President Obama has declared January 2010 National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Human trafficking is a horrific reality of our world today. Millions of people are victimized worldwide, including thousands of people within America’s borders.

Human trafficking is one of the issues explored in a brand new resource from The Heritage Foundation called Seek Social Justice: Transforming Lives in Need. This six-lesson small group DVD study guide profiles real-world examples of effective approaches to overcoming poverty, social breakdown and injustice.

These problems are serious and complex. They require different spheres of society exercising their particular roles and responsibilities. Strong families and vibrant faith communities are able to provide personal care for those in need, and growing businesses are able to offer them jobs.

The government does have an important role to play, as the story of a young victim of human trafficking demonstrates. Lesson Five of Seek Social Justice tells the story of Shyima, a girl who was brought to California as a slave in a gated-community home. Forced to sleep in the garage and prevented from going to school, Shyima desperately needed the strong arm of the law to liberate her. This is something only government can do, given its responsibility to provide law, order and safety. It wouldn’t be good for a neighborhood gang, school board or church to take up arms and conduct a raid on Shyima’s behalf!

But government’s role has its limits. As Seek Social Justice makes clear, Shyima needed more than just physical rescue. She needed people to take her in, care for her and build relationships of trust. Shyima needed compassion, friendship, and love–needs that government is not equipped to meet. A number of different social institutions were necessary to help Shyima grow into the thriving, free young lady that she is today. As a commentator from International Justice Mission declares in the video lesson, “The government can take care of the law and order part of the equation, but other people have to step in and help that person heal.”

Shyima’s story is just one lesson highlighting the ways that different social institutions are necessary for overcoming human need. Expecting government to solve all our problems is unhelpful and counterproductive.

Access all six video lessons and the study guide at Share this resource with others who are passionate about problems of social justice to help them develop a thoughtful framework for how best to respond to the needs we see around us.