Freedom Friday: 150 men, women, & children set free!

A woman smiles as she readies to return to her home village after living for months as a slave.

A woman smiles as she readies to return to her home village after living for months as a slave.

This is an amazing story of rescue coming out of IJM from this past month that I just had to share with you.

CHENNAI, INDIA – Today, nearly 150 children, women and men are celebrating freedom, rescued from slavery this week outside Hyderabad, India. More than 100 women and men – plus seven children as young as 3 years old – received official release certificates emancipating them from slavery in a brick factory.

The men and women shared how they had been physically beaten and forced to work 18 to 22 hours a day – sleeping for an hour or two and then resuming their back-breaking work in the brick kiln. A pregnant woman told how she had pleaded for rest when she was pregnant; instead, she was kicked by her manager. One man had raw wounds so deep that the bone showed through. Continue reading

Freedom Friday: Caring for Widows

Continuing these Freedom Friday posts, as a way to share more about IJM with my own friends & family (who may not venture over to IJM.org on their own), I wanted to highlight one of our other casework types. Most people know IJM for our fight against bonded labor (modern slavery) and child sex trafficking. But in Uganda, we battle another form of violent oppression against the poor. We fight for widows & their children.

Straight out of Scripture: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27

These beautiful videos can do a better job at introducing you to the topic than I could ever hope to. So please take a few minutes to watch them…

Continue reading

Good Reads: Terrify No More

I finally got the chance to read a book that has been sitting in my stack for months, Terrify No More. It is written by Gary Haugen, the president & CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM).

It’s no secret that IJM is one of my favorite organizations (read my previous post about them here). For those of you who are unfamiliar, IJM is “a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression”. You can read more about them on their site.

As for the book, here is the official description from Amazon.comTerrify No More -Young Girls Held Captive & the Daring Undercover Operation to Win Their Freedom:

In a small village outside of Phnom Pehn, little children as young as five years old were forced to live as sex slaves. Day after day their hope was slipping away. Tireless workers from International Justice Mission (IJM) infiltrated the ring of brothels and gathered evidence to free the children. Headed up by former war-crimes investigator Gary Haugen, IJM faced impossible odds-police corruption, death threats, and mission-thwarting tip-offs. But they used their expert legal finesse and high-tech investigative techniques to save the lives of 37 young girls and secured the arrest and conviction of several perpetrators. Terrify No More focuses on this dramatic rescue story, and uses flashbacks to tell those of many other victims who were given a second chance at life by this amazing organization.

It is an intense book. At times it was very difficult to read about the abuse that these girls suffer day in and day out. Personally, out of every kind of evil that I can imagine in the world, none makes my stomach turn worse than child sex trafficking.

And while some of the graphic details included in the book were hard to confront, it is the reality for the 2 million children in the world who are trapped in the commercial sex trade (according to UNICEF, 2010).

I am always a proponent of awareness and education when it comes to issues like this. We all need to be made aware of what’s going on in our world, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. Only then can we be moved to help do something about it.

What fascinated me the most was learning how the IJM investigators work – how they gather information, go undercover for video evidence & facts, the complications they often face in getting the local governments & police to support them (who are often part of the problem), and finally how they go in (and sometimes very literally) pull the girls out to freedom. Their work & their courage amaze me.

I am so grateful that there are people in the world willing to risk everything for those trapped in these unspeakable situations.

One thing that Gary does a great job emphasizing is that while we can often feel hopeless in trying to help everyone, the team at IJM is always focused on the one. The one precious girl rescued from a brothel or the one man freed from a life of slavery in a brick kiln. Each is a tremendous victory.

And while I didn’t actually get to finish the book, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the issue of child trafficking and the admirable work that IJM does to fight it. I started telling the girl next to me on the plane about it and ended up giving my copy to her. I’ll have to get another one soon…

“Learn to do good; Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17 (NKJV)

The work of International Justice Mission

Last night I had the honor of being able to volunteer at the International Justice Mission‘s Nashville fundraising dinner. I’ve been a fan of them for quite some time, but had never personally interacted with them. I was excited to go experience their organization in person. As it was a fundraiser, it was $200 per person. Not something I would normally be able to attend. But I found the right contact to sign up as a volunteer. In exchange for helping set-up & clean-up, we were able to then attend the dinner also. It was a powerful event. They do incredible, and intense, work. I learned a lot.

International Justice Mission (based out of DC) is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to promote functioning public justice systems. Please visit their site to learn more about them.

Did you know that…

There are 25 million people trapped in slavery around the world?

There are more women, men, & children held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Over 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade.

Sickening & disturbing. (I recently read something from Max Lucado where he said that we ought to get ticked off about these horrible things going on in our world. If we are not ticked off about them, then something is wrong with us. Getting boiling hot mad is the first step. Only then will we be moved to action.)

IJM goes in, gathers evidence, and literally will then storm in and pull people out of their bondage. It is scary and daunting work. They are in constant danger. But I am so glad there is someone like them in the world to help.

Back to the evening’s events… They shared about the work of IJM, including several personal stories of people who have been freed (a girl from Cambodia freed from sex trafficking, a family from India freed from a salt mill, & a widow in Uganda (I think that’s right) who was being forced off her land unjustly). They then had a live web cam conversation with the girl from Cambodia. That was amazing! She, & her sister, were rescued a couple years ago. She is now doing well and is working in a bakery, hoping someday to start her own bakery and use the profits to help others.

Amy Grant then performed a few beautiful songs. (Her Better Than a Hallelujah took on a new meaning that night for me.)

And finally, Gary Haugen, IJM’s founder & CEO, spoke. He has an amazing background, coming from the Department of Justice, where he served as the Officer in Charge of the U.N.’s genocide investigation in Rwanda. Read more about him here.

It was a very moving evening. And very educational. I am so glad to have been able to attend.

I wanted to share that with you in hopes of educating others that these problems exist in our world today. These are issues that make us uncomfortable and that are so big & daunting we may feel compelled to look the other way, rationalizing “well I can’t do anything to help that.”

This quote appeared on the screen at one point last night and it grabbed my attention:

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Are we ready to take responsibility? Are we ready to act and help out those that truly are “the least of these”? There are ways to help. You can help financially support the work of IJM. Or go here to learn about other ways that you can get involved.

And finally, here is an article that also talks about the U.S. sex trade and what we can do about it: The U.S. sex trade flourishes: your role in the fight

There are millions of people around the world right now that are being exploited as slaves. Now that you know, are you ready to take responsibility?