This stunning statement was released by the FBI: “It’s sad but true: here in this country, people are being bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves. They are trapped in lives of misery—often beaten, starved, and forced to work as prostitutes or to take grueling jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay. We’re working hard to stop human trafficking—not only because of the personal and psychological toll it takes on society, but also because it facilitates the illegal movement of immigrants across borders and provides a ready source of income for organized crime groups and even terrorists.”[i]
Child trafficking is not only a public health problem, but it is also a horrendous and heinous clandestine activity that is threatening the fiber of our civilization. This practice transcends cultural and national boundaries although it is more endemic in some countries than in others. This is a global epidemic fostered by greed and an impudent disregard for human rights. The International Labor Organization describes child trafficking as “taking children out of their protective environment and preying on their vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation.” The ILO further claims that there are approximately between 980,000 to 1,225,000 children of both genders in forced labor situations across the world as a result of child trafficking.[ii] These are conservative statistics. The numbers could be higher.
Child trafficking occurs internally in countries, across national borders and across continents. It is closely interlinked with the demand for cheap, malleable and docile labor. Usually child trafficking is more rampant in sectors and among employers where work conditions and employee treatment grossly violates the human rights of the children. It is a cruel practice that requires stiff punishment for perpetrators. The children’s places of employment and sleeping quarters are often unacceptably dangerous and squalid, and extremely hazardous to their health and development. Forms of indentured labor include child domestic labor, commercial sexual exploitation and prostitution, drug couriering, and child soldiering as well as exploitative and slavery-like practices in the informal industrial sector. UNICEF has programs such as End Trafficking, Every Child Counts and many others that need our support including lobbying governments, working with communities, and supporting training of professionals working with children rescued from child trafficking. The risk factors for the perpetration of this practice are many, but we can win this battle through a concerted effort, incrementally; one step at a time. The Bible says that children are a heritage from the Lord… a reward from Him (Psalm 127:3). Common sense tells us that squandering an inheritance is one sure way to court poverty.
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[i] Federal Bureau of Investigation (2014). Human Trafficking. Accessed from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/civilrights/human_trafficking
[ii] International Labour Organization (2014). Trafficking in Children. Accessed from http://ilo.org/ipec/areas/Traffickingofchildren/lang–en/index.htm
The development of the behavior of a human being is shaped by the interplay among parental practices, dietary habits, cultural practices as well as congenital characteristics. A novel contributor to behavioral development has been identified by scientists in the form of epigenetic inheritance, which is a process of transmitting parental phenotypic responses caused by the challenges of their environment to subsequent generations, according to Lawrence V. Harper in his article, Epigenetic Inheritance and the Intergenerational Transfer of Experience. This transfer can happen even when the offspring themselves may not be directly exposed to the same environmental challenges their parents faced because although the genetic inheritance may not have been altered the expression of the genes has. For example, environmental challenges such as maternal exposure to stressful events during the late stage of a daughter’s gestation is likely to have an adverse effect on the physical development of the daughter as well as that of the daughter’s offspring. Genes and the environment tend to co-act in the behavioral development of an individual so that phenotypic adjustments to environmental events in one generation can result in alterations in the phenotype of the subsequent generation.
Alcohol abuse is an environmental factor which scientists claim is capable of altering epigenetic signatures and gene expression. According to research by Wong and associates even a short-term abuse of a substance such as alcohol has been found to produce long-term epigenetic alterations via DNA methylation as well as histone modification. Epigenetics alterations of gene expression, in such cases, further increase the craving for more alcohol abuse in future, which in turn, increases epigenetic changes. Sadly, exposures to substance abuse by one generation can influence and impact the following generation as well. A research report by Walden and associates in their article, Trajectories of Change in Adolescent Substance Use and Symptomatology: Impact of Paternal and Maternal Use Disorders, suggests that both “paternal and maternal drug use had an addictive effect on the offspring’s drug use trajectory…” What this means is that exposure to substance abuse fosters transmissible epigenetic changes which are passed on to the offspring’s behavioral and physiological development. Because of these findings many are calling for policy enactment and educational campaigns by public health professionals and allied health professionals to spread the awareness among the general public about the inter-generational impact of drug abuse during their adolescent and childbearing phases of life. In epigenetics we inherit more than genes from our parents.
Scripture teaches us that we have a responsibility to keep our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. The Bible also shows us that our personal choices do not only affect us, but that they have a ripple effect that can affect our offspring either positively or negatively. Our sinful indulgences have a tendency to visit our subsequent generations with adverse consequences unless until they are mitigated by the Blood of the Lamb (Romans 5:19).