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.


Made for more

Recently I read an article on the Guardian website titled, “British public bought £14bn of goods made by slaves in 2017, claims  report”.  

Photo: The Guardian

Photo: The Guardian

£14billion. In case, like me, you can’t comprehend that number, it’s £14 with nine 0s after it… £14,000,000,000.  

The article went on to say that according to a UN report, it is estimated that today 40.3 million people live in conditions of slavery.  

40.3 million people are living right now, as you read this, in slavery. Living without freedom, trapped by violence, fear and corruption.  

I can’t get my head around either of these numbers. They’re too big.  

For the British public to have spent such a colossal amount of money on items which have been made by slaves highlights that there are people in forced-labour, working like slaves, in a huge number of companies and industries around our world.  

The article listed “electronics, garments, fish, chocolate and sugar” as some of the most commonly bought goods which will potentially have come from slave labour.  

I think the reason I can’t fully get my head around the numbers in the article is because the 40.3million isn’t just a number or a statistic. 

It’s a group of people.  

A group of people with names, families and friends.  

People created by God.  

People created by God, with gifts, talents and skills.  

People created by God so that they might live life to its fullest.  

They were not created to live a life of darkness, fear or pain. This is not God’s plan for His people.  

I came across this article on Twitter. A few tweets after it, I saw news from one of WDR’s partners, IJM UK: “A family of 11 has been rescued from slavery after being trapped on a farm for four years.”  

Yes, 11 is a small number against a backdrop of 40.3 billion, but isn’t it a start?! 

IJM are able to share news daily of people who have been rescued from slavery. They are at work around the world to challenge the root causes of injustice and corruption which is often so entrenched in political and judicial systems.  

WDR’s vision is to see all people fulfil their God-given potential. With such a huge number of people trapped in slavery, it is great that we (WDR) can partner with IJM in the fight. Together continue to seek after God’s heart for justice and to see His people free. 

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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