The Price of a Slave
Enormous eyes in a bony-thin face, and a baggy green dress that dragged the ground. Because of all the cast-off children at the village school in India, this raggedy girl stood closest to our translator, he gently asked her, “What is your name?”
The girl stared.
“Your name. What is it?” the translator asked again.
The girl whispered, “I have no name.”
A child with no name. A little girl abandoned so young she could not even remember what her parents had called her. She grew up begging at the train platform, snatching up the scraps harried passengers dropped, watching other children picked off by traffickers. Now that she was seven or eight—perhaps even a scrawny nine—the traffickers had come for her. But the girl screamed and kicked and clawed so ferociously that someone called the police. Someone with clout, evidently, because the police came and pulled her away from the traffickers. Somebody in the crowd shouted out a suggestion that instead of putting the child in jail, the police might take her to the village school, which is what they did. They dropped her at the door and hurried on their way.
Human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, is rampant around the world. We think of it as an eastern European problem, or Indian or Nepalese or Thai. It is that. But it’s also a Western problem. The U.S. State Department estimates between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the Untied States each year, although it concedes that the real number surely is far higher. According to the U.S. Justice Department’s head of the new human trafficking unit, there is now at least one case of trafficking in every state.
The little girl with no name was fortune that someone responded to her screaming pleas. What would you do if you heard a child shriek for help? Of course, if she were a trafficking victim in this country, she wouldn’t be likely to scream or kick. She would probably shrink away in terror, or act submissively. You might see wounds—cuts, bruises, burns. Perhaps what would catch your attention would be the constant work: babysitting, cooking, washing dishes, scrubbing floors—never just being a child. Or maybe you couldn’t say exactly what was wrong—only that something about the child’s situation made you profoundly uneasy.
Please, please, if you suspect a person is being trafficked, call 911 and report it. Yes, it is okay. Yes, even it you are mistaken. In fact, eighteen states require citizens to report possible child abuse or neglect of any kind.
In the 1700s, Quakers led the fight against the African slave trade. In 1885, the Salvation Army took up the abolition banner, and since then it has led the fight against a different kind of slavery. More and more, 21st century abolitionists are followers of Christ determined to see slavery of all kinds ended in our day.
Oh yes… Before I left the school in India, I asked if we might give the little girl a name.
She is now called Grace.
Kay Marshall Strom
The Voyage of Promise, book 2 of the Grace in Africa trilogy