Panel discussion to raise awareness of human trafficking on June 10

The Metro Coalition of Congregations (MCC) and Michigan Abolitionist Project (MAP) are co-hosting a Human Trafficking Awareness and Advocacy Event on Monday, June 10, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Troy Community Center, 3179 Livernois in Troy.

The free event will give the community resources to join with abolitionists across the state in ending human trafficking. The meeting will also outline concrete steps towards action at the local and state levels.

The evening will feature a panel of experts, including: State Sen. Judy Emmons (R-33); Brad Riley, iEmpathize, founder and president; Kathy Maitland, MAP, SE Michigan director; Lt. Wendy Reyes, Oakland County Sheriff's Office; Dr. Bonita Laudeman, Light Ministries. There will also be a short video showing a local teen's story of being kidnapped, trafficked and rescued.

"The first hurdle is changing people's perception of human trafficking. If we want to impact human trafficking, we must raise awareness that it is happening right here in our neighborhoods," said John Burow, pastor Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Clawson and co-chair of MCC's Human Trafficking Task Force.

Burow stressed that "the time for action is now," with Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's newly formed Commission on Human Trafficking researching the issue and state legislation currently being drafted.

"Whenever we think human trafficking is only happening somewhere else, whenever law enforcement looks at someone who is arrested for prostitution as a criminal and not a victim, whenever people patronize strip clubs or pornography--we are feeding the beast," said Burow.

Reyes, who also sits on the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking, said it is up to an engaged community to put a stop to the crime, "Victims of human trafficking do not self report as victims of car theft, robbery and assault would--if you don't go look for them you won't find them."

The event is being hosted by Embassy Covenant Church International (Troy, MI). The MCC will follow the forum with a training about upcoming legislation and how to engage elected officials and law enforcement on Monday, July 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.

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Published: Wed, Jun 5, 2013