The United Methodist Church in the Desert Southwest Conference became leaders in working against child sex trafficking by joining with what is now known as Nevadans for the Common Good. The coalition, which swelled dramatically as the topic became publicized, includes laity and clergy from dozens of Southern Nevada Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, and non-profits. The UMC has been in the forefront.
Together they took workshops on the depth of the problem to schools, churches, and other groups, sent emails to Nevada Assembly members and senators, worked with the police to develop their understanding of the problem, and publicized the issue in the press. Eventually their hard work was rewarded with the passing of Assembly Bill 67, which created the crime of sex trafficking (imagine, it wasn’t even a crime), and targeted those who participate. They continue to work on safe spaces and other issues around this horrible and growing crime.
As knowledge of child sex trafficking expanded in Southern Nevada, it inspired other areas of the Desert Southwest Conference to step up and get involved. It is well documented that children and teens are sold into sexual slavery during big sporting events. Since the Super Bowl was held in Phoenix in 2015, we had a great opportunity to publicize the issue in Arizona and even across the country. The UMC was in the forefront again as we worked with community leaders, and ecumenical groups to create a walk against sex trafficking around the area of the stadium during the weekend festivities. The press again was involved as various leaders, both lay and religious, spoke, but the most touching moment was when two victims came forward to share their stories.The fight continues as the DSC continues to work ecumenically to bring this vital issue to the forefront. This weekend we are meeting down on the border with ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, and again, another group of lay and clergy leaders from across the board.
We pray that by working together we can continue to enlighten our communities to the horrors our children and teens are facing, and bring new laws for the perpetrators and new help for the victims. Submitted by Rev. Pam Wagner, liaison, Desert Southwest Conference