July 15, 2010 STATEMENT — LIRS Commends LCMS Anti-Trafficking Resolution: National Synod Prayerfully Supports U.N. Efforts to End Modern-Day Slavery

HOUSTON, JULY 15, 2010—Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is heartened that The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has today approved a resolution to support the United Nations’ efforts to end human trafficking and slavery. Over 98 percent of delegates to the denomination’s national convention, taking place July 10–17 in Houston, voted in favor of Resolution 6-07.

The statement resolves that “the Synod in convention directs the President of the Synod to write a letter to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime expressing the Synod’s prayerful support of that office’s efforts to end the ongoing practice of human trafficking/slave trade.” The resolution further resolves that the denomination’s human care ministries provide information about human trafficking, encouraging pastors and laity alike to “become educated regarding this issue and to be proactive in their response”.

As a cooperative organization of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, along with the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, LIRS serves as an expression of these Lutheran church bodies’ welcome to vulnerable newcomers, including victims of human trafficking. The agency’s long history of work with trafficking victims has focused particularly on protecting minors who have been forced into the sex trade or other harsh labor. The LCMS resolution further solidifies the mutual ministry of serving vulnerable migrants that LIRS and the LCMS share.

The Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of Districts and Congregations for LCMS World Relief and Human Care, and a member of the LIRS board of directors, welcomed the resolution: “I am proud that the Synod voted in support of such an important resolution. I am concerned about human trafficking not simply as an LCMS pastor and Synod staff person, but as an LIRS board member. The resolution opens up new avenues of addressing this insidious problem by providing resources to congregations as we all join together in combating this grievous and sinful injustice.”

LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke, who addressed the convention in Houston, stated, “The LCMS has always been committed to ministering to and walking with the most vulnerable. Today’s vote stands as yet another example of the Synod’s concern about human care. We are thankful that the LCMS shares not only our ministry of welcome in broad strokes, but shares our specific concern for people who are victims of modern-day slavery.”

According to U.N. statistics, the business of human trafficking totals over $32 billion annually and victimizes an estimated 2.5–2.7 million people at any given time. The United Nations further notes that human trafficking is an active part of black market economies in 137 nations around the world, including the United States.

Laypersons within the LCMS community are also lauding today’s vote. Elaine Richter-Bryant, LCMS church member and former chair of the LIRS board, stated, “With this vote, my church demonstrates that mercy is not only a matter of direct service, but a matter of becoming educated Christians so that we can encourage systemic change. Human trafficking is a problem of grave concern to LIRS board members. That the LCMS made explicit its continued commitment to victims of modern-day slavery is something we can all applaud.”

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is a champion for uprooted people and is one of the nation’s leading agencies serving migrants and refugees. LIRS helps people seeking safety from persecution in their home countries, reunites families torn apart by conflict, resettles refugees, protects vulnerable children who arrive alone in the United States, and advocates for compassion and justice for all migrants.

To learn more about LIRS’s work of welcome, please visit lirs.org.

The full text of the LCMS resolution is available at www.lcms.org.