Originally posted June 28, 2014.
Did you know that right now, human trafficking survivors are being arrested, detained and deported? The UU Abolitionists and our members have been bringing awareness of human trafficking to the national UU Community since 2010, and we have seen that many more UUs now know the prevalence of human trafficking and modern slavery. But few know of the horrible treatment survivors receive by law enforcement and immigration authorities.
The UU Abolitionists want to help change that.
The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly is underway, with thousands of UUs in Providence learning, worshiping and taking action. UUs believe strongly in justice and each General Assembly, we have an opportunity to take a public stand on up to three current issues, what we call the “Actions of Immediate Witness” (AIW).
However, the sad truth is that there are many justice issues that UUs are concerned about and only three AIWs that can be voted on each year. But no matter the outcome, we knew that campaigning to stop the arrest of trafficking survivors would be an opportunity for education of UU leaders who would take this message back to their congregations.
The process of proposing an AIW began a few days ago with gathering signatures. We gathered signatures at our booth in the exhibit hall (#105). Volunteers walked the hallways talking to people about modern slavery and human trafficking. Everyone was offered buttons that say “I fight modern slavery.” By the deadline, we had gathered over 150 signatures. Big thank you to Bill Hilton, Patience Stoddard, J. David Reno, and an anonymous angel who did such great footwork!
When Rev. Amy Zucker-Morgenstern, co-founder of the UU Abolitionists, turned in our signatures, the stack of other proposed AIWs was very high. We realized there was a lot of competition to make the next round. But last night, it was announced that our AIW was chosen to be one of six AIW proposals to go before the delegation – a group of about 2,000 people.
This morning, Amy spoke to the assembled body about the immediate needs of trafficked children and adults. She spoke about sex-trafficked children being handcuffed and taken to jail rather than being offered safety and security. She spoken about trafficked immigrants who might hope for rescue, who are instead detained and deported. She shared the words of our UU fore-mother, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper,
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.
There was an audible response from the audience.
Unfortunately, although the vote was extremely close, the body could only choose 3 of the 6 AIWs to go forward into the final vote and ours was not chosen.
But through the campaign we were able to clearly identify human trafficking and modern slavery as a leading issue in our denomination and educate UU leaders who will take this information back to their congregation.
We are also deeply heartened by the knowledge that one of the AIWs that will go forward is joining with other denominations on the Faith Summit on Stopping Deportations. This effort to end deportations will help so many people, including so many trafficking survivors. We urge all UU delegates to vote for this AIW.
If you would like to join with the UU Abolitionists and take this message of freedom back to your congregation, stop by our booth (#105) to pick up free pins, educational materials and learn more about our community partners. Or attend one of our upcoming webinars. Our movement is growing.