Human Trafficking

What would the church and the world look like if women and girls were seen as children of God with sacred worth?

Imago Dei - Kawangis ng diyos - Image of God


Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing, and does not give them their wages.
Jeremiah 22:13

I want to remind you THAT GOD CARES about injustice, about oppression, about exploitation.
Bishop Desmond Tutu

Modern-day slavery has become the fastest growing transnational criminal enterprise earning an estimated $150 billion (U.S.) in illegal profits annually while enslaving 21 million people around the world (Human Trafficking, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime). Exploitation includes … sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude” (Human Trafficking, U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime). The United Nations underscores the role of violence in trafficking, defining it as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

As United Methodists, we proclaim faith in the God of freedom and condemn slavery as wrong and incompatible with Christ’s teachings.  Since the creation of the 1908 Social Creed, Methodists have publicly called for “equal rights and complete justice for all (people) in all stations of life”, the abolition of child labor, an end to the “sweating system” and a living wage in every industry among other issues that would protect workers. We recognize that we are called to follow Christ in proclaiming release to the captives and setting the oppressed free (Luke 4:16-19).  We affirm that each person is of equal value in the sight of God and will work to create communities in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened.

Through current events such as the kidnapping of Nigerian girls by Boko Haram, unaccompanied minors crossing through Latin America to the Mexico/US border, and the enslavement of women and children in Syria, we recognize that there are many factors that create vulnerability, including:

  • Sexism
  • Racism
  • Poverty
  • Sexual and Gender-based Violence
  • War / Conflict /Militarization
  • Climate Change
  • Media/Cultural images and beliefs that promote internalized oppression

Human trafficking denies the sacred worth of God’s children and destroys the fabric of our communities. Victims endure psychological trauma, physical injury, economic hardship and stigmatization that can create lifelong scars and barriers for full participation in one’s community.

The UMC continues to speak out today against exploitation and abuse in our Social Principles and Book of Resolutions. 

John Wesley

In numerous instances, including a tract entitled “Thoughts on Slavery” and a sermon entitled “The Use of Money,” John Wesley condemned slavery as wrong and incompatible with Christ’s teachings. (2012 Book of Resolutions, #6021 “Church Supports Global Efforts to End Slavery”)

1908 Social Creed

"...For the abolition of child labor. For such regulation of the conditions of labor for women as shall safeguard the physical and moral health of the community. For the suppression of the 'sweating system.' For the gradual and reasonable reduction of the hours of labor to the lowest practical point, with work for all; and for that degree of leisure for all which is the condition of the highest human life...”

United Methodist Social Principles

¶161H Sexual Abuse
We deplore all forms of commercialization and exploitation of sex, with their consequent cheapening and degradation of human personality. To lose freedom and be sold by someone else for sexual purposes is a form of slavery, and we denounce such business and support the abused and their right to freedom.
¶162C Rights of Children
[C]hildren have rights to food, shelter, clothing, health care, and emotional well-being as do adults, and these rights we affirm regardless of actions or inactions of their parents or guardians. In particular, children must be protected from economic, physical, emotional, and sexual exploitation and abuse.”

United Methodist Resolutions

Today’s child, in too many parts of the world … is too often being denied a childhood itself by being forced into labor under abusive and destructive conditions. Many millions of children around the world labor in work that is coerced, forced, bonded, enslaved or otherwise unfair in wages, injurious to health and safety, and/or obstructive of educational or moral development. (2012 Book of Resolutions, #3083 “Eradicating Abusive Child Labor”)

Resolutions being brough to General Conference 2016:

Global Health and Rights: Eradicating Sexual and Gender-based Violence
Eradicating Modern Day Slavery

What United Methodists are doing

The United Methodist Church in Liberia commits to track orphans after the Ebola crisis because of their susceptibility to trafficking. Story here.

United Methodists in Florida fight modern-day slavery in their backyard. Full story here.

The Philippines Central Conference met to discuss the plight of Filipino migrant workers. 

The Chaplain's Office at Adrian College is organizing initiatives to raise awareness of human trafficking. 

Young people in Oklahoma are raising their voices about human trafficking in the United States. Story here.

Read one United Methodist pastor's drive to provide a home for foster children in Chicago. 

Faith and Facts Cards 

 What are the facts on human trafficking and what does the United Methodist Church say?

Pastor Education Resources 

Human Trafficking West Africa 

Human Trafficking US

Resources for Worship and Study

2016 Human Trafficking Awareness Month Interfaith Toolkit

Protestant Worship Resources for Human Trafficking Awareness Month

What is your slavery footprint? Take the quiz.

Prayer for Nigerian Children Kidnapped by Boko Haram

Not My Life documentary – free digital use through GBCS

Resources for Action:

Ensure Safe Places for Young People
Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Victims Protection Act
S.262/S.A. 290

  • Provides $ for Street Outreach Programs, Temporary Housing & Transitional Living Programs
  • 74% of reported child trafficking cases involved sex trafficking
  • Children make up 72% of labor trafficking cases and 25% of traveling sales crews
  • HOLD UP: Non-discrimination clause to protect estimated 40% of runaway youth who identify as LGBTQ

How is the United Methodist Church changing the model of sacred worth and human dignity?




Experience, Equip, Engage

  1. Publicizing the Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline: 1-888-373-7888. The hotline is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. Check out the GBCS blog and click on "human trafficking" in the text cloud to stay updated on the efforts of GBCS on this issue.