Human trafficking can take many forms and permeates communities across the United States, according to the Human Trafficking Roundtable of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which educates and collaborates with others to take a human-rights based approach to this crime.

“While chattel slavery has been illegal here for more than 150 years, it does not mean that slavery doesn’t exist in other insidious forms,” said the Rev. Noelle Damico, associate for Fair Food in the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Damico was speaking at a workshop sponsored by the Compassion, Peace and Justice Conference — called Turning the Tables — at Big Tent.

Big Tent, Aug. 1-3, is a celebration of PC(USA) mission and ministry organized around the theme “Putting God’s First Things First.”  It’s composed of 10 national Presbyterian conferences, more than 160 workshops and special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center here.

First identified as a federal crime in 2000, human trafficking most often occurs in low-wage industries in which workers don’t have a voice, such as restaurants, agriculture, housekeeping and tourism.

When we buy a tomato at the grocery store, we should ask ourselves, “What’s behind this tomato?” Damico said. “In many cases, it’s forced labor.

“We’re connected to this thru supply chains and in our neighborhoods,” she said. “The question is, how do we respond?”

Damico urged participants to ask their presbyteries to sponsor a free training session from the Freedom Network. These sessions allow presbyteries to learn about human trafficking and to be in touch with local networks also working to address human trafficking.