Guatemala (MNN) — Guatemala has a historically bad record when it comes to human trafficking.
In both 2007 and 2008, the country was on the Tier 2 Watch List "for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons, particularly with respect to ensuring that trafficking offenders are appropriately prosecuted for their crimes," according to the U.S. government.
The International Justice Mission (IJM) says it is estimated that 90 percent of rape and domestic violence incidents in Guatemala go unreported. Of the cases that are brought to trial, there's a 90 percent likelihood that the perpetrator will not be convicted.
Buckner International has dealt with the consequences of poor legal repercussions for trafficking for years. The ministry has been tending to victims of trafficking and sexual abuse who come into their Girls Homes and Community Transformation Centers, providing aftercare as they can for the many girls who are abandoned, sold, or tricked into prostitution. The cycle has perpetuated, however, in the absence of any legal capabilities.
Margaret Elizabeth Perry says it's a painful cycle to watch: "What's happened in the past is that children will be removed from their home, but time passes and the child ends up returning to the home, yet the perpetrator is still there. So just being able to break this cycle–being able to hold the perpetrator accountable for his or her actions–is crucial in really caring for children."
Now Buckner has finally found a way to play this crucial role in holding perpetrators accountable.
Over the last year, Buckner has developed a partnership with IJM, a ministry devoted to the legal aspects of eradicating trafficking. The purpose of the partnership? "It's really a way to break the cycle–the cycle of abuse, the cycle of trafficking," says Perry.
"IJM basically provides legal services for young women who have been trafficked or victimized, and Buckner is able to provide aftercare services," explains Perry. "We remove them from the dangerous situation or place of abuse and put them into a shelter where they're able to receive aftercare, receive counseling, receive legal aid. Buckner is able to work with them to provide a permanency plan which will then transition them to safety and independence."
It would seem that the bases are finally getting covered in Guatemala, thanks in no small part to this partnership. In January, Buckner was even able to open a new shelter for victims as IJM goes after the perpetrators.
More exciting still is the way lives are being transformed. Christians are standing for justice and being a voice for the voiceless with IJM, and victims are being reborn in Christ's love as believers care for them in Buckner's aftercare.
Still, there is work to be done. Pray for Buckner, for IJM, for Guatemala as a country. Consider even going to Guatemala to serve on a short-term trip with Buckner or interning with the skills you possess–Buckner could use adults and students alike. You can of course give to this project as well, by clicking here and designating your gift for this program. Whatever you do, rejoice in the way God is working through His people to reach the broken and abused in Guatemala.