Child sexual abuse, child sex trafficking, and child prostitution are ‘real’ in the Philippines. These are widespread in the society. According to IJM’s data on sex trafficking, “87% of it were minors, 60% were 12 and younger, 17% were boys, 67% cases involved parents or relatives and 39% cases involved sibling groups (IJM, 2017).” The youngest victim-survivor that was rescued is less than 1-year old. This is not good.
One problem I see is that issues are arising in the society but the church seems silent about it. It could be because of the culture of guilt and shame. Or maybe because the church is just “busy” with “evangelism”. I am not generalizing the churches but being silent could be a great problem. Some religious groups may be aware with the issues of our society, but even though they are aware it seems to me that sometimes “people are just doing their OWN thing” like there are tensions happening inside and outside their denominations and/or organizations. Politics may be present in every organization which mainly points out that division may be present too.
I do not know about you, your church or what is happening in your organization but I and what the Set Free Movement believe that the issues in our society and nation are just ‘symptoms’ to the real problem. The real problem is we are BROKEN. We are broken because of SIN. Sin leads people to division, disunity, selfishness, pride, and many more. But the Lord does not want us to be slaves of sin. He wants us to be free. That’s why God sent His son Jesus Christ for us to be set free (Galatians 5:1). We are forgiven and free (John 8:36). Through Jesus Christ, we have HOPE and we are able to deal with the real problem – BROKENNESS. But the question is how? If the problem is brokenness, then events and programs could be a secondary thing. Our goal is to BUILD community and restore relationships. We can do it through and in Jesus. It starts with us. I once heard from my APNTS professor Dr. Davis that, “doing flows from being (Davis, 2016).” The transformation starts with our self by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). When we start thinking that a person is not a “thing” to be used”, “to be abused” and” to be taken advantage” then that would be the starting point of change in us. When we think that we are not above than the others then discrimination and racism would have ended. It starts within us. What’s in us. How God sees us, how we see our self before God and how we see others the way God sees them.
Last May 17-19 the Set Free Movement in partnership with the Philippine General Conference of the Free Methodist Church, Free Life Community Movement and JPIC-IDC (Justice, Peace, Integrity, Creation) conducted an Anti-Human Trafficking Paralegal Training to almost 50 Free Methodist pastors and leaders including myself and Jemuel. It was a 3-day awareness seminar about Human Trafficking and Philippine Laws. The pastors were able to catch a glimpse of some of our laws of children especially with child abuse, child trafficking, child sexual trafficking, and other forms of modern-day slavery. Some of the laws are VAWC (Violence on Women and Children), RA 9208 the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2003, RA 10364 The Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and RA7610 which is the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act. Republic Act 7610 protects the child to the following:
In the training, the participants learned about the definition of a ‘child’ based on the law. A child is define as any person below 18 years of age; those unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves because of a physical or mental disability or condition. That means that 17-year old girl or boy is still a child according to the law.
When we talk about human trafficking, the general rule is: ACTS + MEANS + PURPOSE, but if the child is the victim, even without the MEANS, trafficking is still present when there is only an ACT and a PURPOSE (ACTS+PURPOSE). That is the exemption to the general rule. When a person committed trafficking in person he/she will be penalized. According to the law, Penalty on Attempted Trafficking is 15 years Imprisonment and P500,000 to 1 Million peso Fine, while on Qualified Trafficking (including CHILD TRAFFICKING) the penaly is LIFE IMPRISONMENT plus 2 Million to 5 Million peso Fine. This is really a serious crime with a congruent penalty.
I believe that the training was an eye-opener to the pastors and leaders of the Philippine Free Methodist Church. It was not only an awareness seminary to them, but also a drive as to how the church can create a healthy community – protecting children’s, women’s and everyone’s rights. They as a pastors and leaders of their churches can be advocates of human trafficking too by preventing child trafficking happening within their churches and communities. And if they will be a witness of trafficking, they now know where and to whom they SHOULD refer an abused child or a victim of trafficking. To know the referral process is an important thing.
Another important thing that was discussed in the training was that the church should learn and be aware of the good and bad touches. Pastors and children workers are working directly with children. Sometimes we do not know our limits. We as church workers should learn to create child-protection policy and impose it to prevent child abuse or child sexual abuse in the church. The policy should include the process of confidentiality when someone committed crime or when someone is victimized. A church should not be a “community of gossipers” instead they are a community of agents of hope and healing.
There may still be gaps that need to be addressed in order to end “child trafficking” specially the trending “online sexual exploitation on children” and yet the local government cannot resolve it all. I think we NEED all of us, including faith communities to address these issues. God is working, and we are partnering with Him on this mission. It takes a community to end modern-day slavery.
The training happened in May made an impact to the Free Methodist pastors and leaders in the Philippines. It did “break the silence” in our churches. We are no longer silent about what’s happening in our society rather involve to be part of the solution.
What I want to see in the next months is to conduct a training the trainers, so that these trainers (including me and Jem) can go to ALL conferences and churches of the Free Methodist Church Philippines and facilitate awareness and preventive program to the local pastors as well as church members (parents, youth and even children). We do not know what it would look like, and what the schedule would be but please include this in your prayer. Also, it is in my heart’s desire to have a Joint Worship Freedom Sunday in the NPC-FMC (Northern Philippine Conference of the Free Methodist Church) before the year ends. It would be a gathering of all Free Methodist Churches in Luzon. I would like to see Free Methodist Churches in Manila aware of human trafficking and praying for human trafficking victims. Lastly, I sometimes lost the momentum of writing my paper, and there are so many things to be done. Please pray for focus and endurance as I write my thesis for me to be able to graduate in May 2018.