The Edmond Sun

January 22, 2013

Candlelight vigil to honor victims of human trafficking

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month


The Edmond Sun

OKLAHOMA CITY — In observance of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the Oklahoma Human Trafficking Task Force invites all Oklahomans to attend a Candlelight Vigil to honor the Victims of Human Trafficking at 6 p.m. Friday at the South Plaza of the Oklahoma State Capitol Building. Battery-operated candles and blue pin-on ribbons will be available for participants.

Cindy Lankford, wife of U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Edmond, will open the event with a prayer, followed by Emily Elkins of LifeChurch with “Amazing Grace.”

Attorney General Scott Pruitt will present a proclamation from Gov. Mary Fallin, followed by Wilma Lively of Day Spring Villa, speaking on behalf of victims. Pastor Mark Crow of Victory Church will close the vigil in prayer.

The Oklahoma City Mayor’s Office will illuminate the Skydance Bridge in the color blue in observance of the Vigil and Human Trafficking Awareness color.

“According to experts, there are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in human history,” said Major Leisa Hall, Divisional Secretary for Women’s Ministries with The Salvation Army Arkansas/Oklahoma. “Free the Slaves conservatively estimates there are 27 million men, women and children in slavery at any given time. Eighty percent of all victims are female, and half of them are children. The victims of human trafficking are trapped in a life of misery … often beaten, starved, and forced to work as prostitutes or taken to grueling jobs and forced to work for little or no pay.

“Human trafficking is a $32 billion a year industry, second only to drugs as the largest criminal enterprise in the world. Shockingly, the average entry age for trafficked victims in the sex industry is 12-14 years old. Even here in America, our nation’s sons and daughters are being forced to work as sex slaves and we need ... help to get the word out.”

President Barack Obama called attention to human trafficking in a recent proclamation.

“This month, we rededicate ourselves to stopping one of the greatest human rights abuses of our time,” the proclamation states. “Around the world, millions of men, women and children are bought, sold, beaten and abused, locked in compelled service and hidden in darkness. They toil in factories and fields; in brothels and sweatshops; at sea, abroad, and at home. They are the victims of human trafficking — a crime that amounts to modern-day slavery. As Americans, we have long rejected such cruelty. We have recognized it as a debasement of our common humanity and an affront to the principles we cherish. And for more than a century, we have made it a national mission to bring slavery and human trafficking to an end.”

Suzi Hanson, OATH (Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans) Coalition volunteer, said Oklahoma is one of the top states in the nation for human trafficking.

“Geographically, Oklahoma is the crossroads of the nation; we have three major interstates that run right through the heart of our state,” Hanson said. “Traffickers are driving through our state every day. Human Trafficking is an issue of vulnerability and Oklahoma is in the top for all the wrong things — teenage pregnancy, teenage homelessness, child abuse to name a few, and we are in the bottom for the wrong things as well — 49th in education and according to the last census, we were 46th in per capita income. If you are a bad guy looking for vulnerable, broken, hurting, young girls, Oklahoma is the place to be.”

Three other events highlighting human trafficking are upcoming.

The OATH (Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans) fundraising luncheon will be from 11:45 a.m. to 1  p.m. at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City. Miss Oklahoma 2012 Alicia Clifton will emcee the luncheon, where attendees will learn more about human trafficking and how it relates to Oklahoma. A survivor of human trafficking, trafficked here in Oklahoma, will share her story.

An online discussion on providing services to runaway youth and victims of human trafficking will be at 11 a.m. Jan. 22. Go to ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum/asp/participate.asp for instructions on how to participate.

A Community Summit on Human Trafficking will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4, with registration beginning at 9:30 a.m., at a location to be announced.