Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Young people confront human exploitation



A group of young United Methodists took up a heavy subject: human trafficking. They did their homework, and now they’re equipping more people of faith to take action on the global problem.

A symposium Sept. 26 drew more than 60 people to gain knowledge and resources, sponsored by the Conference Council on Youth Ministry (CCYM) and other groups.

"This is heavy stuff," presenters warned about the subject matter.

Abusive child labor and coerced sex work are some ways people are exploited today — yes, in Oklahoma, too. Participants saw the video "Not My Life," in which a woman spoke of being abducted in the state and forced into prostitution.

"Often we talk about people as a group and forget their humanity," said speaker Susan Greer Burton. She desires "a society based on collaboration, not domination."

She is director of Women’s & Children’s Advocacy, General Board of Church & Society.

Greer said she spent a lot of time "in tears" at the first educational program she attended about human trafficking. "Girls sold for sex may be sold 30 times a night to make their quota."

Methodists have opposed slavery since the 1700s, when John Wesley condemned it.

"How do people of faith interrupt the supply and demand of human trafficking?" Greer asked.

Action plans began to take shape at the symposium, held in the Oklahoma City University chapel.

Small groups saw promoting awareness as a common first step.

Prague UMC teens brainstormed a high-school assembly, with advance posters listing a different fact each day. Weatherford may host an informal program in a park. A Laverne girl envisioned a superhero theme to help students value diversity.

Edmond-First youths want to start a Twitter discussion with #OklahomaIsStuckInTraffick.

In symposium workshops, Blake Lemons taught a simulation game, Josie Worthington explained the global manufacturing trek of a T-shirt, and Sarah Nichols presented "Debunking Myths."

Young Oklahomans who studied the human trafficking issue during recent Conference Youth UN/DC Tours are available to present to your church group. The video "Not My Life" can be checked out by contacting Diana Northcutt, dnorthcutt@okumc.org, 405-530-2144.

Other resources are www.SlaveryFootprint.org  and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.


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Gillian Hasty, left, and Kallie Olson created the slide show “Myths vs Reality.”


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