This morning (in Nigeria anyway), I decided to share an article (excerpted from a book) I read that spoke to some of the issues that plague my heart whenever I see children around me or on TV. Indeed when I see some young adult ladies and the lives they lead today, I see echoes of their upbringing and the mental slavery that they, their parents and society have put them in.
The link to the article is here but I’ve reproduced it below:
The Mother and Child Project: Valuing the Marginalized as Jesus Did
by Christine Caine, from The Mother and Child Project
I recall a story of a young teen girl we will call Sari. She sat perched quietly on a chair. The sun was setting outside the brothel in a small town on Thailand’s border with Malaysia. Sari’s long hair hung forward, shielding her face from view. The eldest of four children, with two disabled parents, she was from a small, poor hill-tribe area in Laos.
The conversation progressed slowly, interrupted with long pauses as our team gently found a way to communicate in a culture where women and children are seen but not heard. The gulf between our team and Sari was bridged by our desire to understand the unimaginable and Sari’s desire to give voice to the unspeakable: a young girl of probably no more than fourteen years old, whose mother had sold her to a brothel. We had been steeped in our antislavery work in Eastern Europe, where girls were promised work as waitresses but tricked and forced into brothels, but the answers Sari bravely gave stopped us in our tracks.
We came to realize that an entire culture is aware and even complicit in modern-day slavery.
We asked Sari whether she had known the nature of the work involved.
We asked if she knew when she left her family to travel to Thailand that her evenings would be spent in a brothel, sexually servicing men many times a day. We asked if she knew she would be living in a crammed room with as many as ten girls, sleeping all day to work all night. We asked if she knew that the town she would live in would be a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, with over 140 brothels to fill the small town.
Lifting her right hand to fiddle with her long hair, she slowly raised her eyes to meet ours: “Yes,” she said, “I knew. I knew what I would be doing when I got here. My mother told me.” A pregnant pause followed, while the import of her words overtook our team seated in the room. “My mother said it was my decision — my decision whether I came… or not.”
As we continued to sit in stunned silence, Sari then rose to leave as she explained it was time for her to “work.” Smiling through her tears, she stopped in the doorway and looked back, striving to clarify for us the incomprehensible: that while she was a fourteen-year-old, heartbroken to be doing this work, she was happy that the money her trafficker sent back to her family in Laos put food on the table for her parents and siblings.
The issue of maternal-child health in developing countries like Laos and Thailand, where the A21 Campaign combats sex slavery, is a pressing topic. Staged against the backdrop of desperate women without education — poor, hungry, and surrounded by more mouths than they can feed — rises the fastest-growing criminal economy in the world: human trafficking.
Put simply, human trafficking is modern-day slavery.
As the second largest criminal economy on the planet, trafficking generates over $32 billion per year, brokered on the backs of young girls like Sari. Unfortunately, the variables of human trafficking and societies that routinely mistreat women collide in developing nations to create a perfect storm that leads to horrifying results: (1) these women exist in rural villages with no income-generating opportunities; (2) these women know their children will die or minimally fail to thrive for lack of basic necessities; (3) the problem is solvable by ripping apart the sanctity of the maternal-child bond and agreeing to sexually commoditize and enslave the eldest daughter, selling her to the only industry in town that generates any money: the sex-trafficking industry.
No woman should be forced to confront the impossible: selling one child to ensure survival of the rest. We must advocate and educate so that young girls will no longer be faced with Sari’s choice of watching siblings starve or “choosing” instead to sexually service men three times their age.
In the midst of this very dark, daunting circumstance, there is a ray of hope. We can do something. You can do something. We can effect change for these girls, and for generations of girls to come, by supporting maternal and child health and healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies. For young girls like Sari, already imprisoned by human trafficking, this knowledge can empower her to protect herself and her body, and it can offer her a hope that there may be a future free from the sex trade.
We must elevate the status of women and children in developing countries.
When we look at the greatest liberator of history, Jesus, we see He welcomed and esteemed the marginalized and mistreated — the women and children.
In the economy of God, our value is priceless.
We — human beings made in the image of God — are not commodities.
Valued, loved, honored, and priceless, when we educate and elevate the status of the oppressed, a difference is made.
As Christians, we know that children like Sari are not commodities and that the parental bond between mother and child is meant to be cast in the image of Jesus’ love for us. As Psalm 127:3 reminds us, children are neither tools nor a means to an end, but our very future, both a gift from our Lord and a reward from Him.
Put simply, educating and esteeming women is not a luxury in the countries in which the A21 Campaign works, but a necessity — a key that will allow parents to move from forced commoditization of their children to treating them with the unconditional love Jesus bestowed in Matthew 19:13−15 (NLT):
Some children were brought to Jesus so He could lay His hands on them and pray for them. The disciples told them not to bother Him. But Jesus said: “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” And He put His hands on their heads, and blessed them before He left.
When I look at some young ladies today (and in some cases young men) and how they sell their bodies to older men for money even where they’re not exactly “poor”, I think of what they wanted to be when they were 5 years old and how certain experiences at home and in society changed all that. How a lot of females the world over are brought up believing they need a man to give them money or make it in life; how they assist in wrecking homes the way theirs was wrecked by their father, mother or both parents and how theirs will in turn be wrecked by younger ladies somewhere down the line; how parents can in turn defile other people’s children but somehow expect their own children to remain unspoiled…..or maybe we’re too greedy and selfish to care. A vast percentage of sex offenders, sex slavery merchants and sex slavery customers are themselves parents. How do we fight this evil that has taken over our society and stop promoting taking advantage of weaker people, either economically, physically or mentally, for personal gain. Thing is, a lot of us as parents don’t realize how we each contribute to this vicious cycle. We can throw stones at the more visible and obvious cases of perpetrators but there are so many things that contribute to the problem in society. Ask yourself this:
– Do your children feel loved, confident and able to take on the world, irrespective of gender?
– Are you and your spouse closely-knit and providing a stable environment; and I don’t just mean in your head but in reality…..children are not stupid, even though we often treat them like they are
– Do you exalt money as the key to all problems (maybe even quote the relevant scripture out of proper context), often refer to money problems and spend all your quality time making more money and cutting out time spent with your spouse and children, thereby sending out the message that making money comes first?
– Do you care who your children relate with – their character, appropriateness of their relationship, their values – or doesn’t it matter as long as they’re rich, influential and the “right kind of people”?
– Do you try to live through your child, make them attain heights you yourself didn’t, not for their good (even though that’s the delusion you have) but to make up for your failings as a human being / parent or do you use them as tools to survive and get wealthy? Push your daughter to date a “richer” man, your son to make money any way possible, make them hawk to feed themselves and you, even though you were already poor when you had them and should have simply stopped having kids….but no, it’s not the African thing to not have kids so bringing them into the world and letting them suffer is more preferable for your pride’s sake and sense of self-worth.
Poverty is first mental before it’s physical and while some cases are dire, some people (few as they may be) would rather die of hunger than cross certain lines. If we as parents don’t have strength of character, what legacy are we leaving for our children and their friends? You may have them before you knew better, but it’s not too late to decide to change their fate; you can make all the sacrifices possible and refuse to make them pay for your failings. Modern day slavery……it’s not just in 3rd world countries, it’s a global, societal issue and it tells us who we have become.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT.
Editor’s Note: The Mother and Child Project is a collection of essays raising voices to inspire a movement to increase healthy pregnancies and lower death rates. In this brand-new book, Melinda Gates, Kay Warren, Bill Frist, Kimberly Williams Paisley, Michael W. Smith, and more speak out about why people of faith must get involved in this worldwide health issue.This excerpt from The Mother and Child Project is by Christine Caine, the director of Equip and Empower Ministries and co-founder of the anti-human trafficking organization the A21 Campaign. She is author of Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do and Unstoppable: Running the Race You Were Born to Win. * * *