Author: Paul Hildebrand & Denise Wicks, FAIR (5 minute read)
What do you think of when you hear the word “slavery”? Most likely, an image involving a plantation in the southern United States or a Caribbean island comes to mind. Although this is not inaccurate, and is certainly part of the history of slavery, it’s far from the current reality. The British Empire abolished the slave trade in 1807, but slavery still exists. It looks a little different and it’s hidden from public view, but slavery, especially in the form of sexual exploitation, is just as present today. In fact, today’s technology makes sexual exploitation even easier — almost like buying used furniture.
FAIR (Fellowship Aid and International Relief) is the humanitarian aid and social justice department within the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada (a.k.a. “The Fellowship”). We believe that each person is made in the image of God and is infinitely valuable and important. Our vision is to enable churches and individuals to alleviate human suffering and social injustice in the name of Christ. We strive to provide many and varied opportunities for churches to engage in this vision, which is why we love working with like-minded organizations. The reality is that we are limited by where our missionaries are located, and by their ability to meet humanitarian and justice needs in their context. Partnering helps us increase the number and depth of opportunities for engagement NOW, without the need to hire or train personnel to do the things other organizations are already excelling at.
The reality of the injustice of sexual exploitation and slavery around the world breaks our hearts. Despite our desire to see the end of human trafficking, exploitation and slavery, we don’t have the staff or resources to be part of this fight. That’s why two of our longest-standing partnerships are with International Justice Mission (IJM) Canada, a fellow Kentro member, and BridgeNorth. These are two incredible organizations focused on bringing justice to the oppressed.
FAIR has been partnering with IJM since 2016. IJM’s vision is to rescue millions, protect half a billion, and make justice unstoppable. Since then, we have been encouraging awareness and financial support among Fellowship churches for the work IJM is doing in the Philippines empowering local law enforcement to end online sexual exploitation of children. This included two appeals to help establish an aftercare and foster care system (2017), and to fund rescue operations (2020).
Recently, a pastor from one of our Fellowship churches in Vancouver, Jeremy Johnson, wrote about his experiences visiting the IJM ministry in the Philippines:
“I was standing in a recovery house in South Asia with an International Justice Mission (IJM) team, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I stood in this very place a few years earlier and listened to our IJM partners explain their dream for this space. At that time, it was an empty-looking room with dark, unfinished, concrete walls. This was not the kind of space that provided anyone with hope, let alone young underage girls who had been rescued out of brothels. But I stood there almost in tears wondering how this dark and cold space could ever provide what these resilient girls need to feel cared for and intentionally loved. Now, a couple years later, I could not hold back the tears as I looked at a bright place full of hope with a computer lab, and joyful murals on the walls drawn by the girls. This change represented the larger impact that had taken place through a strategic partnership between our church and IJM that had made a massive difference — a difference that you could see in the eyes and smiles of the girls.
“When I think about the Kingdom of God, this is the image that comes to mind. A dark place, unfinished, broken, being made into something new that brings healing and justice. These girls deserve to be rescued and rehabilitated into a life of hope, opportunity, and real love. This is the story that the Bible paints for us: a picture of a broken world, full of injustice and evil, being restored and made into a new world marked by God’s justice and love.
“As the Church, our job is to be image bearers of God’s justice and love because, firstly, we are supposed to be reflections of Christ out of our attachment to Him, and secondly, because God has chosen the Church as the means through which He desires to see this Kingdom come today. For me, there is no getting around it: if justice is a key characteristic of God’s nature of love, then as His Church, our hearts and deeds must embody His justice, whether that is across the world, across our nation, or right in our cities.”
We are just as passionate about bringing freedom to the women and girls being lured into sexual exploitation within our own country. We are so thankful for BridgeNorth, an organization that helps those seeking to exit the life of sexual exploitation to do so, and that is committed to educating the public and advocating for the women and girls they serve.
This winter, FAIR launched the Together for Freedom campaign with IJM Canada and BridgeNorth to both empower people and churches to advocate for issues of sexual exploitation in their community and to raise funds to further enable this ministry to continue. Just as there are many names for modern-day slavery, it looks different in various parts of the world. In the Philippines, children are sold or tricked into online sexual exploitation. Victims are forced to create pornography sold to people in Canada, the US, and Europe. In Canada, vulnerable women and children are trapped and forced to sell their bodies. Whether it’s within the borders of Canada or across the world in the Philippines, victims are separated from community and support systems to prevent rescue. This is done so that slave owners can make money from their victims’ suffering for as long as possible.
We are inviting people to engage in this topic in four ways: LEARN about the realities of modern-day slavery, PRAY that God would bring freedom to the sexually exploited all over the world, GIVE to support these important ministries, ACT by becoming an advocate for these suffering people and for the very real issues within their community.
As Kentro has already highlighted, February is a month to celebrate the spread of justice in the world and advocate for systems that protect the most vulnerable in our global society. With Black History Month, the UN’s World Day of Social Justice, and Canada’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, themes of justice are on people’s minds. We are thankful to be able to mark this month in partnership with IJM Canada and BridgeNorth by actively pursuing justice in the world.
Let’s pray for the exploited and enslaved to experience justice and freedom from oppression today, all for the glory of God.
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