"If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large."
"Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit."
-C. S. Lewis-
A few nights ago, I drove back to my university from a dance rehearsal for The Nutcracker, fully determined to make it back to campus as quickly as possible. After dropping off a friend, I quickly (and somewhat illegally) parked behind the music building and ran at top speed across the full Humanities parking lot to get to a small recital hall. I arrived at exactly 7:00 pm, and the room was already packed. "Can we try the balcony?" One person asked the student at the table.
"Well, you can try," she said skeptically, "but I think the balcony might be full, too." Another student came rushing down the hallway.
"We just filled up the lecture hall," he said.
Unsure of what else to do, I slipped into the recital hall and leaned against the back wall, trying to take up as little room as possible.
The documentary that I watched that night was very well worth the the rush back to school, the time spent circling parking lots, the risk of a parking ticket, and the challenge of cramming myself into the back of a crowded room.
The documentary was called Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, a work that recorded the journey of a team of four men who traveled across four different continents. Throughout this documentary, the team interviewed victims, buyers, and merchants of the sex slave industry. My own words do not do justice to the haunting images of the film, the intense pain of the victims interviewed, and the cold indifference of those who profit from the industry. Many of the men interviewed in the film admitted that they found the sex slave industry difficult to witness at first, but after a few times of selling a young woman's body for profit, they just grew used to the idea. The most haunting of all of the images in the documentary was a simple photograph of a pair of blue pajamas similar to something that my sister might wear. These pajamas, recovered by a member of the team, had belonged to a seven-year-old girl and were stained with blood.
Nefarious listed multiple ways that people have become trapped into sex slavery. Some are abducted. Others are lured with false promises of real jobs or romantic relationships. One scene that struck me a bit more than the others, though, was the revelation of the fact that many young girls who become slaves are orphans. Orphanages do indeed care for children, but unfortunately, many of those children have nowhere to go once they become adults. Children cannot stay in the orphanage forever, and with no parents to provide training, security, or any kind of help at all, these orphans simply age out of the system and leave with nowhere to go. According to the documentary, orphanage directors often tell pimps when an orphan is about to age out of the system. These pimps hang out around the orphanage and very quickly lure the orphans into slavery. "They just disappear...," a voice on the documentary says. "...Nobody cares about the orphan."
The booklet handed out to students before the start of the film revealed unbelievable statistics about the amount of women and children forced into sex trafficking. For instance, one statistic from Kevin Bales says that "27 million people are enslaved around the world." Now, my brain doesn't process numbers very well, and seeing a statistic on a page does not typically cause me to react or spring into action. However, when I see those intensely heartbreaking stories of human pain in front of me and then multiply each story by the number I see on the page, I suddenly understand that all of those numbers represent real lives. They represents real people who live in constant fear, real pain and guilt that won't go away, and real childhoods that will not be recovered.
Nefarious, though, does not leave its audience with a sense of futility. Rather, it ends with a call to action. For instance, it asks its viewers to pray. Last night, a friend of mine stated that "We always say that prayer is the least we can do, but really, it's the most powerful thing that we can do." Truly, human trafficking will not end without strong dedication to prayer. In addition, the documentary asks viewers to donate funds to causes involved in ending sex slavery and to do everything possible to raise awareness about this problem.
I would like to add one more thing to this list of things that we must to help the least of these. We must end the attitude that "nobody cares about the orphan." Children such as Maya will never have the opportunity of a real childhood or a healthy adulthood without somebody to love and to care for them. If you do determine that you will care about the orphan, though, you can give a child hope. You can rescue that child from a life of misery.
Finally, if you ever get the opportunity to watch Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, I would highly recommend doing so. The film will open your eyes to an issue that we cannot just turn our backs on.
"For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me."