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Ky. convention to hotels: Fight human trafficking

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — The Kentucky Baptist Convention will not do business with hotels that fail to train employees to recognize and report human trafficking, KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood announced Sept. 21.

Chitwood set forth the convention’s position in a letter to potential vendors and listed several resources for free training.

Among the list is the Kentucky attorney general’s office, which announced Sept. 20 a partnership that will seek to offer human trafficking training to Kentucky’s commercial drivers and truck-stop employees.

The Kentucky convention, the state’s largest religious organization encompassing a church membership of 750,000, intends for its internal policy to encourage corporate partners to provide employees with human trafficking awareness education.

Advocacy groups say human trafficking is a $32 billion industry that ensnares about 27 million people worldwide, with 46 percent of traffickers known by — or even relatives of — the victims. Some children as young as 2 months old have been victims of sexual exploitation. Children are twice as likely as adults to be trafficked, with the average girl groomed for prostitution being between 12 and 14 years old.

“That isn’t prostitution. It’s human trafficking,” Chitwood said.

“Going forward, our intention is that we will forego business with hotels that don’t participate in this training,” he said.

Attorney General Andy Beshear told the KBC’s Kentucky Today news website, “Part of my mission as AG is to protect and seek justice for victims of abuse, including individuals being sold for sex or labor.”

Beshear noted, “Whether it’s the trucking industry, the faith-based community or other law enforcement agencies, we must work together to help all Kentuckians recognize the signs of human trafficking.”

He said some Kentuckians do not believe trafficking occurs in the state, or if it does, it only happens in urban areas to non-citizens. While the numbers in Kentucky may be considerably smaller, the situation is no less startling.

“We need to help all Kentuckians recognize the signs of human trafficking and make them aware that it exists in every county in Kentucky,” Beshear said.

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, more incidents of human trafficking reported in Kentucky occurred at a hotel or motel than at any other location.

Such venues are favored by traffickers because of the anonymity of paying in cash and the ease of relocating the illicit operation night after night.

Chitwood said the convention wants to “partner with hotels that have taken steps to prevent human trafficking, establishments that exemplify great corporate citizenship, and are ready to put a stop to the use of hotels for criminal activity.”

KBC staffer Kristen Drake said, “As Christians, we must not stop at making others aware of these injustices. We must take action and fight for the freedom and restoration of victims.”

Drake was key in creating an upcoming workshop for Kentucky Baptist churches to not only learn about human trafficking but also to discover ways they can be a changing force.

The one-day workshop, sponsored by the Kentucky convention, will be Oct. 22 at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Louisville.

Andrew Dyer, president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said the state’s Baptists “are committed to standing with the ones the Bible calls the least of these.”

“We want to consistently be a voice for the ones who have no voice, whether it be the unborn, or in this case, the victims of human trafficking,” Dyer, pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in London, Ky., told the Kentucky Baptist newsjournal Western Recorder.

In addition to bringing awareness to the situation, Dyer said, “We want to bring real hope to lives. Obviously that only comes through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, we want to be about anything we can do to point people to Him.”

In November, messengers to the KBC annual meeting are slated to vote on a human trafficking resolution.