Redman and Tim Passmore spoke Saturday night at the Church Street annex.
A gathering of concerned Cleveland residents and Lee University students attended. Both men presented how Christians should respond to the rising human sex trafficking numbers.
“We have a great relationship with Homeland Security. We have a great relationship with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation,” Redman said. “We don’t have a great relationship with the faith-based community. … If we sat around a large table and we had to name the different chairs filled around the table, the chair which would not be filled, to the extent it should in greater Chattanooga, Cleveland and Southeast Tennessee” is the faith-based community’s.
According to the nonprofit’s website, the organization, “…creates awareness that drives action through collaborative relationship with like-minded organizations and individuals in order to end human sex trafficking in greater Chattanooga/Southeast Tennessee.”
Sarah Brandenburg, Lee University Christian Benevolence instructor, said her students organized the event to alert the public.
“I think part of the reason we did not get a good attendance is because [people do not think there is a problem]. It is just so hard to break,” Brandenburg said.
“People would rather be out in the sunshine than hearing about this. Partly because they do not know about the issues, and partly because they do not want to know about it.”
Brandenburg said, “I have spoken to some groups before and they literally do not want to know about it, because they are afraid of what they will see. I have had someone tell me they do not want to lay awake at night thinking about [human sex trafficking].”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human services reports victims of sex trafficking are lured in through various methods, including: a promise of a good job in another country, a false marriage proposal turned into a bondage situation, being sold by relatives or significant others or being kidnapped by traffickers.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the total market value of illicit human trafficking is $32 billion annually.
Passmore said the revenue of worldwide human sex trafficking is the same as a year’s cumulative profit for Facebook, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.
“Two million children are estimated to be in the commercial sex trade today,” Passmore said. “This is happening in our country.”
The U.S. Department of Education said human trafficking particularly involves school-age children not living with their parents. These students are believed to be vulnerable to coerced labor exploitation, domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation, also known as prostitution.
There are several ways people can report cases of human trafficking as stated by the DoE:
- Contact local authorities in emergency situations.
- Report suspected trafficking crimes by calling the national 24/7 toll-free Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Office at 1-888-428-7581.
- Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
Redman shared several stories with those gathered.
“I am describing situations which have happened here in Southeast Tennessee. I am not describing Vegas or Chicago,” Redman said.
“A lot of these situations you will not find on the front page of the paper. [Authorities] will not talk with members of the media, especially to protect the victim.”
He said numerous organizations from the government to nonprofits have gathered together to make a stand against human trafficking.
Churches as a major force against the sex trade were not included.
“This is inconvenient news I have come to announce to the Southern American church. Jesus came all right, but he did not come to ensure our tax rates would go down. He didn’t come to ensure I could buy as many guns as I want,” Redman said.
“Jesus said, ‘I have come to set the captives free,’ and I believe that is exactly what he does.”
He said this is the mission the church has been called to throughout time.
“Unfortunately, in our region right now in any substantive way, the church continues to sit out,” Redman said.
“… We have to be advocates within our local faith communities. We have to be willing to sit with leaders. We have to be willing to sit with pastors.”
Passmore said Christians must overcome apathy, complacency and despair to make a difference.
“Do you think the resources of everyone who can oppose human trafficking couldn’t stop the industry? We have [human traffickers] relying on us to do nothing, who hope every day we do nothing,” Passmore said. “There are ways we can help and each one of us will respond in a different way.”
Passmore continued, “I challenge you to respond.”