Who to Trust

Sometimes it is hard to know who to trust, who can be relied upon. Unfortunately those who seek to take advantage of those who are most vulnerable tend to use any means to do so. It is becoming more and more difficult for women and children around the world to trust those offering them aid in confidence. It is essential to be sure that humanitarian and peacekeeping institutions properly screen those interested in working/serving with them. And, as always, there is the difficulty of overcoming the silence of those who are abused. How do you encourage those who are extremely fearful to report the crimes committed against them?
The following news report was put out by CNN on Tuesday, May 27th, 2008, and deals with some of these issues:

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Humanitarian aid workers and United Nation peacekeepers are sexually abusing small children in several war-ravaged and food-poor countries, a leading European charity has said.

Children as young as 6 have been forced to have sex with aid workers and peacekeepers in return for food and money, Save the Children UK said in a report released Tuesday.

After interviewing hundreds of children, the charity said it found instances of rape, child prostitution, pornography, indecent sexual assault and trafficking of children for sex.

"It is hard to imagine a more grotesque abuse of authority or flagrant violation of children's rights," said Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK.

In the report, "No One To Turn To" a 15-year-old girl from Haiti told researchers: "My friends and I were walking by the National Palace one evening when we encountered a couple of humanitarian men. The men called us over and showed us their penises. They offered us 100 Haitian gourdes ($2.80) and some chocolate if we would suck them. I said, 'No,' but some of the girls did it and got the money."

Save the Children says that almost as shocking as the abuse itself is the "chronic under-reporting" of the abuses. It believes that thousands more children around the world could be suffering in silence.

According to the charity, children told researchers they were too frightened to report the abuse, fearful that the abuser would come back to hurt them and that they would stop receiving aid from agencies, or even be punished by their family or community.

"People don't report it because they are worried that the agency will stop working here, and we need them," a teenage boy in southern Sudan told Save the Children.

The charity's research was centered on Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti, but Save the Children said the perpetrators of sexual abuse of children could be found in every type of humanitarian organization at all levels.

Save the Children is calling for a global watchdog to tackle the problem and said it was working with the U.N. to establish local mechanisms that will allow victims to easily report abuse.

In 2003, U.N. Nepalese troops were accused of sexual abuse while serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Six soldiers were jailed.

A year later, two U.N. peacekeepers were repatriated after being accused of abuse in Burundi, and U.N. troops were accused of rape and sexual abuse in Sudan.

Last year, the U.N. launched an investigation into sexual abuse claims in Ivory Coast.

The vast majority of aid workers were not involved in any form of abuse or exploitation but in "life-saving essential humanitarian work," Save the Children's Whitbread said.

But humanitarian and peacekeeping agencies working in emergency situations "must own up to the fact that they are vulnerable to this problem and tackle it head on," she said.

The aid agency said it had fired three workers for breaching its codes and called on others to do the same. The three men were dismissed in the past year for having had sex with girls aged 17, which the charity said is not illegal but is cause for loss of employment.

"Oxfam takes a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct by its aid workers. All our staff across the world are held accountable by a robust code of conduct," said Jane Cocking, Oxfam charity's humanitarian director.

"We support Save the Children's calls for a global watchdog. We will do all we can to stamp out this intolerable abuse."


Simple Living

Pete Rollins brings to our attention the following image created by Nadia Pleasner as part of her Simple Living campaign, a campaign designed to raise awareness of the Genocide in Darfur. The image is currently under attack by the design house Louis Vuitton.

Thanks to JR Rozko and Nicholas Fiedler for pointing it out to me.


When the money hits the hand

The checks are starting to roll in now. Have you gotten yours? I got mine. And as I held it in my hand I started to forget about all of these global and local issues going on. The recent cyclone in Burma or the earthquake in China seems so far away – and what could my measly $300 really do anyway? There are so many THINGS I want, things I think I need. And the debt I am in is a constant weight I feel on my shoulders - but then I look at my check again and think to myself "$300, really? How will that take care of much debt, I should really just buy something with that. I can always pay off the debt later.”

But then I call myself back to my call and my call in the Kingdom. Are there some people that really actually NEED this stimulus check? Yes. And they should keep it. But there are others of us that can afford to give it all away, to think of the other and make a significant difference, and we should give it away.

Remember the example from earlier – even if everyone only gave 2/3 of their check to something like sustainable water projects [there are MANY things you can give to], no one on the planet would ever be thirsty or die of water-born diseases... which kill about 6,000 people a day.

Maybe there are some who think we should be using the money as GW asked us to, so we actually stimulate the economy, great! Then how about buying some groceries for a neighbor that can’t afford them? What about that church community member that can’t afford a washer and dryer or can’t pay rent this month? How about that classmate that can’t afford a computer? What about that single mother who needs help buying cloths for her children? There are so many ways you can use the money not for yourself but for the good of another.

We need to have a bigger focus, a Kingdom (counter-cultural) focus. Do we really understand the meaning of sacrifice?

Check out some global ideas at http://howwillyouspendyourcheck.com or at the facebook group.


Making a Difference

I saw this bumper sticker on a car the other day – and I didn’t really know what to think of it. I just didn’t know what my initial reaction should be. Part of me wanted to say “um…no. There is so much more you have to do in order to make a difference. You can’t just throw money at a problem or an issues and think that’s going to make it better.” But then as I walked a bit further down the street and thought about it some more I think I was a bit too quick to judge. Sometimes that’s where someone is – the place they are in life – where they can make a difference.
I remember when I was traveling overseas quite often – about every summer or every other – and I was raising support to do this. There were quite a few times when I struggled asking the same people for money over and over again, I felt like I was becoming a burden to them. I will never forget when one of my supporters gave me some of the most encouraging words that will always stick with me:
“Julia, you are at a place in your life when you can just up and go and do these amazing things. We are not in a place where that is as feasible for us. My job and family requirements keep me from doing that. But your asking me for support allows me to join in the work that God is doing even though I can’t go over there and do it myself. If you don’t ask me – you deprive me from being able to be apart of the work that God is doing.”
Wow. What a cool view. People can always say no – but they can always say yes. Sure…they might feel guilt and no one likes to feel that – but I tend to think that guilt is someone’s own issues and maybe guilt isn’t a bad place to start, but it should never end there.
But then as I thought MORE about it I wasn’t satisfied settling there. Sure, giving a donation does make a difference – it does play into the work that God is doing – but we need to be willing to go further then that. We need to be willing to take that next step and get involved, get our hands dirty and become an activist in Kingdom work. God won’t call us all to go to Nepal or walk the streets of LA at three o’clock in the morning, but he does call us all to do something – and quite often it requires a bit more then writing a check. It might start there, but I have a feeling it won’t stop there. So, if finances are a resource that you have of which you can freely give – DO! But keep your eyes and hearts open for the next step God calls you to take to make a difference.


Agressive Advertisement Campaign in UK

Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon.com came out with a recent article on a rather aggressive advertising campaign that has just started in the UK when it comes to the trafficking of women and children and the use of brothels. Read the article below and then some of my thoughts:

In Britain's latest attempt at fighting sex trafficking, it's simply calling johns rapists. Men visiting the loo at their local pub may soon start to notice posters showing an open door -- along what seems a wall smeared with blood or other bodily fluids -- leading to an illegal sex den. (Note that prostitution isn't illegal in Britain, but brothels are.) The advertisement reads: "Walk in a punter. Walk out a rapist." Then, in smaller text, the ad throws out a dare to any man who comes across a sex worker he suspects was trafficked: "If you're man enough, call Crimestoppers."

Not all johns are rapists, of course; and, I'm uncomfortable calling anyone who sleeps with a trafficked girl a rapist, even though she is being forced to have sex against her will. Certainly, johns who know they are having sex with a trafficked girl are rapists, and it could be argued that there are many more cases of involuntary rape caused by willful blindness -- but I don't think all men who unwittingly sleep with trafficked girls are guilty of rape.

The ad is clearly aiming to draw a line between willful and forced prostitution, but it's a matter of perspective whether the ad is applying the rapist label to all clients of trafficked prostitutes. If it is, it raises a host of questions. For instance: If a man has sex with a drug-addicted sex worker, or a prostitute who has an abusive pimp, is he a rapist?

All that being said, I salute the advertisement for pushing any man considering sex-for-pay to consider that he very well could end up unwittingly having sex with a trafficked woman.

I disagree wholeheartedly with Tracy in her statement: “Not all johns are rapists, of course; and, I'm uncomfortable calling anyone who sleeps with a trafficked girl a rapist, even though she is being forced to have sex against her will.” I am wondering what exactly a rapist would be then. What makes this scenario different? Is it because the johns are paying? Because the girls have been purchased? It seems to be we are grabbing at some pretty thin straws here. Why are we trying so hard to protect the rights of these johns that are abusing every imaginable right these women and children are supposed to have?

And why does she mean by willful blindness? Sure…some of them are CHOOSING to be there? Right? Yes, yes…let’s argue that. Although research will show that more johns then you could imagine do actually believe that the women and children they have sexual encounters with are actually “getting off” or having an enjoyable experience when with them. This is simply not true. This might be the willful blindness Tracy speaks of.

I applaud the UK for this aggressive ad campaign and hope it will scare a few people, make them think a little more before walking into a punter and perhaps save a few lives.

Here is the ad:


When Parents Meet Our Passions

As I continue to research and study sexual exploitation - God continues to expand my heart in ways I didn't know possible. He continues to open up doors and ways for me to get involved. Whether it be contacts and new friends in Nepal or the After Hours Ministry here in L.A., it has been so life-giving. Sometimes in Seminary you can feel like such a waste of space - too much learning and not enough applying and doing. My heart just explodes with overwhelming love for those caught up in the sex industry. Sometimes it is hard to put into words the incredible passion God has given me. And sometimes it is hard to find enough action to put into practice the incredible passion God has given me. But daily I surrender and trust that He is leading me.
A couple weeks ago I got inked. That's right. With a message that I think is quite powerful and really portrays what I am all about. The entire reason I exist and am on this planet.

My mom is not a huge fan of tattoos. But she is a huge fan of me. This is my second tattoo and I knew that telling her about it was not going to be easy. I was right...she was not that happy. I told her a bit about it and then sent her the above photo. This was her response:

"Makes me proud of your passion Julia. You are really in this all the way aren't you? Tears are running down my cheeks as I think of you and your future. Fear of what your future might hold as well as excitement of what changes you may make in lives through your work. My heart is full of graditude to God for a child like you. Go and make a difference Julia, tattoo and all, you have my blessing."

I can't even begin to express what a gift that email was from my mom. She gets it. She might be a different generation - and she might do it differently - but she is entering into my heart and my passions and she gets it. I would not be the person I am today, I would not have a heart for the things that break the heart of God, if it were not for my parents. They are the ones who (for better or worse) gave me the chance to see the world beyond myself and experience a God who doesn't always fit so nicely inside the four walls of our Midwestern mindset. And I'll never be the same.

And they'll be beside me the whole way...
I love you mom.