As the saying goes, “ignorance is bliss.” I can’t help but wonder though, “is it really?”
I used to pride myself on my travels to developing countries. I felt cultured and well rounded; experienced ya know?
I had tea with the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I helped build 6 homes in 4 days in Tecate, Mexico. I spent 6 weeks in the Eastern European country Moldova by myself. In Romanian I hung out with gypsy children and sewer kids. In Malawi I held abandoned infants and walked miles through villages with teenager head of households. In South Africa I watched the sun rise while on Safari.
I’ve gained a lot through those travels. I learned a lot. I grew a lot as a person and as a person who believes in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m thankful for those times spent in foreign lands and among foreign people. I have witnessed both pain and joy within every people group I have been among.
While the countries I have spent time in are very different from another and have very different languages and cultures, there is one commonality between them all. They are all places where trafficking of human beings is on a rampage. Like a Midwestern tornado, destroying everything in its path within seconds, human traffickers are destroying the lives of the vulnerable around the globe.
In the DRC, young boys are forced to carry weapons the same size they are and carry out unspeakable acts of violence against their own people and family. Those who are too small to hold a weapon wear whistles around their necks and make as much noise as possible when the enemy approaches. As you can imagine, because they are on the front lines, their little bodies are used to take in the first round of bullets. The young girls are forced to be the “wives” of the rebel solders. We’re talking boys and girls ages 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
In Mexico children are kidnapped while playing outside or while riding their bikes. They are passed through a number of hands before reaching a “buyer” in America most often. These buyers sell the kids for a number of reasons. To work as house cleaners or in fields somewhere. Others they will hold onto and pimp out using websites like Craiglist to do their advertising and online auctions of the kids.
Moldova. Well Moldova is a hub in Eastern Europe for traffickers. Moldova is a vulnerable country full of desperate and needy adults and children. Traffickers in Moldova trick the vulnerable with promises of jobs in restaurants in western nations such as Italy and France. Desperation to feed their families or provide for loved ones is what persuades them to trust the traffickers to be legit, honest people who really do want to help them. They never do make it to Italy or France however. They are, however, taken to brothels in Bulgaria and surrounding nations.
Romania is much the same as Moldova. Romanian children are often exploited within their own country and those who make it out, usually end up in America or Russia working in forced labor and sex slavery.
Malawi's largest exported good is Tobacco. Guess who works the tobacco farms, 12 hours a day without pay and adequate farm gear? Yep, you guessed it; children. Children as young as 5 years old bundle up tobacco without shoes on their feet and gloves on their hands. The amount of nicotine their little bodies come in contact with through their skin is equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. Makes you want to light up doesn’t it?
I was ignorant of all of these acts happening to mostly women and children while in every one of these countries. Why don’t I feel blissful about my not knowing? Why do I feel like something is terribly wrong in a world where such raw, violent, evil actions are being done towards Gods creation and so many people are ignorant to it? Why do we know more about Sandra Bullocks marriage to Jesse James than we do about where cigarettes come from and that there is a raging war happening in the DRC where an estimated 6 million lives have been taken since 1994?
I don’t feel so proud of my trips anymore. I’m grateful for them of course. But proud? No. I feel disappointed. I feel like I went to see a movie and forgot my glasses. I saw, but it was blurry. I wasn’t seeing the clear picture.
This human trafficking thing is not a joke. It’s like a weed that unless we get a grip on it and pluck it out, it will soon take over and suffocate the life out of its victims. Being ignorant of this global problem is like planning a vacation to the Gulf of Mexico having no idea of the oil spill. It’s like planning a trip to Afghanistan being unaware of the Taliban. Or going to Mexico and not knowing about the war on drugs. It’s like calling prostitution of American teenagers a choice. We cannot afford to be ignorant any longer. I cannot afford to be ignorant any longer.
When Jesus arose from the dead, his own disciples didn’t recognize him. They were ignorant that he was their King. It was only after Jesus caused them to really see him and understand that it was he they were with, that they got it. Why didn’t I know about human trafficking when I spent time in the aforementioned countries? I do not know. But what I do know is that I see now and I understand now that I not only know about the problem, I have a responsibility to do something about it.
I often wonder how my travels would have been different had I been aware of the human trafficking in each country. I can’t go back and do those trips over again but I can be aware of it in the future no matter where I go. Slavery of human beings is happening in my backyard in Orange County and it’s happening around the globe. Will we stay ignorant or will we fight to change it and free fellow human beings?
What do you think? Is ignorance bliss? Do you think it is our responsibility to know about what’s happening in other countries or is it enough to be mindful of our own?
International Justice Mission has a great curriculum for short-term mission trip teams to use in preparation of entering another country. The curriculum is called As You Go. Check it out and consider using it with the teams from your church who are now preparing to do short-term trips around the globe. It’s a great guide to knowing what to look for in terms of human trafficking not matter what country you are traveling to.