In 2015, the European Baptist Federation (EBF) Anti-Trafficking Network will celebrate its 10th birthday.
Initially, a core working group was formed to help Baptist churches throughout Europe respond to the problem of modern-day slavery, which is destroying the lives of victims and their families and earning millions for the perpetrators.
Its remit was to enable churches to raise awareness about the serious nature of human trafficking and develop a network of Baptist churches throughout Europe to support prevention and rescue work.
Since our first meeting in Budapest, the group has met regularly to carry out its tasks. Next year, we look forward to a special celebratory event in Chisinau, Moldova.
What have we been doing over these 10 years?
Our first task was to establish the network by identifying a designated link person in every country in Europe.
Then we compiled a database of the organizations working against trafficking in the area covered by the EBF.
We have held regional conferences in places as far apart as St. Petersburg and Barcelona, Copenhagen and Vienna, bringing church representatives and practitioners in prevention and rescue work together to encourage one another, pray and study.
Following a generous donation by Scottish Women Baptists, we have been able to produce resource books for churches.
These resource books, which are available through the EBF website, contain articles on topics such as the reasons for trafficking, what churches can do to combat it, how to help and identify victims, and Bible studies and points for prayer for small groups and individuals.
Human trafficking takes many forms.
Thousands are trafficked from Eastern European countries, such as Romania and Albania into more prosperous countries, such as Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
The further into Eastern Europe you go, the more likely you are to come across families whose daughters or sons have been victims of the traffickers.
Throughout Europe, Russia and beyond, victims are to be found working in construction, restaurants, factories, the sex industry and in domestic service.
Many have been deceived or tricked into their situations and now live in constant fear of violence and sexual abuse.
Mostly, they will have come from impoverished families, prime targets for human traffickers who prey on the poor and vulnerable.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problem and the suffering it causes. But God is at work.
It has been a privilege to meet people who are dedicating their lives to preventing this great evil and working with those who are its victims. Here are just some of them.
âˆ’ Debbie Kelsey, an American Baptist missionary, worked for several years with Nigerian women who had come to Italy, believing that they were under a voodoo curse and had no choice but to work as prostitutes. Debbie served on the core group for a number of years.
âˆ’ Hilary Willmer, from Birmingham, England, has set up Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation, an organization to support the parents of girls who have been groomed to work in the sex industry.
âˆ’ Team members from Project Resgate in Switzerland, who have been able to help many victims of trafficking back to their homelands.
âˆ’ Team members of Herzwerk in Vienna, Austria, which reaches out to Eastern European women who are trapped in a world of violence and rape.
âˆ’ Courageous and compassionate individuals, such as the Eastern European pastor who cared for a woman who had been kidnapped and raped repeatedly in order that she have children whose organs could be sold for use in transplant operations.
âˆ’ Pastor Ilie Coada, who has dedicated his life to helping Moldovan young people at risk of human trafficking, providing education and social programs. This year, at the BWA annual gathering in Izmir, Turkey, Coada will receive the Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights prize in recognition of his lifelong work in this area.
As we have come to know more of the work that is being done throughout Europe, it has been wonderful to watch the network grow and become effective.
As our 10th anniversary approaches, the working group is naturally taking stock and planning for the future.
How can we best serve the people who are working in this area? How can we encourage more Baptists to become involved?
Please pray for the members of the network as they work in their organizations and churches, and for the core working group as we consider how Baptists can work against the evil that is human trafficking.
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles on how Baptists are addressing human trafficking around the world.
Previous articles in the series are: