JACKSON — It’s hard to imagine that human slavery still plagues the world. A large group of Jackson Northsiders met last week at Billy and Cissye Mounger’s house to help do something about it.
They listened to a talk by Victor Boutros, head of the Human Trafficking Institute, who quit his career at the U.S. Department of Justice to pioneer efforts at reducing human trafficking worldwide.
At the federal Department of Justice, Boutros spearheaded efforts to train professionals in the criminal justice system to effectively combat human trafficking in the United States. It was working.
But he realized that most of the human trafficking, slavery really, was in the Third World, where nobody was doing anything to apply these new techniques. Propelled by his strong Christian faith, Boutros quit his secure and lucrative federal job to start a nonprofit designed to train criminal justice professionals in the Third World in techniques to effectively prosecute and jail known human traffickers.
Catherine Mounger, the Mounger’s daughter, a teacher at Hartfield Academy, befriended Mary Love Koons, strategic partnerships associate for the Human Trafficking Institute. And that is how a hundred or so Northsiders gathered to learn of this horrible problem.
Joining Boutros in the presentation was Eric Metaxas, a No. 1 bestselling Christian author who has written books on Martin Luther; William Wilberforce, subject of Metaxas’ book “Amazing Grace”; and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Metaxas has a nationally syndicated radio show that reaches 120 cities. He met Boutros when interviewing him for one of his radio shows. Since then, Metaxas has become a huge Boutros fan and came all the way from New York to moderate Boutros’ talk at the Moungers’ house.
Boutros himself has a fascinating background. His parents were Egyptian Christians, both doctors, who fled to the United States because of religious persecution. They landed in Dallas, where Boutros grew up before attending Baylor, Harvard and Oxford prior to joining the federal Justice Department.
Boutros started off with the harrowing story of a 12-year-old girl from rural India who went to work in the big city of Mumbai as a dishwasher to earn money for her family. After the end of summer, she was heading back to her family and got disoriented in the big Victoria train station. Some women noticed her and offered to help. She boarded a train with the women, who then drugged her tea, knocking her out cold. She woke up to find herself on the third floor of a brothel in the red-light district of Mumbai, where these two women had sold her for $250.
Meanwhile, her family was waiting for her at the train station. They didn’t know why she wasn’t on the train or where she was. They didn’t even know how to start looking for her.
“When I heard that story, it made my blood boil,” Boutros told the crowd. “But over time I learned that story was replicated on a large scale around the globe.
“This is a crime that is often hidden from view, and the traffickers design it that way. Victims are often not able to go to law enforcement or, if they are, they are so embarrassed and shamed by the trauma that’s happened, that they don’t want you to see it either.”
“It is a tragic irony. The victim and the perpetrator work together to keep this hidden from view.”
So what exactly is human trafficking or modern-day slavery? Boutros defined it as using threats, force and violence to coerce someone into either commercial sex or to force someone to work in their business, such as a restaurant or a brick kiln or a hotel.
If you can force someone to work through force, your labor costs go to zero and profits soar. It is that greed that is driving modern-day slavery. How do you battle this? Training law enforcement in proven techniques to institutionalize anti-trafficking detection and prosecution.
Billy Mounger told the group, “It’s a brilliant strategy of training the legal systems in Third World countries like they have in the United States to prosecute traffickers and make it stick. They also leverage the power of the United States by scoring countries on trafficking and threatening to withhold aid. In many Third World countries, U.S. aid is half their GDP, so the United States has a really big stick to stop countries from trafficking.”
How big is modern human slavery? There are 25 million young girls in sexual slavery. That’s twice the number of African transatlantic slaves during the whole 400-year history of African American slavery. If you look at a five-year period, it’s 89 million people because the perpetrators are constantly burning and churning new people. It’s the fastest-growing crime on the globe.
This year, traffickers will make $150 billion in profits, more than Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Exxon and BP combined. These profits are what drives the modern-day slave trade. Ninety-three percent of the victims are in developing countries.
Boutros’ organization is focused: “We know how to build specialized police and prosecution units that are equipped with the specialized skills to stop traffickers.”
Thanks to the Moungers for helping promote awareness of this horrid situation. If you would like to donate or learn more, please visit www.traffickinginstitute.org.