The church and its witness
By Rev. Patrick D. Heery
“Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites.”
Reflection: Long ago, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. It’s a story still being lived out today, as 21 million people live and work in conditions of forced labor, many of them victims of human trafficking. The causes are intricate and global. But if there’s one thing to remember, it’s that we are a part of this story.
Each of us is caught in an economic web that demands cheap goods, objectifies bodies, and relies on the widening gap between the rich and the poor. We have looked the other way when it meant convenience and affordability. We have turned our backs on refugees, who have then fallen into the hands of traffickers. We have allowed millions of children to grow up in poverty and violence. Christian households and churches have taught the subordinate status of women, while children are kicked out of their homes for coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, and then made vulnerable to trafficking.
We, like Joseph’s brothers, sell the people we are supposed to love. We sell the people whose dreams do not match our own or whose dreams dare to ask more from the world than it has allotted.
Joseph dreamed a dream once, and it cost him his freedom. It doesn’t have to again. We have the power to be a part of a new story. This week, you’re going to read about efforts to identify and stop human trafficking in the Philippines. If peace is founded in vulnerability, relationship, and experience, then it is also built on witness. Peace is speaking out. It is telling others what we have heard and seen.
Action: Pray for and financially support all PC(USA) mission co-workers as they join global partners in education, prevention, and repatriation for victims of human trafficking. Consider using your congregation’s retained portion of the Peace & Global Witness Offering to do so. Visit presbyterianmission.org/mission-connections to learn more.
Prayer: O God who found and rescued Joseph, help us as we seek to put an end to modern-day slavery. Be with those who have lost their freedom. Give them comfort and justice. Amen.
Rev. Patrick D. Heery is the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Auburn, New York, and is the former editor of Presbyterians Today and Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice.
This year’s A Season of Peace resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues like human trafficking and sustainable development, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the days of this year’s A Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect on:
- Peace that passes understanding: personal testimonies of faith and peace within self, within families, within communities
- Partners in peace: interfaith work for peace and justice, building peace between us while witnessing to peace in our wider world
- Peacemaking and practice: stories and reflections on building bridges and crossing divides
- Go and see: reflections from travel study seminar participants
- The church and its witness: reflections on addressing trafficking in its varied forms
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 2, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 7.