Friday Five: Charles Powell

December 9, 2011

Earlier this week I posted a review of Kathi Macias’ explosive new novel that puts a human face on human trafficking here in America. It’s a book I encouraged every believer to read.

Today, I continue the discussion about human trafficking with an interview of Charles Powell, coauthor with Dillon Burroughs of Not in My Town (also published by New Hope).

Charles is a justice activist, film producer, conference speaker, and founder of Mercy Movement, a grassroots movement to abolish human trafficking and slavery. Over the past three decades Charles has been trained in counterterrorism and police investigation, worked as a bodyguard for royalty, and lived undercover during the war on drugs. He now uses his unique background to investigate and stop modern slavery in the US and beyond. Powell lives in Northeast Georgia.

Not in My Town not only exposes the scourge of human trafficking in our midst, it also gives practical ways to fight it. Charles was kind enough to stop by for today’s Friday Five:

 

Why did you decide to write about human trafficking and modern slavery? 

Not In My Town tells the whole truth about human trafficking in the US that most Americans have yet to hear about and then absorb. The book’s main theme is best described as a two year odyssey of discovery of America’s ugliest crime: modern-day slavery. Dillon Burroughs provides the research and I investigate the problem up close and often undercover. Our research has revealed that, for the most part, the Evangelical church is peacefully co-existing with trafficking in their town. Even though some may say, “Not in my town.”

It’s hard for most Americans to grasp that this is taking place in our own communities. How can it possibly happen here? 

Most people don’t know that this problem is right under their noses, while others do not believe that it exists. Still others are just unaffected by slavery; they don’t want to know about it. The two responses I get from people when I speak in churches is (1) “This is horrible… How can I join the fight against human trafficking?,” and (2) “I don’t want to hear anymore about this – it’s more than I can handle.”

I have been amazed at how the evangelical church in the US is often peacefully co-existing with human trafficking in its communities. Christians drive their cars past brothels disguised as massage parlors, billboards promoting Asian spas and read the Sunday paper sports sections containing ads for strip clubs. We have made peace with our enemy rather than standing against the evil of human trafficking close to home.

It seems there are real challenges to prosecuting the traffickers. Why is that? 

There are many reasons, including that law enforcement is often not trained to detect trafficking crimes, human trafficking laws vary greatly from state-to-state, and most human trafficking laws are relatively new and have had very little implementation. A few cases are beginning to take place, yet fail to account for even one percent of the traffickers in America. The real change is taking place by everyday citizens standing up to do something to help.

Why isn’t this issue discussed more in our political debates? You’d think it would be something as important as the prolife issue.

Politicians tend to follow what gets attention. When human trafficking is front page news on major newspapers or the public demands attention, politicians will address it more. Regardless of party affiliation, politicians tend to act on what their audience considers top priority.

What can ordinary Americans do to get involved in stopping human trafficking? 

(1) Pray for me and Dillon Burroughs and all the volunteers at the Mercy Movement. Our work can be dangerous. (2) Buy Not In My Town to learn about the problem of human trafficking in the US. (3) Give generously to the Mercy Movement because our work, especially travel, is necessary yet costly. Those who help with our work literally help us bring attention to this issue in a way that is saving lives and takes a clear stand against modern slavery.