State UMC passes Paulson's slavery resolution

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By Chris Sardelli

INDIAN LAND – About two years ago, while Bob Paulson was on vacation, he began reading a book that would soon change his life.

Paulson, an Indian Land resident and editor of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Decision magazine, was reading a book called “Terrify No More” about the issue of human trafficking.

The book detailed the efforts of the International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that deals with slavery and oppression around the world, and was written by that organization’s president Gary A. Haugen.

Wanting to know more, Paulson picked up a movie called “Human Trafficking” and quickly discovered his need to help as well.

“I figured since I was reading about this I would also get the movie. I ended up watching it several times. It broke my heart each time,” Paulson said. “I kind of came away feeling that this cannot be allowed to continue. I felt God was telling me to get involved.”

At first, Paulson started blogging about the issue, but decided he wanted to do more. So he founded a group called the Carolina Clapham Circle and soon had members from across the Carolinas.

Named after a similar group that met in London during the 19th century to eliminate the Atlantic slave trade, Paulson wanted his organization to find similar ways to combat human trafficking. This is the issue of people being kidnapped, coerced or tricked into the slavery trade, which takes many forms, ranging from hard labor to prostitution.

“It’s so shocking that every country in the world has laws against slavery, but it’s found in every one,” he said. “For the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to find my way and find specifically what role God wants me to play.”

As a member of Belair United Methodist Church, Paulson was recently nominated to be on the S.C. Board of Church and Society. He said the board is used to equip congregations that want to take social action.

Realizing that he wanted to reach more people, Paulson decided to use this opportunity to develop a resolution through the board, which he could then present to the S.C. Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Paulson worked on several drafts with the board and eventually crafted a resolution that lists several statistics about trafficking, as well as a call to action. Through his research on the subject, Paulson discovered how widespread the issue is.

Behind the drugs and weapons trades, human trafficking has become one of the fastest-growing crimes around the world.

In the resolution, he cites sociologist Kevin Bales’ statistic that at least 27 million people in the world today are victims of trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking generates $9.5 billion annually.

In the resolution, he also calls on people to educate themselves, to identify advocacy groups and pray for victims.

The resolution was presented and passed at the conference in June. Paulson said the resolution can be used for the training of congregations whenever there is a district training event, or it can simply serve as background information for people who are interested in the subject.

“One of the things that motivated me is what the Bible says about social justice, about defending the poor, needy and oppressed and how God has an incredible heart for justice,” Paulson said. “When people talk about human trafficking, a lot of times you see in magazines the issue of this happening in other countries. But more and more there’s a lot of people growing up right here. There are Americans at risk and they are falling into modern-day slavery.”

Paulson plans to continue working on ways to end human trafficking around the world. He plans to create a Facebook page for his Clapham group and hopes to attract more members.

“We, as a society, have to band together, see the signs and fight it,” he said. “We need to be aware that people around us could’ve been trafficked.”

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at 416-8416