On Wednesday some of the group were able to visit the office of International Justice Mission. IJM is a human rights agency that seeks and secures justice for victims of violent oppression. Lawyers and investigator work with the local government to assist in the rescue of victims and the prosecution of trafficking offenders. They are driven by Jesus with a passion for justice.
I was really excited to be able to talk with the people who work with victims of violence and trafficking in Cebu. They are a group of people who see injustice and not only want to see an end to it, but they see a NEED to do something about it.
The experience of being able to talk to Adrian, the national head of IJM Phillippines about what their organization does, was a lot different to reading about what they do on their website. I was encouraged and inspired to put thoughts into practice.
The stories we heard really made it possible to see that IJM and churches like CCAC and other organizations and partners provide hope for victims of trafficking.
However it also showed me the deep dark reality of the lives of the young women, children, girls and boys. It showed me a government with a power structure, not unwilling to change, but just clouded by a crippling attitude of apathy, denial and judgement.
We learnt that it’s easier for someone to get a job in the Police force than it is to get a job at Jollibee, with a requirement of good English skills for the latter being one difference. This creates a police force with little skill and training and with little power or ability to stop or prevent any trafficking, violence and injustice.
Although a severe punishment for trafficking exists, with life in prison a possibility for trafficking a minor, little prosecution occurs. corruption and bribery allow the horrible exploitation of innocent lives and allow small children to continue to be used as slaves. But the hope is that steadied by a partnership between IJM and the governments, prosecutions will create a precedent and serve as a deterrent with the ultimate aim of a decline in sex trafficking in the Cebu area.
One thing that can be said is that there is hope for many. We were told that with the help of CCAC and others, Cebu city has visibly changed over the past 5 years that IJM have been present. The 5 lawyers are currently working on 130 cases. They continue to try and prosecute traffickers but the process is long.
IJM also employs social workers to assist the survivors of crime and trafficking with aftercare and rehabilitation.
My passion is stirred when I hear that many victims are revictimised. But I am inspired to turn my anger and passion into something that can work for good. Many of those flung through the trafficking process multiple times then oblige with IJM and assist with prosecution. Together with tackling rehabilitation and prevention, IJM is leading the way not only in Cebu and the Phils but across the world.
All in all the visit was highly inspiring and reminded me what it looks like to work for God and serve others, on mission and in our lives.
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. - Isaiah 1:17.