There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics, or so the saying attributed to Benjamin Disraeli goes. It is easy to quote bald facts and figures and then move on unaffected by them but I heard a statistic today that I couldn't do that with because I was sitting next to a young woman, who remains anonymous for obvious reasons, as she told it to me. Having been trafficked at the age of 15, at a time in her life when she was dreaming of becoming a nurse, she spent a year and a half in a brothel with 23 other girls. 20 of them were minors and of these 100% of them were there against their will. None of them chose to be prostitutes. Even using the term prostitute seems to give it some misplaced acceptability. They were sex slaves, as are virtually all of the millions of minor girls in brothels around the world at this very moment. I happened to glance at her arm to see the marks where she had been burned with a cigarette to force her compliance. Held against her will for 18 months, tortured and abused daily, repeatedly, by men, some for profit some for perverse pleasure. And It might be stating the obvious, but sometimes the obvious hides the reality, the reality that 100% of her abusers were men. It's true that some women are part of the trafficking gangs and brothel keeping but men hold the power and men commit the rapes.
Yet here she was radiant and confident and willing to tell her story, a story of courage and bravery.
Having been rescued herself by IJM, along with 2 others, she couldn't bear the thought that her fellow victims remained trapped in this living hell. And so despite being terrified of those who had been so brutal to her and aged only 17, she went back and faced her abusers in helping lead the IJM team to another 8 girls who were then freed. She has been prepared to testify, too, and see her captors face justice. And what of her teenage dream to be a nurse? With the help of the IJM aftercare team she has received help, support and counselling that has enabled her to complete her education and she has just finished her first year of nurse training.
Meeting this remarkable young woman was a privilege. She was overwhelmingly grateful for all the help she had received, and it was partly because of it that she came to faith in Jesus. I say partly because I asked her how she had managed to find faith in Christ in the midst of all the pain. She replied that every day she had prayed to God to help her to be free even though she had no idea who God really was. But another girl, a close friend in the brothel, was a Christian, and shared with her about the love of Christ. What light shining in the darkness! So when she saw this love in those who helped her she came to know the one she had prayed to!
Just before our time with her ended we asked her if she'd like to ask us anything. Yes, she said, she would. With a heart of compassion for those millions still in the situation she was in she asked this almost unanswerable question. Why? Why does it happen, why is it still happening?
As 'the theologian' (a title I neither deserve nor wanted at that moment!) I was volunteered to answer. Thanks team. I started to explain that it was sin, mankind's sinful, fallen nature but I ended up saying sorry through tears. Sorry that it was men who had done this to her; sorry that men her stolen her childhood, her dignity, and her life. Sorry that there was no man to protect her.
And as men my sex need to fight to recover what it really means to be men, to love, cherish, honour and care for women of all ages, and not just those in our immediate circle of relationships. To love as the greatest man who has ever walked our planet loved. He loved so much that He gave, He never took. In the week that 'Fifty Shades of Grey' makes millions at the box office we need to rise up and say 'Enough'. If true manhood is to be recovered it must start with those who follow the truest of men.
This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His son as atoning sacrifice for our sins - 1 John 4:10
And I thought I'd just leave you with this final thought and the photo below. It is only the poor that are vulnerable and end up being trafficked. And God's heart is for the poor.
Sorry for the lack of humour today, readers. It just wasn't one if those days.