Here is the link. Here is her story.
[UMNS-ALL-NEWS] UMNS# 413-Human trafficking becomes ecumenical target
From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Fri, 3 Oct 2008 17:10:48 -0500
>Human trafficking becomes ecumenical target
>Oct. 3, 2008
NOTE: Photographs and a related story are available at
>By Linda Bloom*
NEW YORK (UMNS) - When Rani Hong was 7 years old, she was sold to a
child broker in India, subjected to beatings and starvation, and
eventually sold again to an illegal international adoption network.
Her story has a happy ending: her adoptive American mother, unaware of
what had happened to her, showered her with love. But she has no kind
words for the abductors who kept her from her family and her country.
"They changed my name, my birthdate, my age ... all in the name of
profit," she said.
Hong was among the speakers offering perspectives on the complex issue
of human trafficking during a Sept. 29-Oct. 1 ecumenical conference at
the United Methodist-owned Church Center for the United Nations.
The conference was sponsored by the Justice for Women Working Group of
the National Council of Churches and the Women's Division, United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The event drew 70 registered
participants, including young women, representing 15 denominations,
according to the Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, the NCC's program director for
"I believe the ripple effect of networking that happened at the
conference will create countless results," Tiemeyer told United
Methodist News Service, "from the simplest action of one participant on
Sunday morning sharing information with a friend sitting next to them in
the pew, to a more coordinated ecumenical advocacy partnerships to
challenge, change and create local, state and national laws that will
Hong and her husband, Trong Hong, have established the Tronie Foundation
to promote education about human trafficking, lobby for policy changes
and assist survivors. Trong Hong witnessed acts of murder and torture as
a child among the Vietnamese "boat people." Both of their stories have
been featured on television on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
Rani Hong did not learn the full circumstances of her abduction until
she found her birth mother when she was 28 years old. She spoke about
how child brokers trick mothers or fathers into giving up their
children. "They don't see the good in a person. All they can see is a
commodity-something that can be sold over and over and over again," she
According to the Polaris Project, "an estimated 17,500 foreign nationals
are trafficked annually in the United States alone. The number of U.S.
citizens trafficked within the country is even higher. An estimated
200,000 American children are at high risk for trafficking into the sex
industry each year."
>Interviewed 65 women
Helene Hayes, a Roman Catholic Sister of the Good Shepherd, has done
extensive research of how women are sold again and again in the sex
trafficking trade. The social policy analyst has traveled to Southeast
Asia, Europe, Saipan and parts of the United States to interview 65
trafficked women for an upcoming book.
Her direct quotes from some of those women are sobering:
"Being obligated to have forced sex, you are nothing. You are only
>"I complied because I did not want to die."
"One of the girls jumped from a building and died and I envied her."
The women spoke to her, Hayes told conference participants, because
"they know in a very deep, incisive way that silence will seal the fate
of other trafficked women from around the world."
Calling trafficking a modern form of slavery, she believes that showing
trafficked women as "full human beings" through her book is a first step
in solving the problem.
A less recognized form of human trafficking exists among agricultural
workers, according to Virginia Nesmith, executive director of the
National Farm Worker Ministry and a member of the United Church of
Noting that the United States has 2 to 3 million farm workers, she said
"the great majority (of workers) are immigrants and so they are among
the vulnerable populations for enslavement."
In September, five residents of Immokalee, Fla., pleaded guilty to
enslaving more than a dozen Mexican and Guatemalan workers by holding
them on family property, beating and chaining them and forcing them to
work in farm fields in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. In
another recent case, a family was picking up homeless men in Florida,
providing them with drugs, and then forcing them to work in farm fields.
Farm workers are often hidden down isolated dirt roads, out of view to
the general public. "The first time I saw a slave camp, I didn't realize
until later what it was," Nesmith said.
>Face of trafficking
United Methodist Women has addressed the issue of human trafficking,
including child labor, for the past few years, according to Glory
Dharmaraj, a Women's Division executive. "Increasingly, we feel the face
of global migration is female, the face of poverty is female ... and now
I sense the face of human trafficking is female," she said.
The U.S. State Department estimates that 80 percent of trafficking
victims are female and about half are under 18 years old.
Dharmaraj will explore the possibility of future UMW trainings to create
awareness of trafficking and work with law enforcement agencies as the
organization continues its mission "to stand in solidarity with the
least of these who do not have an advocate."
The true scope of the human trafficking problem is difficult to assess
because statistical information has not been compiled over the years,
according to Laura Lederer, senior director for Global Projects on
Trafficking in Persons at the State Department.
Although an estimated 1.1 million people are trafficked across
international borders each year, including more than 14,000 across U.S.
borders, "that doesn't take into account the internal trafficking," she
said, noting that as many as 20 to 25 million could be enslaved
"Ending this contemporary form of slavery is a priority for the United
States," Lederer said. "We had to have a law that reached the whole
pipeline of activity."
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, also called TVPA, takes
a victim-centered approach, she said. The congressional legislation
increased penalties to traffickers from 5 years to 20 years to life and
mandated the creation of an interagency government task force that meets
annually and a policy group that meets quarterly. "It created the
political will at the very top levels," she explained.
The State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in
Persons assesses and rates 194 countries annually "to tell the world"
whether problems of trafficking are being addressed. Those who lag on
the issue risk losing funding from the United States. Task forces
coordinated by the Department of Justice link federal and local law
enforcement officers to pursue traffickers.
>Rescue & Restore
"Rescue & Restore," a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, helps identify and assist victims of human trafficking, and
the Department of Labor will issue a list of products made with child or
Survivors of trafficking "have a great deal to offer" in tackling the
problem, Lederer pointed out. One survivor returned to India with law
enforcement officers and led them to a brothel where she had been hidden
behind a wall, at the age of 11, during police raids. "They opened that
wall and found a dozen more children that day," Lederer said. "They were
able to rescue them."
Carol Smolenski, a longtime advocate of trafficking survivors, said she
is optimistic about the new laws, programs and support services now
As one of the founders of ECPAT-USA in 1991, which now stands for "End
Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for
Sexual Purposes," she believes the legislation passed in 2003-which
makes it possible to prosecute American sex tourists when they return to
the United States-is a helpful deterrent. ECPAT-USA also promotes a code
of conduct for the travel industry.
Problems remain at the state level, Smolenski said, where child
prostitutes under age 18 are simply labeled as "bad kids" and arrested
and prosecuted rather than helped. "They're not seen as victims of
trafficking," she explained. "They're not seen as children in need of
At its Sept. 22 governing board meeting, the NCC approved a resolution
on human trafficking endorsing the conference and encouraging member
communions to further educate congregations about the issue and to
advocate for policies and practices to end human trafficking.
The 2008 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's top
legislative body, approved a resolution calling for the abolition of
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or