Every Fourth of July is Independence Day in the USA. As an American, I’ve had years of celebrations typically consisting of enjoyment of my nation’s simple pleasures (time with family, good food, campfires, parades, and fireworks etc). And we remember the sacrifices that have been made and are being made to provide us the freedom to live to enjoy those pleasures.

Since living in Italy we’ve made it a point to celebrate in whatever ways we can, but it’s bound to be different when it’s just another day for the rest of the world around you. We see family on a computer screen, the food isn’t as easy to make (though it’s easier to grocery shop without the lines and the food is worth the work to get a taste of home), and there are no campfires, parades or fireworks. But this year it feels different for another reason.

I find myself contemplating the idea of Independence today in a new way. The dictionary definition of independence is: freedom from control or influence of another or others. Those words have become triggers for me. They immediately turn my thoughts to the thousands of victims of trafficking: people who are not free today. Women like me are trapped in a life of exploitation. They aren’t free. They endure incredible suffering every day as slaves to their controllers.

Only 1-2% of these victims in Europe will be rescued. They are individuals like you and me, except they aren’t celebrating today. They are waiting for, longing for, or maybe doubting they will ever see, their independence day.

Happy and grateful to be free, physically and spiritually. Hurting and hoping for the oppressed. Praying and striving to make a difference.