World Day against Trafficking in Persons, July 30, 2018

A Child Laughs — Prayers of Justice and Hope (edited by Maria Mankin and Maren C. Tirabassi) Pilgrim Press, May 1, 2017, asks the question — what does it take for all the children in the world, to be not only fed and sheltered and safe, but also to be able to laugh. More than one hundred themes and issues crucial to hope and justice were crowd-sourced to create this collaborative anthology of fifty-two reflections from seventy-seven writers in eleven different countries. Today in honor and our desperate need for remembrance in a time when “your morning briefing,” “your evening briefing” comes across the telephone, but does not include these desperate situations that go on day after day, year after year, I include a chapter by Cody Maynus. (The pattern in this book is a background on the issue, a personal prayer, a liturgical or community resource and questions for reflection.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING — TALITHA KUM, “LITTLE GIRL, ARISE!”

Few contemporary injustices are as pervasive, as evil, and as damaging to the whole person as human tra cking. In every country, province, city, and neighborhood, humans of all ages, all races, and all backgrounds are being bought and sold. While anybody, regardless of sexual and gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic back- ground can be tra cked, the vast majority are those marginalized by so- ciety—women, transgender persons, children, persons of color, and those living under poverty. These people are more than just victims of a horrendous crime, though—they are beloved children of God, citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God—as St. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians.

It is estimated that between twenty-one and thirty million people are bought and sold every year worldwide. Those who are trafficked are drawn into an almost impenetrable cycle of violence, poverty, and abuse by means of force, fraud, and coercion. Human traffi- ckers prey on the most vulnerable in society, those struggling under the bondage of extreme poverty; those oppressed by sexism, homophobia, and transphobia; those who are young and impressionable; those who are lost and lonely. The Christian response to human trafficking must, of course, be to mourn such a grave injustice, but also to pray and to work for change. Ours is a God of liberation, a God who yearns for freedom, a God who moves from death to life, a God who breaks all chains.

PERSONAL PRAYER

I am weighed down, O God of the living weighed down with the burden of knowing that my sisters, my brothers,
your children, your beloved blessed children are oppressed, enslaved, bought and sold tra cked on a dark market

I am weighed down, O God of the living weighed down knowing that
I have contributed to this market contributed through my actions, contributed through my inaction

I am weighed down, O God of the living weighed down with a desire to help, with a desire to reach out,
to touch, to heal, to free

And you, O God of the living
you are the One who breaks brass doors
the One from whom true freedom flows
the One in whose name all prisoners are set free

Help me, O God of the living
help me set free your daughters, your sons
help me dispel the darkness

help me break the chains

for in you, O God of the living I find life
I find peace
I find liberation.

COMMUNITY PRAYER
The following can be used in whole (or in part, or altered) for a service of advocacy. It might take place in the congregational setting or outside of the church (for example at a state or federal building or in a park). It is designed to be ecumenical and inclusive, but individuals should feel free to alter language to meet local custom or personal need. Liturgical artists might be creative designing the environment for the liturgy, perhaps even procuring a series of chains and arranging them broken around a cross and/or candle.

Opening Prayer

ONE: Blessed be the God of our salvation

ALL: Who breaks all chains.

ONE: Blessed be the God of our salvation

ALL: Who frees all people.

ONE: Let us pray.

ALL: We come this day, O God, crying out for our sisters and brothers, friends, daughters, mothers, neighbors, beloved who are bought and sold for sex, for labor, or for marriage. Kindle within us a longing for justice and a love for freedom. Bless our praying, our singing, our crying, our advocating, our writing, our healing. Fill us with love, fill us with courage, fill us with hope. We ask this through Jesus the Christ, our brother and friend. Amen

Suggested Reading: Mark 5:35–43 Reflection

It would be ideal for the preacher to be one or several persons who are survivors of human trafficking, whatever the form. If this is not possible or preferable, the speaker might focus reflections on the root causes of human trafficking, paying special attention to the ways that social systems and structures contribute hugely to it. As with any reflection on the gospel, the preacher should end by pointing to the liberty promised in the gospel. “Little girl, get up!” is what Jesus offers to the dead woman. Consider how we, as church, can speak Jesus’ words to those who are trafficked.

ONE: God weeps with us. God laughs with us. God hears our prayer.
For all people bought and sold through human trafficking, we pray.

ALL: O Sun of Justice, hear our prayer.

ONE: For an end to oppressive systems and sinful structures, especially those that prey on those most marginalized, we pray.

ALL: O Sun of Justice, hear our prayer.

ONE: For those who advocate for an end to human trafficking, for those who care for the tra cked, for those who pray for an end to modern- day slavery, we pray.

ALL: O Sun of Justice, hear our prayer.

ONE: For conversion of heart for those who buy and sell humans, for those who regard humans as commodities, for those ensnared by greed, we pray.

ALL: O Sun of Justice, hear our prayer.

ONE: For those who have died in slavery, for those who have died struggling for freedom, for those who have died alone, we pray.

ALL: O Sun of Justice, hear our prayer.

Closing Prayer

Holy One, the One who breaks chains, the One who sets all free, you love fiercely the whole human family,
especially those who are enslaved by the sins of society:
the oppressed, marginalized, poor, forgotten, abandoned.

Shine the light of your holy justice
into the darkest corners of our world;
shatter the bonds of slavery, crush the shackles of oppression,
set free those held in bitter captivity;

and fill our hearts and minds
with a fiery passion for justice
so that we can transform
the evil systems and unjust structures
that hold your people hostage.
We ask all of this in the name of Jesus the Liberator. Amen

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/ACTION

1. God desires freedom for all people. What does it mean for privileged people to worship a God who desires liberty for all?

2. Consider the ways in which your personal and shopping habits unknowingly contribute to human trafficking. What habits can you change? What habits can’t you change? Why not?

3. There are some groups—women, children, queer people, people of color—who are obviously oppressed. Who else is trafficked and enslaved? What are the root causes of their oppression? How can I/we bring about their liberation

Cody Maynus serves as Community Engagement Coordinator at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis, MN and is active nationally in the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. He is a member of the Community of the Benedictine Way, a monastic community in the Episcopal Church and holds an MA in Monastic Studies and Liturgy from Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, MN. 

 

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