'Three Wise Guys' discuss human trafficking at interfaith forum
On Thursday, Oct. 17, the UCF Global Perspectives Office presented a discussion on how religions can help address human trafficking. The talk was led by The Three Wise Guys, comprised of Rabbi Steven Engel, the Rev. Bryan Fulwider and Imam Muhammad Musri. The trio has a radio show on Central Florida’s public media station where they mix wit with wisdom while attempting to find common ground to promote religious tolerance.
Doug Evans, an associate lecturer at UCF, introduced the panel. He had much praise for the writings of Moses Maimonides, the great Jewish scholastic, and the intellectual dialogue that existed in the Golden Age of Spain. He praised the Three Wise for continuing that tradition of dialogue and open debate.
Rabbi Steven Engel of CRJ, and president of the Greater Orlando Board of Rabbis, then took the microphone, joking that “the oldest religion gets to go first.” Engel stressed that much religious dialogue in the media is negative, and that divisiveness was often promoted by people with agendas. He said that it was okay to have both similarities and differences, and to try and disagree in an amicable way.
The Rev. Fulwider, president and CEO of Building US, and president of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, was worried that many Christians are perceived as made up of fanatics, who engage in offensive activities. As for human trafficking, he implored the audience that if they saw a girl or woman that seemed to be in trouble on the streets, as long as your own safety was not jeopardized, to call 9-11 and see if you could get them out of harm’s way. He emphasized the point was not to arrest a victim of trafficking, but rather to get her help. Though not a Catholic, Fulwider praised the current Pope Francis for calling for a world Catholic summit to address trafficking.
Imam Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, called trafficking “modern-day slavery” and denounced all forms of slavery and exploitation. He stressed that no rational American Muslim believes in slavery or exploitation.
Florida remains a hub of human trafficking because of its vast coastline. The Sunshine State has a dark side: it is involved in much trafficking and exploitation for massage parlors, nail salons, tourists and convention-goers that frequently use prostitutes, compulsory farm work coupled with substandard living quarters, and sex slaves. Slavery may have been abolished by the 13th Amendment after the Civil War, but it is alive and well in Florida.
Engel explained that Jews use the Passover seder to “feel as slaves felt, and feel empathy” to make sure there is no slavery in today’s world. He also explained that after the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., Roman soldiers carried away Jewish women into sexual slavery. “We have a human responsibility to treat people as people and not as commodities.” Yet, as many as 27 million people worldwide are treated as commodities. Globalization has opened many doors of trade, and many girls and women are traded on that open market. All three Wise Guys emphasized that until patriarchy is addressed worldwide, trafficking will remain a global problem.
The talk was sponsored by a number of UCF organizations and departments including The Interfaith Forum; The Department of Middle East Studies; The Kurdish Political Studies Initiative; The Human Trafficking Awareness Program; The UCF Department of Philosophy; The UCF Department of Political Science; The Islamic Society of Central Florida; and the UCF Diplomacy Program.
Richard A. Ries is a graduate student at UCF and a contributor to the Heritage.