(MNN) — The U.S. State
Department estimates that as many as 27 million men, women, and children around the world are
living in as victims of human trafficking.
India alone, there are approximately 2.8 million people trapped in slavery. Three years ago, India's Union Home Ministry asked all
districts in the country to set up Anti Trafficking cells to combat the
statistics indicate that every year, 70,000 people–largely women and children–go missing in India, with the majority believed to having been trafficked or
sold. The most likely victims of this
bondage are those living on less than a $1 a day. Their desperate situations
leave them vulnerable to exploitation.
Bright Hope International is working to develop a network of
churches in India to raise awareness and build strategic partnerships to take
action against these inhumane acts. Bright Hope is working with two churches in Uttar Pradesh
State in the north. President and CEO
CH Dyer explains, "We want to try
to reach out to them because they're in our area. There are thousands of
women right around these two churches that they see on a regular basis, that
they talk to, build relationships with, but they didn't have any means to go
Dyer says Bright Hope's mission is to empower the local church to
be the hands and feet of Christ. In
this case, they focused on the human trafficking going on right outside the
churches. "Bright Hope said to them, 'We'll help
you, and we'll help you do it right so that they understand how to bring these young
women out: how to rehabilitate them, provide the kind of counseling to give them, what
kind of job training we can give them so
that they never have to return to that kind of work."
Bright Hope this month launched a three-pronged approach including awareness,
rescue, and rehabilitation focused on the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). Dyer says response has been good because it
counters the whole message of slavery. "The
Gospel is a story that resonates in their hearts because it lifts up the poor,
it lifts up the untouchables. In the caste system, if you're a lower caste,
you've always been taught 'you're nothing.' But God says, 'No, at my Cross,
Rescue means extracting women who want to leave the life and
pressuring local authorities to obey local laws and remove under-aged women
from brothels. It also involves placing them in safe houses where they cannot
be found by those seeking to return them to a life of abuse and destruction. Dyer explains, "We targeted during
the first six months to have ten women come out. We've gotten four out. One of the young
girls, though, is not out, and I've really been asking people to pray."
The girl, named Supna, was essentially sold by a family member,
says Dyer. "She started because her father took a $1000 loan and
couldn't repay it. So these men forced her to do this work to repay her dad's
loan. She's 17, and she wants to come out, but she hasn't been able to."
goes on to say that in Supna's case, "We've gotten the police involved. Just last week,we got a letter, stamped by the mother saying, 'I want my daughter
out of this.' We're trying to go through
the legal authorities to be able to get her out of that situation."
Once a girl is rescued, the team will focus on healing through
professional Biblical counseling to regain strength, hope, and faith in God and
His ability to restore them. Dyer says,
"The counseling is starting soon. Then the rehabilitation will start; we're
looking at a longer-term program."
Opportunities to earn a livable wage will keep these women and
girls off the streets. Through job skills training, girls can have well-paying
jobs as they rebuild their lives. A safe house has been set up for them, and healing
can begin. Church
partners are combining all three of these approaches into a final proposal which
will be unveiled later in the year.
Bright Hope initially committed $5,000. And then, God. "We did a five-day Facebook
campaign; we said we wanted to raise $5,000 to launch this program. We actually
raised $20,000, so God has really provided. That's what we needed
for this first full six months to get going."
Keep praying for Supna. There have been some steps forward and some
complications; she needs your prayers now more than ever.
Also pray for the Bright Hope team. By removing the girls, Bright Hope's partners
are interfering with money-making business. "We know there will be some resistance, but our God is
greater and we know that His purposes will reign, so we're trusting the Lord
every day for that."
See our Featured Links Section for more about Bright Hope's India