Free the slaves — 45 million worldwide

In our politically divided nation, I think there’s one American value we can all agree on: Everyone deserves to be free.

On June 27, the State Department released the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, which ranks 187 countries on their efforts to combat human trafficking, including the U.S. This report sheds light on the hidden crime of modern-day slavery — a crime that holds more than 45 million men, women, and children in bondage.

The 19th century abolitionist William Wilberforce said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” What does this mean for us?

For one thing, our members of Congress should recommit themselves to protecting the integrity of this report and the U.S. foreign aid programs that help rescue slaves and put traffickers behind bars. This report can be read in its entirety at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2017/index.htm.

Human trafficking is an economic issue, generating $150 billion for traffickers annually. According to the organization, Free the Slaves, there are more people held in slavery today than at any time during the history of the world. Of those approximately 78 percent are labor slaves, 22 percent are sex trafficking victims, and 26 percent are children under 18.

As we celebrate Independence Day, let us all be challenged to raise awareness and efforts to combat modern day slavery. Progress is being made through organizations like International Justice Mission and Free the Slaves and government supported grants through the End Modern Slavery Initiative (EMSI) passed by Congress last year with bipartisan support.

This initiative will collaborate with national governments of slavery-burdened countries to rescue victims and prosecute traffickers and slave-owners. EMSI, which will receive its first $25 million contribution from the U.S. government this year, will be funded as well by private philanthropists and other donor governments.

Sally Raymond
Peachtree City, Ga.