Hope

Constantly Learning

Rev. Jools Hamilton co-led a team of young adults from the Methodist Church in Ireland to South Africa, to explore themes of justice and leadership. As part of their visit, the team spent some time with the Church Land Programme (WDR Partner). Here Jools shares some thoughts on their work and the uphill battle they face. 

Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. And we need the eyes to see that.

The Church Land Program in South Africa, is a great example of pushing back some of the injustices of this world hectare by hectare. It was established in 1996 to help face some of the injustices from the years of colonial rule and apartheid.

Historically when a colonial power steps in, it usually does so with superior military might, and that superiority is used to forcefully take what has not been theirs, and hold it by force. In a South African context this has meant violent capture of resource (land) followed by brutal defense of it. 

When everything changed in 1994 land became a big agenda item for the churches. All the mainline churches found themselves as significant landowners, in a land where their members were landless. Land the Church now owned, in a privileged position, which historically had belonged to many people sitting in it’s pews. An interesting position for an organization that’s exists on the example of a Christ who washed his followers feet? 

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Since 1996 CLP has been involved in different ways to return land to black land owners, and have the land (a vital place of identity and resource in the African continent) as a sustainable and just component of life for everyone.

They are on an uphill battle, and they fight it well. 

But here’s the thing. 

There were more evictions of black and colored people in South Africa from white owned land during the 10 years after apartheid than the 10 years before apartheid ended.

Political agreement has not brought Peace. 

In a land where, as apartheid ended, white people were 13% of the population owning 80% of the land, change had to be strategized and resourced with bold action. The work of the Church Land Program, its ‘raison d’être’ of speeding up land reform, is a light of actionable hope in the midst of the giants of capitalism, colonial history, human nature and socio–geo–political obstinance corruption and incompetence.

And so they are clear – they don’t think they have ‘arrived at a solution’ and aim to implement it. They have been on a 20–year journey from fixing the problem to discovering the same solution doesn’t work everywhere, to now being in solidarity with those in the struggle. They are therefore in a constant place of learning.

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The time I and a team of young leaders from the Methodist Church in Ireland spent with them recently challenged all of us to, as per their example, be in a constant place of reflective learning and practice. 

Yet – how can I listen to their story and not feel my heart sink?

More people were thrown off land in the 10 years after apartheid than the precious 10 years. Cleansing ‘space’ to keep ‘self’ guarded and safe? 

Belfast has more ‘peace walls’ now than it did when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Building walls to keep ‘us’ in and ‘them’ out, to keep ‘self’ guarded and safe?

There are better ways to keep humans grounded and safe that do not involve building walls, creating segregation and sectarian violence … it was a pleasure to witness just one of many groups concerned with a just and sustainable solution to land distribution in one part of the world that has suffered massively from issues of the land giving leadership and inspiration in this area.

Visit their website to learn more: http://www.churchland.org.za/ 

[This post originally appeared on www.joolshamilton.com]

Victim to Survivor

Earlier this year, Pat (a member of the WDR committee) was invited to see the a glimpse of the work of IJM [WDR Partner] in Cambodia. 

My time spent in Cambodia with International Justice Mission (IJM) was very busy! Our journey took 24 hours and although we were only there for only five days, it was a very encouraging time spent with such professional and caring staff in the IJM office. 

Pol Pot and the legacy of Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia for almost four years. He tortured and killed so many, particularly anyone educated such as doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers, in fact even if someone wore glasses they were also killed as he saw them as educated. He was ousted by the Vietnamese in January 1979, however a civil war continued for another two decades, eventually coming to an end in 1999. Most hospitals and education facilities are headed up by foreigners.

The IJM team of staff consists of lawyers, investigators, social workers, community activists and other professionals. So, what did I see in the Cambodia office and throughout Cambodia?

For over a decade the IJM office in Cambodia had been working to reduce the exploitation of children in the sex trade. There were approximately 15-30% of minors, many of them 15 and under, throughout the country and in 2013 this was reduced to 0.1%. 

We were driven down a street which is now full of shops, offices and houses that once were almost all brothels.  Sex exploitation of children has plummeted, thanks to IJM and other organisations. 

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IJM staff are now mainly focussed on labour trafficking, particularly with men exploited as slaves in the Thai fishing industry, and women being taken to China by 'bride traffickers'. They are also involved, alongside WorldVision, in the training of police officers on the issue of trafficking. There are senior police officers who have a passion to drastically reduce this crime. 

While we were there we sat in on a training session for police officers, had a private meeting with the Chief of Police in the North West of the country, and visited the court where victims give evidence and where many traffickers have been prosecuted. We also got to visit and be part of devotions in a church where the IJM staff are involved in community engagement, led by a young Methodist man. 

We spent a full day meeting the staff at IJM HQ; a non-descriptive building with no signs outside- safety and privacy of staff is paramount. We didn’t get to meet the investigators as they had travelled to Thailand to train staff in a new office. We did however get to meet most all others.  

We heard from the legal team, finance, translator, investigation department, community engagement and, an area I found extremely interesting, the aftercare team.

I was inspired by Saroeun. He previously worked in a nightclub and was asked to help IJM to investigate those exploiting people into the sex industry. He started studying law and was successful at university. Now he is head of the legal team and an extremely influential, respected and well-known lawyer throughout Cambodia.

The aftercare team is very much involved in caring for those who have gone from being victims to being survivors. They help them when they return home, assist them in any way possible, including helping them to seek employment - the reason why a large number are trafficked in the first place.

I was upset yet inspired to hear the story of ‘Sam’ (not his real name we never got to know that or take photos of him) who had been taken to Thailand to work on a fishing boat. He lives very close to Thai border, and as work is scarce he was ‘taken in’ by an unscrupulous person offering him a job in the Thai fishing industry. He was on a boat that was fishing illegally and was never brought to harbour. The men lived in cramped conditions and were fed little food. They were terrified of the Captain who had a gun, knowingthey could be shot or thrown overboard at anytime so they just kept working. They received no money even though they had been promised a salary, no contact with anyone off the ship. For 6 years, Sam did not see land.

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His story was told directly to us with the use of an interpreter. He felt he had been sold however now feels he has been given life again.He has a family and IJM are trying to assist him to secure work. The staff continue to work with those who have been victims and now survivors for a minimum of two years.

I am writing this blog on International Trafficking Awareness Day.  Although the stories of victims are difficult to hear and to understand, know that the work done by IJM is truly changing lives.

 

Light can triumph over darkness

International Justice Mission are the the largest anti-slavery organisation in the world. Irish methodist world development & Relief partner with IJM UK in their fight for justice. 

In this blog, Amy Anderson  (Regional Development Intern IJM UK) shares with us how IJM are bringing light & hope into some of the darkest areas of the world. 

Join them on Saturday 24th March for Ireland's first PRAY FOR JUSTICE gathering in Drumbeg Parish, Belfast. Visit their site for details. 

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“For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18

From the dark doors of a brothel in Iloilo City, Philippines, came a loud and abrupt knocking. The nine girls inside the house grew anxious, wondering which may be chosen by the customer waiting at the other side of the door.  The lady who owned the brothel carefully opened the door, expecting one of the brothels usual customer’s- she was shocked to see policemen. 

Inside the brothel sixteen-year-old Nessa was no longer filled with fear, but hope.

“When they came in, I was so happy and I thought to myself, ‘Finally, this is the time we will be rescued from this darkness.”’

And so, after four months sexual exploitation, Nessa was rescued from the brothel and taken to an aftercare home to heal. With the support of IJM of social workers and lawyers from IJM, she decided to share her testimony in court. The brothel owner was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison.

Nessa’s life was forever changed.

She was finally free.  

For so many girls across the world, they are still trapped in darkness, waiting for the light to come.

Today an overwhelming 4 billion people live outside of the protection of the law. When I first began my internship with IJM I found this fact most difficult to grasp- until I began seeing it from the lens of those it most impacts.

For the widow in Uganda, this looks like being beaten, homeless and stripped of your belongings. For the young boy in Ghana, this looks like working 18 hours a day on a fishing boat where the only way out is to drown or be rescued. For the man in India, this looks like being beaten, intimidated and forced to endure backbreaking work for little to no pay.  I began to learn that when traffickers and slave owners face no fear of punishment for their crimes violence becomes an everyday threat to those most vulnerable. 

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There is undeniably a lot of darkness in our world. How could we make a difference?

Let me encourage you that light is breaking through the darkness. Here, at International Justice Mission, we protect the poor from violence in the developing world and we have seen that justice for the poor is possible. We have rescued more than 40,000 people from violence and continue to support them through rehabilitative aftercare programs that give them the tools they need to heal. But that’s not where it ends. IJM have proven that where laws are enforced, violence against the poor stops. Working alongside local law enforcement to transform and strengthen the justice system, we are helping to protect over 150 million people from violence.

So, how do we, as ‘ordinary’ men and women living in Ireland, respond?

You don’t have to be an investigator, social worker or lawyer to fulfil the biblical mandate of fighting for the poor. Each one of us are called, as the body of Christ, to seek justice. With more slaves in the world today than ever before, we rely on the support of our global prayer partners and prayer communities. We believe that God is calling His church to join Him in the work of ending slavery and we know that His desire is for those trapped in darkness to be set free into the light. You can sign up on our website today and become a prayer partner as you join thousands of people committed to seeking justice through prayer.

Yes, there is a lot of darkness in our world. But one step at a time, we are breaking through that darkness and we are trusting that our all-powerful God, the Light of the World, goes with us. We rejoice in every victim rescued and every justice system restored, believing that the light shines in the darknessand thatthe darkness has not overcome it.

Will you join us in the fight against injustice?

Amy Anderson

Regional Development Intern, IJM UK 

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