Buenos Aires is home to the widest avenue in the world, the 16 lane avenida de Julio. I've crossed that street many times, always saying a prayer before hand seeing as the city is home with both bad drivers and bad pedestrians. Many times I've seen people almost come to a sticky end in the ongoing war between vehicles and pedestrians. And I have heard statistics that everyday, 20 people do come to a sticky end in the city due to the dangerous traffic conditions. But if there is one thing in Buenos Aires that is killing more than the road conditions and the traffic, it is the trafficking.
I would love to paint for you the picture of this charming city where people dance tango all day long and sit in cafés drinking café con leche with churros and dulce de leche. But I wouldn't be painting a honest and realistic picture of the city. Part the reason I think so many of you love this blog is that I take you above and beyond what any tourist brochure will ever tell you. And together we see a holistic picture of Buenos Aires, the good, the bad, and the ugly. But I'm figuring that by creating awareness of the ugly parts, we work to make a difference.
Every so often while walking in the city, I'll come across a poster with the picture of a young girl who has gone missing and the family is desperately searching for her. She might just be lost or seperated from her family somewhere in the city but chances are good that she has become the latest victim to the human trafficking and sex trade industry that exists in Buenos Aires. As I stare at that poster, it reminds me of a story I heard by a speaker from Hillsong church named Christine Caine who heads up Equip and Empower Ministries. She was giving a message in Greece and she happened to stop by one of these posters with the pictures of a girl on them and asked what it was all about. It is then that it was brought to her attention the ugly reality that in the 21st Century that human slavery exists and there are more than 27 millions slaves on planet earth today.
I'm not going to get into the brutal statistic of human trafficking but if you wish to know about it, just go onto the website of the A21 Campaign and you will find more than enough information. But the long and short of it is that what happens is that girls from eastern europe like Moldova will see an ad to be a hair dresser in Greece. The ad promises good wages and job security. Alot of these girls are from impoverished backgrounds where they are seeking a better life. They accept the ad and book a plane ticket, thinking that they are going to be a hair dresser. When they land, they fall right into the hands of their captors and enter into a life of hell on earth. Girls in Buenos Aires are trapped and trafficked in a similar manner.
When I first heard about the A21 Campaign, it was easy for me to shrug it off. After all, what does eastern europe have to do with me? My passion is for South America and Argentina. But I didn't shrug it off, instead I listen to what was being said and let the desire to make a difference take root in my heart. And I am glad it did because then I find out that this country of Argentina I love so much has the same problem. And truth be told, it is a global problem that affects every level of society all the way to the government and law enforcement.
Christine Caine said that in that moment that she saw those posters, she realized that all the "spiritual" stuff and all the good that she thought she was doing for the world up until that point was really nothing. Within one year of launching the A21 Campaign, her organization has been successful in pushing through new legislation in some of these countries where trafficking is alive and well. They have built a shelter where victims are taken to upon being rescued. Over 300 care packages have been handed out to victims. All because one woman stopped to look at a poster and was willing to ask those questions.
Tourists come to this grand city and exclaim "I love this city". What they mean is that they like the ambience and the people and the culture, nothing wrong with that. But do they love the city in the sense that they actually care for what goes on inside of it? If we defined 'love" in a sense of caring for someone or something, then we would probably find that there are a significantly fewer amount of people that actually could say that they "love" the city enough to care for it. In my walk of faith, I'm being challenged to redefine "love" and what it means to "love" something.
I am definitely joining in the fight to end slavery even if it is something as simple as making a small donation to the A21 campaign and creating awareness by using this blog. And I believe with all my heart that I will live to see the day where the only "traffic" that exists in Buenos Aires will be the traffic on avenida de Julio ;)