Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking at the University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Presented at Second Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, October 2010. Copyright 2010 Sarabeth Harrelson.


As awareness of trafficking in persons (TIP) and contemporary slavery has grown over the past twenty years, so has the number of organizations forming the modern abolition movement. From vast international organizations like the United Nations (UN) to local rehabilitation centers working with four to five trafficking victims in Nepal, organizations vary drastically in their mission, size, range of influence, and perspective. Among non-governmental organizations (NGO), common activities include raising awareness and financial support, researching TIP, providing victims services, and advocating for specific policy outcomes at local, national, and international levels. Further complicating the relationship between all of these organizations is the fact that many of the NGOs working to end modern slavery are faithbased (FBNGO). The role of FBNGOs in general is unclear and often contested within the UN and conservative Christian groups in the United States have been accused of using the modern abolition movement to pass restrictive legislation unrelated to TIP. Intertwining a religious mandate with their purpose, FBNGOs are sometimes seen as mavericks unconcerned with anything other than their narrowly defined mission and unwilling to compromise in order to work with others. However, many FBNGOs provide a sense of legitimacy within their community at large, motivation, wisdom, and a great wealth of human and financial resources. Exploring the role of FBNGOs in the anti-slavery initiative is a significant goal in terms of difficulty but also of importance. FBNGOs have already had a massive impact on the way in which TIP and slavery have been conceptualized and their voice is likely to grow stronger in the coming years. They have the potential to become frustrating obstacles, quarrelsome adversaries, or powerful allies. This paper provides insight into the motivations, systems, and goals of anti-trafficking FBNGOs, identifying both weaknesses to be addressed and best practices to be encouraged and replicated.