Date of Award

December 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Institute on Family and Community Life

Committee Member

Mark Small

Committee Member

Sue Limber

Committee Member

Jill McLeigh

Committee Member

Natallia Sianko


Private enterprise, sex tourism, international adoption, and soldier recruitment have all been industries that benefit from the coercion or trade of human beings. Although international development organizations and government agencies have been particularly focused on preventing human rights violations, the Protestant Christian community also has been poised with a vested interest around the globe. Unfortunately, data are lacking about faith-based efforts in the anti-trafficking space. This research looks at faith-based organizations’ anti-trafficking operations in Thailand particular, as it has been traditionally known as a nation with unique immigration challenges and extensive migration patterns.

This qualitative study is based on open-ended interviews with 7 stakeholders in Thailand, all of whom were employed by anti-trafficking organizations associated with a Christian faith. The interviews provided a great variety of rich data surrounding informants’ lived experiences and lessons learned on the field, with 27 themes originally emerging from the data. These themes were condensed into 8 major themes that built the framework for this study.

First, each respondent spoke in depth about the intersection of their faith and justice-oriented work. Practitioners shared how their personal faith journeys were impacted by working among a marginalized population in a Buddhist culture, revealing the deeply intimate experience it is for one to engage with God. The majority of interviews reflected that it was impossible for individuals to separate their faith from their work, however they all expressed that their personal faith should not be used to further manipulate or exploit persons healing from abuse. In this lies the strategic tension of faith-based organizations (FBOs), as they share the same goals as secular anti-trafficking organizations but approach their work from different core motivations.

This study also addresses specific lessons practitioners shared from their experience on the field. Participants were asked to share some wisdom to someone beginning in their line of work, and they discussed the complexities of human trafficking, the importance of employing best practices in smaller organizations, and the advantages to working collaboratively with and in accountability to the greater anti-trafficking network in country. Interviewees also shared their ethical concerns surrounding storytelling and fundraising, calling for greater authenticity and more humility from foreigners working in cross-cultural contexts.

This study informs a number of sectors as it relates to international work, and recommendations are provided for churches and donors, the Thai government, FBOs, and individuals engaging in anti-trafficking work. The data from the research interviews have implications for the broader Protestant church, as the financial, social, emotional, and spiritual resources of FBOs are interconnected between sponsoring churches to the direct relationships with trafficking survivors. It is believed this study will better serve these survivors by informing the individuals who are aiding their recovery along the resource supply chain.



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