Prayer gathering to tackle human trafficking
Thirty children and a young adult are freed from working as slaves on fishing boats in Ghana West Africa. Eleven suspects are arrested for holding them.
The wealthy owner of a brick kiln in India is found guilty of trapping 12 impoverished men and women in bonded slavery and mistreating them, forcing them to work long hours making bricks.
Eight children in the Philippines — seven girls and one boy ranging in age from 2 months to 18 years — are freed from cybersex trafficking following a cooperative investigation by Philippine authorities, U.S. Homeland Security and the International Justice Mission.
The investigation began when an American man was arrested for purchasing online sex shows featuring the children and ended when adults were arrested for offering the children to an undercover agent for sex.
We’re called to pray for all people everywhere, right? And certainly for those in need. How can we not respond and pray for God’s help? These are fixable things and the Jesus in me compels me to care, to pray and to act on their behalf. The gathering is a chance for all of us to do that.
Aside from the rescue of human beings from slavery, a common thread in each account is they were reported in one month — March of this year — as result of work by the International Justice Mission and its allied agencies.
The accounts are from news articles and IJM’s weekly prayer letter.
The Christian organization IJM works to end modern-day slavery, human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, by restraining criminals and by transforming broken public justice systems.
Peach County’s Christine Watson is leader of a team of Middle Georgians involved with IJM who are planning a May 20 prayer gathering focusing on ending global slavery and the rescue of those enslaved through human trafficking.
Watson has been a leading advocate against human trafficking and for victims of trafficking in Middle Georgia for a half dozen years.
She said that results seen by IJM and other organizations rest on prayer, action and God’s promise to help oppressed people.
“What people don’t realize is that there are more slaves in the world today than at any time in history — an estimated 45 million adults and children,” she said “Some are enslaved for slave labor and others are exploited for sex. I know we’d all love to stop it today if we could, but practically speaking, not every one of us can be involved in taking someone by the hand and leading them out of slavery. But we each can do our part and we can pray. We certainly can pray. IJM says: ‘The end of slavery begins with God’s people. It begins with you.’ On May 20 we have the opportunity for people across Middle Georgia to come together to cry out to God. I know he will hear and he will act. He will help.”
Watson said though slavery is illegal in every country in the word, it still exits and operates secretly in some places and thrives openly in others.
She said that’s where the International Justice Mission comes in.
“IJM is the largest anti-slavery, anti-human trafficking organization in the world,” she said. “Though there’s a horrible human-trafficking problem in the U.S. that we need to eradicate, at least we have working systems to do so. We have good laws that are getting better, good law enforcement and a good judicial system. Plus we have a growing number of programs and volunteers engaged in freeing people and helping them find healing and avenues to a better life. That’s not true everywhere.
“IJM works in countries that have a rule of law in place and an operating justice system but where these systems aren’t operating as they should to protect the weak. IJM can help provide on the ground investigation but it’s also there to bring training to law officers and court officials and to aid implementation of systems to accomplish justice in a timely way. IJM seeks opportunities and is invited to bring lasting change in these countries as well as the more immediate result of individuals being freed from slavery.”
Watson said IJM recognizes human trafficking issues are tied to violence and the threat of violence.
An IJM fact sheet says the organization deals with sex trafficking, sexual violence against children, forced labor slavery, property grabbing that’s often against widows and orphans, abuses of citizens’ rights and officials’ abuse of power.
The organization states its role this way: “IJM is a global organization that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems.”
Some of IJM’s cumulative results include:
▪ Involvement in 28,000-plus individuals being rescued from slavery and oppression.
▪ Training more than 37,000 judges, law officers, prosecutors and other officials since 2012.
▪ Involvement in protecting more than 21 million people from violence.
Christian-based since its inception, IJM was founded almost 20 years ago by attorney Gary Haugen. Prior to founding IJM, Haugen’s work included a career with the U.S. Department of Justice from which he also was loaned to the United Nations’ Center for Human Rights as officer-in-charge of investigations in the Rwandan genocide.
His role included personal field investigations.
Watson said IJM has always made prayer part of its multi-faceted fight against slavery. That has included building worldwide prayer partners and conducting an annual international prayer gathering in Washington, D.C.
She said now IJM is working to bring such prayer gatherings on a smaller scale to regions across the country.
The Middle Georgia gathering is one of the first.
Watson’s Middle Georgia advocacy work has included long-time activity with IJM, including a sort-term trip to observe and work with IJM operations in Guatemala. She has served as chairman of MG-ALERT (the Middle Georgia Alliance to End Regional Trafficking) for which she is now vice chairwoman and she is an advisory board member of Out of Darkness of Middle Georgia, a local anti-trafficking and victim rescue ministry. Watson, who by day is an executive administrative assistant at CB&T Bank of Middle Georgia, also speaks frequently to churches, civic groups and others about human trafficking issues.
She said she’s particularly excited about the prospects of the local prayer gathering.
“It’s still something new for IJM so were helping break new ground,” she said. “But more important, we’re keeping prayer a priority. We’re called to pray for all people everywhere, right? And certainly for those in need. How can we not respond and pray for God’s help? These are fixable things and the Jesus in me compels me to care, to pray and to act on their behalf. The gathering is a chance for all of us to do that.”
Watson said the event will last from 3-5:30 p.m. and will include information and prayer segments regarding forced labor, property grabbing, cybersex trafficking and sexual violence.
She said area ministers will attend with many helping to lead in prayers.
“It’s evident IJM has seen good results in the past but it’s all based on the wisdom that comes from God through prayer and seeing things happen that only God can do. I hope people will just come pray,” she said. “Registration is free and can be done at the door but it would help us so much if people would go ahead and register in advance.”
Watson said those seeking information can contact her directly through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 478-213-5236. To register for the prayer gathering, go online to bit.ly/middleGAprayergathering.
Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at email@example.com.
International Justice Mission Middle Georgia Local Prayer Gathering
When: 3-5:30 p.m. May 20
Where: Second Baptist Church, 2504 Moody Road, Warner Robins