Tatyanna wants out of Moldova, the poorest European country, and responds to a billboard promising Parisian nights. Xie Mei's parents are poor in everything but daughters. A local recruiter paints them visions of American prosperity, assuring them that the Mexican border is a giant freeway.
Miranda in Tenancingo, Mexico, also has a dream of El Norte. A man approaches and tells her she is beautiful enough to model. Next thing she knows she's in a van at night outside the Hard Rock Café in Tijuana with a half a dozen other women before a buyer who haggles the price down to $10,000 a head.
I remember los desaparecidos of 30 years ago, Argentina's children whisked off the streets and out of the hospital delivery rooms of Buenos Aires under a corrupt military government. Today's "disappeared ones" are from many nations, a steady stream of traffic, part of it routed through our neighbor to the south to satisfy American appetites. This is the other "immigration" you don't read about in the papers. And the other "women's issue" you don't quarrel about in church.
It's the other Iraq war story, too. You've heard of the kidnappings and you thought they were all ideologically related. But sin laughs at ideology and runs amuck where the foundations are collapsed.
It's the other Kosovo story, too. The BBC reports that after UN and NATO troops were sent to Kosovo in 1999, a "small-scale local market for prostitution was transformed into a large-scale industry based on trafficking run by organized criminal networks . . . International peacekeepers are not only failing to stop it, they are actively fueling this despicable trade."
President Bush told a gathering in Florida in July of 2004: "The United Nations believes that the trafficking of human beings is now the third-largest source of money for organized crime, after arms and drugs."
And it's not just those barbaric countries out there: it's girls from Latvia trafficked to Chicago, and girls from Ukraine turning up in Los Angeles, and Vietnamese girls sold into sex slavery in Georgia. It's 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked around the world every year, with 14,500 to 17,500 victims coming across U.S. borders alone. We're talking a $10 billion industry.
Officer Krumpke of West Side Story might well scratch his head again to ponder the causes and solutions. Is sex trafficking a poverty issue? Is it a law-enforcement issue? The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was the first modern U.S. law to call traffic in persons a crime. The Protect Act of 2003 prosecutes U.S. citizens who go abroad for sex tourism. But as the president admitted in Tampa, "we cannot put [the criminal gangs] out of business until and unless we deal with the problem of demand."
Where is the good old-fashioned mourning in sackcloth and ashes that saved Nineveh's hide in Jonah's day? Where is the "zeal-for-thine-house-has-consumed-me" indignation of Jesus? Someday the Lord will ask us about our journey, "What were you discussing on the way?" (Mark 9:33). Will we be as embarrassed as the apostles by our answers? Will we have to say we spent all our time arguing about whether a woman can lead a Bible study in a mixed class when the mother of all women's issues was under our noses?
"Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, 'Behold, we did not know this,' does not the one who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?" (Proverbs 24:11-12).
The Salvation Army, The Beverly LaHaye Institute, and Concerned Women of America are three organizations that won't need to blush. Under the umbrella of the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking (IAST), these and other faith-based groups work with the government and develop practical services for survivors of the sex slave trade. The Salvation Army, in fact, cut its eye teeth on sex slavery activism in 1880s England.
If Miranda and Tatyanna and Xie Mei had faces, you would do the same, wouldn't you? Then they would not be los invisibles as well as los desaparecidos. They might be the faces of the girls next door.