I reached across a crowded room during a Pastors’ Conference in Hanmer Springs. Murray Robertson, former Pastor of Spreydon Baptist Church and head of the Leadership Network, stretched out his hand. “You need to read this,” he said, passing a book to me.
I was instantly grabbed by the title, “God in a Brothel.” In this challenging book, author Daniel Walker tells the story of how he joined an organisation as a detective. His job was to enter brothels throughout the world and rescue prostitutes who were enslaved. Working with local law enforcement agencies he would also oversee the arrest and prosecution of the brothel owners and human traffickers.
It’s an exciting story of busting brothels and human trafficking rings. It’s also a story of risk because the people who enter these brothels are exposed to a sordid environment full of temptation. It’s a story of sadness, both for the victims, some as young as five or six years old, and for the failed attempts to set women and children free from sex slavery. It’s a story of jubilation when some are helped into freedom. It’s a story of tragedy and redemption for the author in a job that’s both difficult and dangerous.
The book concludes with a challenge to continue the task of combating the sex trade both as followers of Jesus and as the Church.
I suspect the reason Murray gave me the book is because during the Pastor’s Conferences I shared briefly about the work we’re doing in South Asia and the new field we have. Murshidabad, as I have described before, is the trading floor of trafficked women and children from across the district, and other parts of India, Nepal and Bangladesh; women who are then redistributed for sale into cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi and other parts of Asia.
The eradication of trafficking is something we’re passionate about at NZBMS. In addition to all the other work we do, God has directed us to Murshidabad as a specific ministry to look for solutions to this tragic world phenomenon.
Recently I was informed that the issue of fighting sex trafficking featured as a key conversation of churches gathered under the arm of the Leadership Network in Christchurch. Around 80 people from Churches across the ecumenical spectrum listened to people like Daniel Walker, and Christchurch representatives from Hagar International and Liminal, who were also representing Freeset. 26 churches then signed up to be part of a fellowship to be further informed and to support organisations working against sex trafficking.
The topic of anti-slavery and anti-trafficking, particularly anti-sex-trafficking seems to be gaining momentum. In September, US President Barak Obama entered the arena saying,
“It ought to concern every person, because it’s a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name—modern slavery.”
“Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it…”
(President Barack Obama, September 25, 2012) – source whitehouse.gov
I’m sure Abolitionist’s around the world will have been pleased that the US President made such a strong statement. In the online version of Kolkata newspaper, the Telegraph, guest columnist, Ruchira Gupta applauded President Obama whilst posing a question to her own Prime Minister. She asked, “What would it take for the Indian Prime Minister to demonstrate the same commitment towards the most marginalised girls in my country?”
Dare I ask a similar thing here in New Zealand? What will the New Zealand Government do to “get in the game” and put some serious thought and resource into eradicating human trafficking and slavery throughout the world and in New Zealand?
Did you know that New Zealand is a source country for underage girls subjected to internal sex trafficking, and a destination country for foreign men and women subjected to forced labour? Did you know that foreign men, largely from Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand, are subjected to conditions of forced labour, including debt bondage, aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand waters? (source: Trafficking In Persons)
These were some of the findings of the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report on New Zealand, released in June this year. If you didn’t know it, slavery, human trafficking, sex trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage is thriving in New Zealand and we, as the body of Christ, need to be informed, challenged and mobilised to do our part to stop it.
I think this is one of the huge issues, not only facing the world but particularly the church and I am compelled to urge us to respond.
Personally and as an organisation, we believe this is so important that the NZBMS Mission Council is releasing me on sabbatical for the first half of 2013. My task will be to investigate and research how we, as a movement, need to respond from a missional perspective both overseas and here in New Zealand.
Let’s be informed, let’s understand God’s heart for these people, let’s mobilise the church, and let’s join God in being part of His redemptive work in seeing justice dispensed to the perpetrator and righteousness to the enslaved. Let freedom and son-ship in Christ Jesus, reign!
With Permission From: General Directors Blog NZBMS