JadeRider Journeys

Archive for March, 2011

IJM: Humanitarian Activists Deliver Letter to President Obama

by on Mar.31, 2011, under 2011, Abolition, Freedom

This is a letter that IJM (International Justice Ministry) sent to me, as one of the 21,000 co-signers, as a follow up to the petition that IJM members sent to President Barak Obama, calling for the eradication of modern day slavery. By joining organizations such as IJM and the NotForSale campaign, you too can make a difference.

Dear Carlos,

Thank you for joining with IJM and calling on President Obama to make the eradication of modern-day slavery a priority for his Administration. Last week, I had the honor of delivering our letter – signed by you and nearly 21,000 other modern-day abolitionists! – to Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director at the National Security Council. Ms. Smith is responsible for global development and IJM - Holly Burkhalter - Thank you videoWatch a special thank you from Holly Burkhalter >>

humanitarian assistance issues for the Obama Administration, and has been a leading voice on foreign aid reform. I talked with her about how we can secure more resources for combating slavery around the world, especially in the context of proposed deep cuts in U.S. foreign aid.

Ms. Smith told me, “It is amazing that when there’s so much going on in our own country,21,000 Americans want the President to know that they care about trafficking victims abroad.” She said that the strong bipartisan support around the country is very important to confronting slavery.

Your help does make a difference. Thanks in part to those of you who supported this effort last year, the President requested an increase of $400,000 more for the Trafficking in Persons office in 2012 over his request for the previous year. Having been active in the human rights field for twenty-five years, I am increasingly aware that building the political will to protect the most vulnerable among us requires an active constituency of people who care enough to speak up to those in power. Thank you for raising your voice on behalf of children, women and men who are living in bondage. IJM greatly appreciates your partnership in this work.


Holly J. Burkhalter

Vice President for Government Relations


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Modern Day Abolitionists get a new tool for fight for freedom.

by on Mar.29, 2011, under 2011


Today, those concerned with fighting for the freedom of the estimated 27,000,000 people enslaved around the world get a new tool.  While the media typically focuses on sex trafficking, and often equates it with human trafficking, a larger segment of those who are exploited and enslaved is accounted for by labor trafficking.  Yet, up until now, the average Joe, and Jane, on the street has not had a quick and easy way to make informed decisions when it comes to spending money in ways that have the potential to create pressure points towards fair labor practices.  Consumers have also not had an easy way to know if the materials used by manufactures come from supply chains that are clean, and accurately accounted for.  For example, when buying chocolate, how do you know if the cocoa beans used by the manufacturer were harvested by child slaves in Africa, or if they come from a fair trade supply chain?  How do you know if the shoes you are about to buy were put together in a sweat shop, under atrocious and exploitative conditions?  After all, the products are delivered to us in nice, and fancy wrappers, at clean stores, or by a friendly delivery driver who is the last link in an online purchasing front with glitzy graphics.
With the release of the Free2Work app into the Android market, the Free2Work arm of the NotForSale campaign starts the process of pealing off the fancy storefronts and providing buyers the necessary tools to make informed decisions.  This app, which was previously only available form iphones, puts at the finger tips of consumers an increasing amount of information about products and manufacturers that can quickly be accessed at the point of purchase.  For example, when buying chocolate at the grocery store, you can quickly pull up the records for Mars candy, owner of Milky Way and M&M’s, and find out that it is rated D-, as it fails to demand visibility into the supply chain from the processors from whom it buys its cocoa.   Same is true for Godive.  In contrast, Divine Chocolate gets a B+, since it is owned by a Ghanaiian cooperative that produces its cocoa, and its one the few companies able to source ethical cocoa supplies in West Africa.
Like the example above, consumers can make decision on shoes, flowers, jewelery, toys, and electronics, just to name a few.
The abolition of modern day slavery is a hard and complex process, but enabling consumers to ethically, and wisely spend their money can create enough incentives for companies that would otherwise continue to operate in the dark.
For more information visit http://www.free2work.org/ and http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/.  The Android app, available for Android phones and tablets is downloadable  directly to you device via the market place application, or by visiting https://market.android.com/
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Open Letter to the mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, and Houston City Council

by on Mar.22, 2011, under 2011

RE:  Human Trafficking during Final Four

City Council  March 22 2011
Good afternoon Mayor  Parker and members of Houston City Council 

The link between major sporting events, such as the SuperBowl, The Rider Cup, NBA finals etc. and the increase in human trafficking into the cities that host these events has been a major concern for the abolitionist and humanitarian community.  As thousands of fans flood the hosting cities, human traffickers take advantage of the increase in market demand and move their captives into the area, to reap the dark benefits of their trade.a
The Dallas SuperBowl last year provided the general public with significant exposure about this issue, but this has been a concern in the abolitionist community for at least 5 years, since it became apparent during the 2006 World cup.
Houston is about to become the center stage of yet another sporting event, the Final Four.  With an expected 75,000 in attendance, the conditions are here once again to create a spike in human trafficking into Houston with the result of countless to acts of rape,  and abuse being perpetrated against women, boys, girls.
In the last week I have seen the media reports and the efforts that the city has put forward to highlight all the good things that our city has to offer, and the financial and tax benefits that the city will reap from this event.
However, I have also become painfully aware of the total silence surrounding the impact that this event has on Human Trafficking, and how it is hitting Houston’s own backyards.
It has been mind blowing to witness the lack of responsiveness from the media and from city offices when this issue has been brought to their attention.  One has to wonder if people really understand this problem.
I am here today to ask each of you to become a leader in our community, and to engage the media in creating an elevated state of awareness of the dark and inhumane impacts that Final Four, and others like it have on hosting cities.  Fighting crime, any crime, is a more effective endeavor when the community is involved and can help point cases out to the authorities.
You, mayor Parker and Houston City Council, still have time to stand up and say, “Yes The Final Four will bring this city huge benefits in business and taxes, but lets also become aware of undesired side effects. Lets fight these negative effects together.  This is what you can do, as a member of this community to spare men, women, boys and girls from the horrors of human trafficking and modern day slavery.”
It can all start with a very well planned press conference. Furthermore, we are asking you to announce during that conference that you have passed a Zero-Tolerance Resolution on Human Trafficking during Final Four.

If Houston was ashamed, not to long ago, of being labelled the Fattest City in the United States,  it should be infinitely more vexed of being known as the Number One Human Trafficking Hub in this country.
I am urging you today to engage this community and its resources in creating a new label for Houston: The City That Takes a Stand against Modern Day Slavery, at Every Opportunity.  Maybe you can play a major part in letting Houston reclaim the name “City of Sanctuary or Refuge” rather than “City of the Enslaved”.

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Good bye to old friends as spring arrives

by on Mar.20, 2011, under 2011, Abolition, Adventure, Freedom, Motorcycle

This has been an interesting day.  It has been a day of contrasts. A day when saying good bye as part of letting go for simplicity’s sake comes about as new life springs all around me.
The story goes a bit like this.  As I looked in my closet, this afternoon, I spotted, in the corner, my motorcycle riding boots.  They have been sitting there since I returned from the Chains-Breaking-Chains ride to Death Valley last year.  These boots are not meant for walking.  They are meant for motorcycle riding.  At this job they are outstanding.  We have been adventuring together for more that eight years, and boy have they done a great job.  These boots are made for motorcycle riding, and as such they have built in protection on the ankles, the shins and the toes.  They are waterproof, and they are strong.
These boots proved themselves worthy just a few days after I got them.  I was on my way to the Texas Hill Country to do a photo study on the painted churches of Texas when, less than three miles away from my apartment, I got hit from behind by a woman who accelerated while looking to her left.  As I fell down, the landed on my leg, with the engine trapping my foot underneath.  Miraculously my foot was not crushed.  The boots did their job.
In the years that followed we rode thousands of miles together.  I wore these boots when I rode from Denver to Houston, in what was my first long distance motorcycle endeavor.   I also wore these boots when I took my first ride, just a few months after back surgery, and which took me on an exploration of the east and west sides of the Mississippi river, all the way to Memphis.  This was a ride designed to be a living testimony of God’s unending love for all of us, and of His amazing healing power.
A year later, these boots were on my feet while I rode from Houston to Bonneville, in northern Utah, to fulfill the dream of seeing and riding on the Salt Flats, while I was recovering from back surgery.  These boots were also on my feet as I rode to Death Valley last year, as I strove to raise funds to aide victims of modern day slavery, and to raise awareness about this dark crime. In the middle of this trip I started noticing the soles had started separating and I even wondered if they would hold up until I made it home.
In the middle of these big adventures there were lots of shorter trips involved.  Some of these trips were one-day trips, and some of them are were weekend trips.  But regardless of the length of the trips, and the marvels that I witnessed along the way, a common element was the protection I got from flying debris, mega soakers brought about by sudden storms in the middle of the Arizona desert, while riding the windy and icy curves of Wold Creek Pass in Colorado, and day long storms while riding with fellow Christian Bikers.  These boots bear on them a testimony of adventure and trial.  They have done an amazing job, and the once lustrous black surface has long been turned into scuffed and dull leather, with the soles hanging on just by a thread.
So today the time has come to say good bye.  Wonderful memories will remain, as we part ways in an effort not to cling to material things from the past, and in an effort to live a simpler, less cluttered life.  It just so happens too, that this is taking place the day when Sandra and I went out for a walk and I noticed that in our own, very small front yard, the life that comes about with spring starts to make itself manifest with vigor and power.
Just a couple of weeks ago I took the chainsaw to our crepe myrtle, and the oleanders, and did some serious pruning.  When I did the cutting I knew that these resilient trees would come back.  What filled me with surprise today was the fact that the new and tender leaves were not coming out from the strong and thick branches that remained, but rather, from the almost hair like branches that barely seem to cling on the sides.  Life was also making itself manifest in the myriads of yellow aphids that are eagerly sticking their beaks into the tender shoots of the oleander, using the muscles in their mouth parts, not to suck out the juices of the plant, but to regulate the flow of these high pressure, nutritious fluids into their bodies.  Like small, shiny yellow pinheads, these wonderful insects appeared seemingly from nowhere, providing what our former preacher used to call “an ocular demonstration” of the miracle of life.
In the middle of this moment of letting go, and of the welcoming of new life amongst us, I have take the time and pray that, just as life gets renewed in spring, we, as followers of Christ, can make a decision to bring about a renewal for the millions of people that are caught in modern day slavery.  I pray that as we seek to becomes God’s agents of change, we can see that lots can be achieved by doing small things with greatlove, and that we can make a difference in the life and suffering of others.

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Restless nights

by on Mar.17, 2011, under 2011, Abolition, Freedom

It is now two am.  I have only been able to sleep for a couple of hours.

Like I said in an earlier post to twitter, I am feeling restless.  The persistent thought that the city of Houston is the number one city in this country when it comes to slave trafficking keeps steeling my sleep.  The orange color of abolition that runs through my veins is boiling.  The thought that things are about to get worst by the beginning of April, with the arrival of the Final Four to this city, increases my shame.  The thought that the media and our city government has not brought this to the public’s attention just totally blows my mind.

The thought that we were all filled with indignation when were were called the ” fattest city in the nation”, but only manage to briefly hold our breath and shake our heads when we find out the one out every five slaves in this country is trafficked through Houston stands like a scream of irrationality and immorality.  The thought that minors are charged with prostitution defies my logic all together.  The thought that we find ‘bad hair days’ more fascinating and important than human lives, more important than broken children’s lives is one that crashes against all that I believe in.

Where is our sense of humanity, city of Houston, when we care more about athletes and sporting events so much that we sweep into the shadows and the darkness the lives of children that get taken at 11 years of age, and broken on an daily basis to satisfy what can not be described without the need to vomit, and without outrage, by anyone with an ounce of decency?  What about the thousands of children and women to whom this will happen over and over again while people scream and high-five because someone just scored two more points?

What do we need to know to raise up as a city and say “We will be known as the City of Freedom” ?

Freedom Rise

Freedom Rise

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Freedom Prayer

by on Mar.13, 2011, under 2011, Abolition, Faith

The following is the Freedom Prayer, written by Sandra, that was read today at City of Refuge as part of the Freedom Sunday service.

We ask that you utilize our gifts and our offerings here today to raise awareness among your body surrounding this sanctity of life issue—the trafficking of human beings across the globe, across state lines into our city and across borders into our nation. Does it grieve us as much as it grieves you, O LORD GOD, that our city is the #1 site of sexual traffic and our state in the top 5 of most smuggled into indentured servitude—modern day slavery? LORD, help our nation, enslaved by the cult of MORE…We are seduced by greed, lust and power—strongholds of sin  that create a market and a demand for horrendous activities that degrade human lives and oppress them  and us all. We repent  for the many sins our culture has embraced, financed and been themselves enslaved by, and ask your conviction, forgiveness and restoration to transformed lives. Let us get out of just talking about it, and reveal to us the actions we can undertake on behalf of those who cannot speak up for themselves.  Reconcile us all to your ways, that are full of Spirit and Truth, Joy and Peace. 

Allow our brothers and sisters, who are defrauded into coming here with the promise of a job,  to have access to the full rights and experiences that we aspire to as citizens of this country. Let the perpetrators and kidnappers who mislead,  threaten and coerce the vulnerable poor of many nations and on our streets to be caught, punished and imprisoned for their crimes against humanity. Help us work on behalf of the victims, to rescue, re-establish and re-educate the least of these, to establish better laws to protect them, and provide refuge for their deliverance. LORD we know you are in the transformation business, and we ask you lead this mighty army of disenfranchised and enslaved into the freedom of becoming a child of yours in the process—that they would hear your promises, feel your love, and know that is YOUR HAND that has redeemed them unto eternal and abundant living, better than anything we could offer. But let us be willing to let YOU use our hands, feet, love and resources to be your ambassadors on the ground, O Father of us all.

Make us aware of our own, inadvertent role in this web of inhumanity through our global economy, where these captives are de-humanized, treated as property or capital in order to produce so many of our daily consumables and feed our lust for more and “the good life.”

LORD what must you think of such greed, power and the  strongholds of our lust for flesh and materials,  oil and trinkets, food and water? O LORD let us be better stewards of those essential resources, mindful of our conspicuous consumption, and repent as a nation for the least of these whose very lives are the currency of this struggle. Allow your Mighty Holy Spirit to fall on us, and bring us to conviction and confession and allow our  hardened hearts  to be forgiven and softened to those most helpless against this tide. Let your wrath be swift and thorough with those who perpetuate this darkness , sell human life as cheap, and crave the temporary comforts this world offers. Grieve our hearts as yours is, O LORD, and move us to action, compassion, and prayerful attentiveness to the purposes you will place in each of us leaving here today. Let us listen and obey your call to action and prayer today.
Lord Jesus Christ, Beginning and End, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!

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Freedom Sunday Service at City of Refuge

by on Mar.13, 2011, under 2011, Abolition, Freedom

Today, City of Refuge Church in Houston, along with 2,3oo churches in around the globe participated in the yearly Freedom Sunday Service.  The service is a call for the global Christian community to come together in a call for prayer and action to set the victims of modern day slavery free.

I was honored to be asked to provide a testimony of my travel in the fight against slavery.  This was done in the form of an interview, which Rev. Keith Bower conducted with me during the service.  I am sharing with you the transcript of the interview.  The interview was followed by a prayer written by my wife Sandra, and then by a wonderfully choreographed dance by Sandra,  performed by members of our church to Day of Freedom by Rachael Lampa.  During the dance, the petitions for the captives were read by members of our congregations.

We were blessed this morning, and I pray that we can all turn our words into -action.



Freedom Sunday Interview
Keith: Carlos, when we say “Freedom Sunday,” we’re talking about freedom from actual human slavery. I would guess that the average American thinks of slavery as something that ended back in 1863 with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and that slavery hasn’t existed anywhere in the world at any significant level for over a hundred years. But that’s not true, is it? 

Carlos: I am going to answer your questions in reverse, if I may. Slavery never went away. After the Emancipation Proclamation, it moved from operating in broad daylight to operating in the shadow and darkness. And this is a global issue. There are an estimated 27 million slaves around our world today. In fact there are more in slavery around the world today than at any time in human history. Around the world does not just mean on the other side of the globe. It is an issue right here in the US, including right here in Houston.

Keith: So what is a modern day slave?  When I think of a slave, historically I think of someone in chains. But what does slavery look like today? What forms does it take?

Carlos: Physical chains are just one manifestation of slavery. Today slavery is no longer about physical chains, but about force, coercion, captivity, lack of freedom, exploitation. For example, slave labor is used in the manufacture of many consumer products, including a lot of things we buy and use every day. No matter how you slice it, slaves and the fruit of their labor can be found in every corner of the planet. And because of globalization it is highly probable that in my house and in yours there is an abundance of products that are tainted with slave labor.

Keith: You talk about slavery being a worldwide problem, and of course consumer products are manufactured and shipped all over the world. But where is slavery occurring in Houston? What forms does it take right here at home?

Carlos: This is a very good question. People are being enslaved in India and Thailand, but also right here in the United States and even Houston.  Houston earned a few years back the title of fattest city in the country, and everybody was outraged.  Yet, very few people realize that Houston is THE, not a, but THE hub of slave trade and traffick in this country.  One out of every five slaves in this country moves through Houston.  As a city we have a tremendous visibility in the adult industry.  Associated with this are over 200 spas and massage parlors that can not be called anything else but slave holding sites.  Furthermore, we have a restaurant, construction industry that uses slave work, and uncounted slaves used as domestics.  Combine it with our proximity to the border of Mexico, and our being a major metropolitan area, and you soon start seeing an influx of internationally trafficked victims, and an even bigger supply center of children who have been discarded by their families, ready to be picked by slave traffickers with very little effort.

Keith: How did you get involved in this issue?

Carlos: God has a way to slap you on the face when you least expect it, and call you to service.  A year ago, City of Refuge sponsored a presentation at Rice University, through the Veritas forum, called Not For Sale.  My staff had been working long hours, and I decided to let them go home, and cover for them.  I had no idea what this Not For Sale thing was.  However, within 5 minutes of the beginning of the talk, David Batstone, the presenter and founder of the NotForSale campaign had gripped me.  From then on, my heart became restless and for the next 3 weeks I could barely sleep.  I just had to do something.
So now, over the course of the last year, I have joined in with several local organizations to work on this emergency.  I work on this, I speak about it, I lobby about it at any opportunity I have.

Keith: This is such a massive problem – literally global in scale. Our efforts are certainly no match for this, so it would be easy to feel discouraged. Where in Scripture do you find inspiration, guidance and strength?

Carlos: There is hardly any place in Scripture from which I fail to derive guidance and strength.  However the Gospel according to Luke, and the later writing of the prophet Isaiah are core pieces for me. I feel that the parable of the good Samaritan speaks volumes to this issue. Slaves are the injured on the side of the road, I can not ignore their situation. Further, I if I knowingly continue to enjoy the fruit of their labor, I am the thief that put them on the side of the road.  God has called me to care for my neighbor, and my neighbor is not just the person living next to me.  For me it is every person that is touched by my actions, and this includes the person next door as much as the child that harvests the cocoa beans in Africa so that I can enjoy a piece of chocolate.  Or the woman in Guatemala, that harvests the coffee beans that make the coffee I drink every morning.
Isaiah calls me in chapter 61,  “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes”.  This is a loud call for the restoration of human dignity, and for the rebuilding of lives that have lost the sense of how valuable they are in the eyes of God.

Keith: People who know you recognize your trademark “Not For Sale” orange bandana. And I think a lot of people might say that this is your cause. But that’s not the way you look at it.

Carlos No, it isn’t. This is not my cause.  This is not a “cause” at all.  This is an emergency. When 27 million people are enslaved – when 250 000 children are trafficked in this country – when the food I eat, the clothes I wear, the phone or iPod I use – when so many things that touch my life are tainted with the violence used to keep people as slaves and their blood is spilled for my comfort, I cannot think about it as a cause. I have to think about this as a crisis and an emergency of epic proportions that vexes and saddens God deeply. It is extremely interesting to me to see how we can so generously respond to crises that hit other people suddenly and unexpectedly, such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Our hearts are generous and open to assist in situations like that. But human slavery is such a pervasive crime that it’s part of our day-to-day lives, and yet it operates under such darkness that even when someone points it out to us we cannot believe it and therefore fail to act.

Keith: How can we take action? What can we do?

Carlos: It is in our power, collectively, as the church that God has called us to be, to bring this to an end. The roots of this are in poverty and injustice, this are things we all can do something about. At the bottom of this is sin. Greed and selfcenteredness are taking precedence over God’s call to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Churches, faith communities and small groups can guide God’s children in this effort to refocus our lives and help us to remain accountable for our actions.

Keith: Sandra, your dear wife, has written a prayer that I would like to share – not as her prayer, but as our prayer, the prayer of the entire City of Refuge Family….


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Note: Petitions for the captives

by on Mar.09, 2011, under 2010

For the children that harvest your cocoa
For the slaves the mine minerals for your phone
for the boys made soldiers
for the women that pick your coffee
for the men that tap the rubber for your tires
for the captives making the shoes you wear
for the enslaved families that harvest the fruits on your plate
for the people abused to make the players for your tunes
for girls that weave the rugs under your feet
for the children captured to fulfill men’s darkest sins

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