The number pinned to her dress was #146. The young girl was sitting behind a glass window in a brothel in Thailand. She must have been new because there was still fight left in her eyes. I was there with investigators to free the girls. And I was posing as a customer - pretending to be the very thing that I despised.
I stood there with a few investigators and a handful of predators. On the other side of the glass window, young girls were sitting on benches with matching red dresses, trying to escape their reality by watching children’s cartoons on small television sets. Most of them had no life left in their eyes – just blank stares. Children should always have life in their eyes. #146 still had some. She had this intense look. Everything in me wanted to cry, “Don’t give up!” I remember, about the same time, God whispering into the deepest part of me: “I know her name; she is not a number to Me.” That was the beginning of Justice For Children International.
Justice For Children International (JFCI) works toward the abolition of child sex trafficking and exploitation through advocacy, prevention and aftercare. JFCI trains aftercare workers, multiplies safe homes, aids socio-economic development programmes in high-risk communities and provides a voice for these victims of modern-day slavery.
In a world where there are more slaves alive today than ever before, in a world where one million children are sold or stolen into the child sex trade every year, there must be an answer. As Christians, we believe that the answer lies in God, and He has given us the responsibility of defending the weak, and caring for these children.
JFCI’s director of aftercare, Dr. Gundelina Velazco describes children who are trafficked into the sex trade as “frail victim[s] of one of the worst human atrocities one could ever imagine. And they number in the millions. Many of them have lost their minds. Quite a number have lost their lives – in agony. Those who have survived are scarred, physically and to a life of pain, shame, torment and fear.” Throughout history, there have been many Christians who looked away, but there also have been many at the forefront of the abolition movement.
It can seem overwhelming when you look at the numbers, but I don’t just see the number anymore, I see the face. There is the face of #146, a child who is raped five, eight, maybe 12 times every night, and many faces like hers. There is also the face of a girl who has been rescued, and her face smiles and laughs as she tries to teach me a native dance. We dance.
There is a modern day abolitionist movement sweeping the world. Justice For Children International is by no means alone, we are a founding members of Stop the Traffik, a major global coalition with over 300 member organisations based out of the U.K. Stop the Traffik works together to help stop the sale of people, to see the traffickers prosecuted, and to protect the victims of human trafficking and those vulnerable to this crime.
Every name added to this modern day abolitionist movement, is another name that can turn governments, change history, and maybe give #146 back her name. I still see her face in my daily thoughts and sometimes in my dreams. She and little ones behind that glass are why we do what we do.
Desirea Rodgers is the Co-Founder, Creative Director and Photographer for Justice For Children International www.jfci.org
A whole people group are ‘enslaved’ in India – relegated to the worst jobs by an evil system, reports David Griffiths of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
On a busy suburban street of Delhi, as I was sitting in a taxi on my way to the airport, a street sweeper stepped out into our path, clinging heavily to his broom. Head bowed, he stepped back onto the street behind me as I waited at a red traffic light and resumed his sweeping. I looked out of the back window at this figure, trying to make eye contact. He shrunk away, his shoulders hunched, unwilling to look at me, uncomfortable even to be noticed.
Was this merely unwillingness to engage, or something deeper, I have since wondered? Was there in fact something painfully hierarchical about the encounter, as though I had crossed an invisible boundary by so much as deliberately taking him in with my glance? Something to suggest that this Dalit, or ‘untouchable’, was even a slave of society?
My experience was hardly unique, nor was it particularly profound – little more than a brush of shoulders with a tragic reality that pervades India and is manifested in many more troubling ways. Look no further than the ugly patterns of ‘modern day slavery’ in India to see that they manifest a much deeper ill in Indian society. According to a recent survey reported in The Times of India newspaper, approximately 98% of girls being trafficked in India belong to the Dalits and ‘lower’ castes. An Indian magazine has suggested that 95% of India’s ‘devadasis’, or temple prostitutes – often pre-pubescent girls ‘married’ to a temple or Hindu deity who become prostitutes for ‘upper’ caste men, before being auctioned into brothels – also belong to these Dalits. The vast majority of India’s bonded labourers, estimated to number somewhere between 10-40m, are Dalits too. India’s 160-180m Dalits are the world’s most numerous victims of caste discrimination. They are compelled by their birth to perform the most degrading and dangerous tasks, including ‘manual scavenging’, removing human excreta using brooms and baskets, often carried on the head. They are compelled to live in segregation from the ‘upper’ castes and to use different water sources on account of their ‘polluting’ influence; their educational and career opportunities are often greatly limited by their caste. According to one girl, ‘I used to sit in the front row of my class. But then the students complained that they were getting polluted. So, the teacher started making me sit at the back. Earlier, we didn’t take these things to heart. Slowly I began understanding things and so when I was in grade six, unable to bearany more, I dropped out. I wanted to become a nurse or a doctor. But now all my dreams are broken.” The selfappointed name for Dalits means ‘broken people’.
Little by little, things can improve for Dalits. But only by tackling the social, economic, political, religious and psychological oppression will true freedom and dignity be offered back to India’s slaves.
David Griffiths is the advocacy officer for India at Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
Stop the Traffik
Ruth Dearnley introduces a campaign which invites you to help ‘stop the traffik’.
The Stop The Traffik campaign works to end people trafficking and was launched to stop the fastest growing global crime – the sale of people. Stop the Traffik is a global coalition which already numbers more than 350 organisations including churches, community groups, other faith groups, businesses and NGOs (including Oasis Trust, Salvation Army, Tearfund, World Vision, JFCI, Christian Aid, Bible Society and Spring Harvest). It already covers over 40 countries including: Albania, Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Czech Republic, Eire, Ecuador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, India, Lebanon, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, UK and the USA.
Stop The Traffik’s goals are:
Education: Creating awareness and understanding of people trafficking, capturing people’s imaginations and inspiring them to act.
Advocacy: Showing individuals and local communities how they can make a difference by creating awareness and helping put pressure on authorities and governments to take action.
Fundraising: To finance projects working with trafficked people across the world e.g. safe houses, health care, legal support and vocational training.
Freedom Day: The focal day for tens of thousands of local events organised by coalition members and supporters around the world on 25th March 2007 – the bicentennial anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade - Freedom Day is designed to be not so much be a celebration of history as a drawing of inspiration from the champions of the past for the challenge of the future, as we work for the freedom from the bondage of slavery through people trafficking.
The Stop The Traffik Declaration: At the end of 2007 we hope to deliver millions of signed copies of the Stop The Traffik Declaration to domestic governments as well as the United Nations. The declaration calls on individual governments and the United Nations to work together to:Prevent The Sale Of PeopleProsecute The TraffickersProtect The Victims
Stop The Traffik campaign is a reminder to us not only of our calling as followers of Christ to participate in bringing transformational structural change to our world, but also what could be a defining moment of inspiration for the church. Stop the Traffik is a time for the church to lead the way whilst working alongside our communities so together we can change history.
In truth, the great abolitionist William Wilberforce – who will feature in a major feature film to be released in February – did not achieve his goals alone. As John Pollock, one of Wilberforce’s biographers, wrote, ‘one man can change his times, but he cannot do it alone.’ Stop the Traffik calls us to work together to shout once again ‘Stop. Stop. In the name of Christ. Stop.’
To find out more about Stop the Traffik and some of the practical ways in which you can become part of the campaign over the coming months visit www.stopthetraffik.org
Ruth Dearnley is a Stop the Traffik advisor and a member of the Spring Harvest Leadership Team.