This week's Guest Blogger is Ruth Cooke. Ruth is International Justice Mission's (IJM) Regional Development Executive, Ireland. Here she brings to our attention IJM'S #NOTONMYSCREEN campaign, which tackles cybersex trafficking.
Injustice. Violence. Exploitation. All words I use daily in my work with International Justice Mission. My job is to help fuel the movement fighting injustice around the world, and so my days consist of words, talking with community activists, church leaders, lawyers and businesspeople, sharing about difficult topics – injustice, violence, exploitation – and inspiring action in response.
So, there’s a sense in which these topics become the norm. Violence against the most vulnerable people in society becomes the rule, rather than the exception, when you’re steeped in it daily.
However, if there was ever an issue to jolt me from this sense of ‘normal’ it is the horror of the cybersex trafficking of children. In recent years, IJM has transitioned our focus in the Philippines onto this shocking problem: where paedophiles anywhere in the world can direct the live sexual abuse of boys and girls, many under ten years old. It is a growing problem for many reasons such as easy access to the internet, the equipment needed (internet and a webcam, or just a mobile phone) and, in the Philippines particularly, the widespread use of English that means Western customers can be easily understood and followed.
As I learned about this crime - and clients such as Cassie (pictured right), who was tricked when she was only 12 years old, or Maarko (pictured below), a very young boy forced to perform on camera in his own home - I was struck once again, by the brutality inflicted when the most vulnerable are preyed upon. I was horrified, and couldn’t help but think of my own son. How could anyone do this to a child? Particularly their own child, as is often the case with this kind of abuse.
When tempted to feel overwhelmed by the reality of the abuse of children, I remind myself of a few things. Our heavenly Father is not overwhelmed by it! Psalm 10 promises me that He hears the desires of the afflicted, He encourages them, He listens to their cry and He takes action defending the fatherless and the oppressed. I thank God that He is the source of all justice and He is in control. I am also comforted that, in IJM, we have seen great success at tackling more ‘traditional’ sex trafficking around the world. We have seen a reduction of 75-86% across three cities in the Philippines, for example. We are confident that the experience and knowledge gained means we are well placed and ready for the challenges that cybersex trafficking will throw at us.
We can’t do it alone though. Will you help? Read more and watch Cassie and Maarko’s stories at IJMUK.org/shut-down-cyber. These children don’t get to say ‘no’, but you do. So add your voice to our #NotOnMyScreen campaign by getting stickers and starting the conversation where you are. Check out notonmyscreen.co.uk.
Yes, words like injustice and exploitation are part of my every day vocabulary. But the story doesn’t end there. I also use words like rescue, restoration and justice: seeing God at work daily, and thanking Him for the actions of our staff and supporters to bring children like Cassie and Maarko to places of safety.