Today marks a new beginning for us in the Mahoning Valley. This afternoon, Colleen Aliberti and I will be attending the organizational meeting of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative’s working group on Human Trafficking. This group will eventually work to form a commission in our county to address the issue of human trafficking in the massage parlors that dot the landscape here in Trumbull county. The commission, made up of legislators, law enforcement and city administrations, will work together in a broad-based approach to not only closing the nuisance businesses, but in eradicating the issue of human trafficking all together.
Did you know that every year in the U.S., 18 to 20 thousand people are trafficked for illegal purposes? Most of this modern-day slave trade centers around the sex tourism industry. People actually travel from all around this region to come to the Warren/Niles/Newton Falls area to visit these establishments! Many of the young women who work in massage parlors are brought here from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and other Asian countries, with the promise that they will be given a good job in a nail salon or a restaurant. Instead, they end up in the back rooms and basements of massage parlors all around this country.
What does all this have to do with us and with hope? Well, those who are caught up in the human trafficking trade are not filled with much hope. My prayer is that the churches in Trumbull county, and all across this state, can make a difference in their lives by making human trafficking a felony offense under state law. If we can do this, the women (and sometimes children and men) who are affected by this issue will be filled with more hope and promise in their lives. And, that brings hope to us as well.
Please pray for us as we bring together this coalition today, and for the work that is ahead of us. Please also consider becoming a part of this work–it’s one way that God’s hope is breaking through into our world today.