Churches join hands against human trafficking
DEC. 12 marked 15 years of international action against human trafficking.
The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children was adopted on Dec. 12, 2000.
The Philippines has since enacted laws that specifically target human trafficking. The Iacat (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) under the Department of Justice has been created, our police have been trained in dealing with trafficking cases, and community organizations and churches have responded by establishing places of refuge and support for victims. Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) says “so much more needs to be done, and both churches and government need to continue to increase efforts in bringing an end to this evil.” There is concern that government efforts against human trafficking, especially its support for Iacat, have diminished.
Many forms of trafficking in persons, such as labor trafficking inside and outside the country, have hardly begun to be addressed. Meanwhile, the modus operandi of those involved in trafficking is changing and evolving and the authorities struggle to cope with the changes. Fr. Rex Reyes of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) says that many of our migrant workers who become victims of trafficking are either lured (in the Philippines) by unscrupulous recruiters into situations of exploitation or once in another country, find themselves in situations where they become undocumented migrants, subject to the predatory activity of human traffickers.
Human trafficking takes many different forms: recruitment; prostitution; child labor; people lured overseas where they are deceived into selling their organs; seamen deceived into working in illegal and unregistered fishing boats, deprived of wages and often abandoned on foreign shores, among others.
Evelyn Pingul of the International Justice Mission (IJM) says, “[O]ne very disturbing trend is the online sexual exploitation of children, where children as young as five or even two years old have been used by close relatives, family friends or even parents to perform sex acts on live Internet streaming for customers in other countries. While the victims may not be physically taken anywhere, they are virtually trafficked, and this clearly qualifies as human trafficking.”
Pingul notes that in the 21 cases of online sexual exploitation in the Philippines, where IJM intervened, 102 victims were rescued. Of these 102 victims, 87 percent were minors, 56 percent of whom 12 years or younger; and 87 percent female. Also, in 41 percent of the cases, the rescued victims were siblings.
Father Reyes says: “As churches we need to make a clear stand against human trafficking, it is the ultimate denial of the dignity conferred on every human being… created in the image of God. To reduce another person to slavery is a blasphemy against the living God.”
Bishop Noel Pantoja of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) says that, “Human trafficking is an absolute evil. It is the work of the prince of lies, because those who engage in human trafficking betray the trust of others, by deception or playing on the poverty and hardship of others, to rob them of their freedom and reduce them to servitude. The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to proclaim freedom for the captive, and release for the prisoner. As Christians we must make a stand in the fight against human trafficking, and support those who have become its victims.”
The CBCP, NCCP, PCEC, together with IJM, join the fight against human trafficking through the Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking. This coalition of the major churches of the Philippines demonstrates how the fight against the moral and social evil of human trafficking transcends any confessional boundaries and calls every Christian to make a stand.
Jimarie Snap Mabanta is the media liaison of Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking.