“Intercepting” Human Traffickers at the Super Bowl

Date Posted: 1/26/2017

For over a decade United Methodist Women have used high profile sporting events to raise awareness of human trafficking – and efforts are underway to do so again in Houston in February and there are numerous ways to help.
 
Sporting events like the 51st Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 5, in HoustonHoustonHoustonHouston are a prime time for the trafficking of sex workers as well as those forced to work in food and cleaning services according to www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/intercept. As an act of social justice, this organization of over 800,000 women, has launched a number of “visibility” campaigns over the last decade in support of “investing in the young” in dramatic ways. One year, UMW members joined the “Intercept the Traffickers” photo campaign and opened their umbrellas to form a “virtual line of defense” around the stadium, symbolizing protection and hope for those victimized by this modern-day slavery.
 
(An estimated 20.9 million people worldwide are trafficked in what is described as the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world, according to a UMW fact sheet, which can be found at www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/human-trafficking.)
Those in Houston during the 2017 Super Bowl are urged to “Box ‘Em Up” this year by helping create a virtual barricade of boxes which have parallels to football and symbolic meanings related to this crime.
 
“In the Box” Theme and Resources
The phrase "in the box" is used when the defense puts its players in a rectangular formation to stop the offensive team's run play or confuse the offense. The symbolism applies in that it's like being in a situation where the odds are stacked against you, but you use your strongest defense to overcome what is facing you. This phrase could also apply to real life when going above and beyond to prevent something from happening. 
 
When it comes to human trafficking, United Methodist Women want to help gain control of the game. Women across the globe aim to stack the box against them, to intercept their game and to box 'em up for prosecution. In similar fashion, the box can be opened for the survivors who have been boxed into a life full of despair where they come to believe there are no possibilities for escape.
 
Those victimized by human trafficking can also feel as though they are in a box. The causes of trafficking are complex, but at its root is a globalized economy resulting in poverty that contributes to joblessness, inequality, discrimination and violence around the world. Children and youth are at risk of traffickers because of homelessness, the lack of stability in their living situations, or the juvenile justice system.
 
“This is a natural cause for UMW to champion,” says coordinator Susie Johnson, “because women and girls fall prey to traffickers who take advantage of their economic and social vulnerabilities by promising a job, education, or better life.  Instead, we are called to faithfulness, to respond by acting out the command to love one another. We can never prevent all the exploitation of traffickers or their control over the lives of those they traffic, but we can bring attention that might help intercept them. We can stop the treatment of people as cargo or commodities. We can be the hands that lift the trafficked out of the box of their oppressors into a place where souls are fed and a new life exists. In doing so, we all will be transformed.”
 
For a downloadable Super Bowl campaign bulletin, flyer and postcards are available at http://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/intercept.
 
Join the Virtual Barricade of Boxes
Stacking the boxes will symbolize United Methodist Women intercepting the traffickers who bind the vulnerable within boxes of imprisonment. These boxes also demonstrate commitment to be in communion with survivors of trafficking. As the United Nations has observed, "Addressing human trafficking cuts across all fundamental issues… It is about human rights, peace and security, development and family health. In the most basic sense, it is about preserving the fabric of society."
What You Can Do:
Join our virtual barricade of boxes with open boxes, closed boxes, and tied boxes. All kinds of boxes can be held, decorated, stacked, left open or sealed – for stacking or holding in a photo. Get a box to symbolically:
                Box up those who hurt and harm.
                Box up the criminal traffickers.
                Box up laws that criminalize the victims.
 
Decorate a box.
 
Keep your box open as a sign of invitation and hope for survivors.
 
Decorate an open box as a symbol of a doorway to new opportunities and to the openness of your heart to receive survivors with love and grace.
 
Stack the boxes to represent United Methodist Women acting in solidarity with others to intercept the traffickers and to block trafficking criminals from survivors, be they women, men, girls and boys seeking a future of promise.
 
Stack the boxes up to build a wall of boxes.
 
Organize a flash mob of box holders UMW-style.
 
Build a fence of boxes.
 
Join your boxes in a partnership event with organizations headed by women from different cultural or faith communities.
 
Join your boxes in an event with local football teams or your local business community.
 
Send Your Photos
Those who won’t be there are asked to send photos of their UMW group members holding boxes with the message “We are United Methodist Women working to box up human traficking.” Use #UMWBoxEmUP  to share your photos and show how Methodists help to intercept human trafficking by raising awareness that this crime affects families and communities everywhere. For picture ideas, visit www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/intercept.
 
Send your pictures to your conference communicators to share on conference websites and in newsletters.
 
Share on social media. Tag United Methodist Women on Facebook or Twitter (@UMWomen) and use #UMWBoxEmUP wherever you share.
 
If you would prefer e-mailing your photos, send them as attachments to the United Methodist Women Flickr account: lead02whose@photos.flickr.com. Please include the caption and credit information in the body of your email.