What I Saw in Thailand: Thoughts of a Modern Day Abolitionist

{Guest Post by Jessica Sweigert} 

Slavery is not abolished. Yes, I said it. 

Throughout the 1800s, papers were signed globally that would prohibit the ownership of humans and putting a mere price tag to these souls. I can attest to you that what I just witnessed affirms that slavery is still in this world today, and it is running rampant. Throughout the past two weeks, I watched slavery happen firsthand. The depravity of this injustice is severely undermined.


What I witnessed in Thailand is nothing short of modern day slavery. My heart was broken for this cause before I left America. As a criminal justice and counseling major in college, my heart began to mold with passion for these victims and people groups. I began learning about how human trafficking looks different throughout the world. I was disgusted at what I learned is happening in our world. In Uganda, young children are being kidnapped and forced to join the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to fight as child soldiers. They are often raped and used as sex toys for those in authority of them. In California, workers are being moved from other countries to work in sweatshops where they are underpaid, malnourished, abused, and convinced that coming to America would be the beginning of a beautiful, new life. They soon realize how wrong they are. Across the world, men, women, and young children are being transported to different countries and sold for erotic acts under the ownership of pimps.


I spent ten days traveling throughout Thailand. While it was a short time, it was long enough for my heart to be broken at the injustice that is happening and be moved to action. The first half of the trip was spent in the area that is known as the sex tourism capital of the world. This location is Pattaya, Thailand. On Trip Advisor, it is referred to as “The Best of Thailand.” Each night, thousands of tourists and men flood what is known as “The Walking Street.” On this road, hundreds of brothels, strip clubs, bars, and discotheques are on top of one another. Women stand outside flaunting what they might offer as hustlers approach you with a menu and list of prices for each woman and the erotic act. These hustlers, too, are most likely under the ownership of a pimp and being trafficked. Older, white (predominantly Western/Russian/European) men walked hand in hand with young Thai girls. Many of the women were younger than me. Some appeared to be not much older than early adolescence. We saw young boys along the streets with their fathers, as they took their sons to lose their virginity and “step into manhood.” It did not take long as we walked down this road for me to realize that I could not simply ignore this injustice. I repeatedly heard the words echoed in my head, 


My heart pounded and it took every ounce in my inmost being not to walk up to one of the women and speak this truth to them.

You are worth infinitely more than the number on the sign you are holding and you are a child of God.

The voice was almost audible in my head. The brokenness I was seeing was what I told myself I was passionate about for a long time. In the matter of an hour’s time, it had become a reality. Sex tourism is real. 
Human trafficking is real.
These human beings are held bondage.
Slavery is real.

Since seeing this injustice firsthand, the question has been prompted in my own life: Am I an abolitionist? Or am I apathetic? Why is the difference important?


The abolition of this injustice is not going to happen with just one abolitionist. It might not even happen with one million abolitionists. However, these lives can be impacted one by one. I did not only see brokenness in my time overseas, rather, I saw hope abounding all the more clearly. These abolitionists fighting on behalf of these humans offer them hope. They are offered restoration. They show the women and children that “it doesn’t have to be this way.” They love the survivors in the midst of their hurt. They show the survivors the love of their Creator. One rescued soul at a time has the opportunity to know the hope and love of Jesus Christ.

Apathy is not enough for what is happening. We need empathy, and more importantly, we need abolitionists. One too many people jump on the “awareness” campaign. Awareness is not bad, but in our culture, people are aware. American society has an overall understanding that human trafficking is wrong. What they lack is a mere understanding of how deep the issue runs. We need more who are willing to actively pursue abolition rather than surface level awareness. Those who know hope should be willing to share this hope. Those who know freedom should be more willing to fight for the freedom of others. Those who know the love of Christ should be driven to love others like Christ.


In the midst of a situation so severe, one must know that God sees this injustice. He understands the depth of the situation better than we ever could. God is a just God, and He is also a sovereign God. This situation that is happening may be beyond our own control, but it is not beyond His. He knows and loves the victims more than we ever could. I rest in the truth that God is sovereign, God is just, and God offers hope. This hope is something worth sharing. In this hope, slaves will be free.


As an undergraduate senior, Jessica is pursuing degrees in counseling and criminal justice. Her natural habitat is a cute coffee shop, pen, paper, and chai-tea latte in hand. She loves to process life’s adventures and lessons through writing. If she is not there, she might also be found hiking, shopping, running, or seeking out beautiful views. Jessica has a new found, avid passion for experiencing different cultures and trying new things. She has not been everywhere, but she hopes to be someday. Most importantly, she is passionate about knowing her Savior and making Him known.
Click here to read more on her own blog.

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