Matthew Holgate is on a mission. He’s student body president at Christ-centered Vanguard University in California. And he’s becoming an expert in human trafficking, especially among his people in the Navajo Nation.
“As a Christian, I feel like it’s my responsibility to combat the issue of human trafficking, whether that’s educating people or doing studies and research…but as a Christian and being a Native American, the Christian aspect of this, I look at human trafficking biblically.”
“First, I see a call to action in Matthew chapter 5 when Jesus talks about being salt and light,” Holgate explains, “And secondly, from Proverbs…the New Living Translation, it reads, Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed (Proverbs 31:8).” Holgate sees that scripture as a second call to action for him to stand up for Native American people, who “have had their voices taken from them – and in some cases, they’re not even invited to the table.”
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When it comes to finding ways to manipulate people, “Traffickers use multiple avenues to get to people who they may seek out as being vulnerable.” Holgate offers a statement he regards as very valuable, attributed to Dr. Beth Grant, co-founder of Project Rescue: ‘Human trafficking is one of the most tangible forces of evil that we can see today. Trafficking at its core is people hurting people – and people taking away the freedom that God gave everyone – and using another person’s freedom for their own personal gain.’
One factor that may surprise many, catering vulnerable girls and women to licentious men is not the most common form of trafficking. Holgate shares that “labor trafficking” is the biggest form of trafficking and accounts for about 2/3rds of all trafficking globally. Victims of this tactic may end up washing dishes or other menial tasks, or exhaustive hard labor, at little or no pay and terrible living conditions.
Holgate makes it clear that “traffickers are sneaky and traffickers are smart” often setting up situations that make it difficult to bring charges against them. Extortion and intimidation often involve immigrants, who know little about protective laws, and feel helpless when the traffickers confiscate their documents, leaving the immigrants with no identification capability. Traffickers prey upon their already existing distrust of government agencies.
Looking ahead, Holgate has a fairly definite idea of what he wants to do once he graduates. We suspect he will become a force of good representing Christ in the battle against trafficking. And he sees the need to counsel people who have been caught in this evil web of human abuse that often leaves victims suffering from indescribable trauma. His goal includes creation of a non-profit to raise awareness of trafficking among Native American communities. All this -and more - is in our interview podcast just below.