerability for commercial gain.

Ed: What has shocked you the most about leading this endeavor to end human trafficking?

Raleigh: The most shocking realization that I have come to understand is that anyone can address human trafficking—but it’s not in the way that we would expect. It’s not through our strength that we can best meet the needs of those around us. It’s through our shared vulnerability. It’s a bridge of sorts linking us to those in our community with whom we may struggle to find commonalities.

Ed: How have some of our attempts to stop human trafficking ignored the imperative of being vulnerable? How can these attempts do more harm than good?

Raleigh: We seem to prefer ‘quick fixes’ to long-term developmental approaches. The problem with a rescue model is [that it is] often more transactional than it is relational. It assumes often that the main problem facing someone is their immediate situation. However, a model acknowledging vulnerability sees the needs impacting each person as more holistic.

The danger with a paternalistic rescue motif is that it centers the role of the hero on the ‘rescuer’ and not the survivor. As we do this, we find ourselves in a position of power over the vulnerable person in our care. Without knowing it, we can exploit this person.

Ed: What are some myths about human trafficking and how to fight it?

Raleigh: Five myths are dealt with in detail in the book. In addition, here are a few more:

  • The Highway Myth: It only happens near highways

  • The Movement Myth: This assumes that the term ‘trafficking’ actually implies movement

  • The Superbowl Myth: That it only happens around large sporting events

Ed: Why do you think the church needs the message of this book right now?

Raleigh: This is a season in the life of the church, and the world at large, where vulnerability is heightened. People are aware of vulnerability like never before. We have unprecedented access to the brokenness impacting image bearers around the world. I’d venture to guess that we all feel more overwhelmed than ever.

Ed: How is this book different from others on human trafficking?

Raleigh: This book calls people to address human trafficking through the lens of vulnerability and to sing the gospel as their motivation. Most books attempt to motivate the reader through a strategic use of law. Often, when the law (“do this and live”) is used as a motivator, guilt ensues.

But when grace is used, we are reminded that we are free to love our neighbor. The book addresses the fact that because of Christ, we don’t have to perfectly love our neighbor to be loved. We are loved, so now it goes from being an obligation to an opportunity.

My hope is that readers will become better equipped to see the problem, to see their part in the problem, and to see how they can be part of the solution.

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

More from The Exchange

Christianity Today
One-on-One with Raleigh Sadler on Equipping ...