Need Plus Greed

FAITH IN ACTION By Katherine Marshall “Don’t give money to the beggar with a baby,” a colleague cautioned me in … Continued


By Katherine Marshall

“Don’t give money to the beggar with a baby,” a colleague cautioned me in Phnom Penh. “They rent them for around a dollar a day.” I heard about little boys and girls with shocking injuries, about traffic in young housemaids, six and seven years old. The bar scene where anything is accepted. Families that sell their daughters so they can buy food or pay for an urgent operation.

These and countless other heart-rending stories I heard this summer, in several countries, reflect the dark recesses of the human condition. These are ancient abuses, but in our “modern” world, exploitation is happening on a far larger scale as barriers of distance and community restraints crumble. And today, we can’t say we don’t know about it.

Trafficking of women and children, a leading wedge in the broader patterns of human exploitation, is a cause that unites people across steep divides in the political spectrum and religious beliefs. Surprising coalitions and alliances have formed with trafficking as their main focus. Amid the political polarization in American society, it’s heartening that evangelical Christians, liberal Jews, and non-religious human rights activists can unite behind a common cause.

Trafficking has helped bridge divides but it also brings out differences. Samantha Power’s powerful New Yorker article, “The Enforcer” early this year was about Gary Haugen. His remarkable organization, the International Justice Mission, provides legal services to the poor in developing countries and tries to get local authorities to enforce the rule of law. Christian beliefs and practice are an inseparable part of Haugen’s work: “Prayers help,” he says. “Prayers and a lawyer help more.”

Haugen sees Christian networks as an untapped resource for human rights, and he is trying to get American Christians to see the importance of what he’s doing and get involved–to seek justice, as the Bible instructs. But his work does stir controversy, both because it is so anchored in Christianity, and because it steps into some hornets’ nests of debates: is prostitution so evil that banning it is top priority, or is working with sex workers to protect them the pragmatic and humane way to go? Is it possible to work with police or are police the enemy? Powers concludes that, to realize his broader ambitions, Haugen will eventually have to widen his appeal, and he may need to choose between two goals: reforming justice systems abroad and reforming American Christianity.

Cambodia is notorious for many kinds of trafficking. There’s plenty of action in Cambodia itself, Cambodia “exports” to neighboring countries and as far as Malaysia and the Middle East, and it “imports” both prostitutes and predators. The government, out of civic concern and stimulated alike by negative pressures from the international partners on which Cambodia depends and more positive offers of support, is acting with increasing vigor to crack down on egregious crimes – pedophiles are more often brought to justice and there are posters warning of consequences of trafficking all over Phnom Penh. Fighting trafficking has long been a central focus of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

And there’s an extraordinary array of nongovernmental organizations working to help victims, to educate women and children about their rights, and to go after the root causes. A remarkable organization in Phnom Penh, Chab Dai (which means linked hands in Khmer) has worked for the past six years to support the wide array of Christian groups seeking to protect children and women. It has a spiffy library, runs training workshops, advocates for the cause, and helps to strengthen management of its member organizations.

Helen Sworn, the English woman who founded Chab Dai, talks a language of partnership and cooperation – with government and private companies, women’s groups and police. The challenge is to educate people about their rights, and to protect those who fall victim to circumstances or to crime. But she also sees the issues as an integral part of development and social change. As corridors for transportation open up, as borders are easier to cross, as tourism gains momentum, the pressures for trafficking increase. She argues that at the same time that we work to protect and help victims directly and prosecute those who break the law, far more effort should go to addressing the underlying causes.

And the underlying causes are ferociously complex. First and foremost it’s about poverty, ignorance, and lack of opportunity. Grinding need drives desperate families to sell a daughter. Uneducated girls more easily fall prey to promises of a glittery life, only to end up trapped in a brothel. And simple greed exacerbates the problems. Weak government institutions and corrupt systems make it hard to enforce laws. Unequal relations between men and women are corrosive realities that translate into low priority to the work needed to bring about change.

We have plenty of knowledge about trafficking and exploitation of women and children. And we know it’s deeply wrong – unjust and immoral. What’s needed is to keep the issue on the priority agenda and to work both on the immediate issues and on their deeper causes. This is an issue for everyone, not just religious groups or human rights activists. If we work together, passionately and thoughtfully, surely we can bring an end to these shameful horrors of our time.

Katherine Marshall is a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, a Visiting Professor, and a senior adviser for the World Bank.

By Katherine Marshall | 
August 31, 2009; 12:35 AM ET

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Faith in Action

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  • Navin1

    If you are talking about trafficking and the global effort to eradicate it, where is mention of Hindu, Muslim, atheistic, and other traditions that are doing this work.Or perhaps we are not talking about trafficking, rather this is just another advertisement for the surface gestures of christian charity while glossing over one of the major causes of disparity in the world, the work of christian missionaries (not to mention the exploitation of children by catholic priests and american christians in BIA schools). hariaum

  • gimpi

    Part of the problem in getting tradtion-minded Christians in the US involved in attacking the root causes of human trafficking is that those causes ARE traditional. Lower value and lesser rights for women. Grinding poverty, and no social supports to alleviate it. Absolute parental control of children. Slavery. These are all traditional values (not the ones we usually think of, but traditional values none the less). It’s the traditional-minded, conservative Christians that are the most active in their churches. Yet they are often uneasy with any issue that features sex, gender-equity or poverty-relief.It’s hard to tell Cambodia that their culture should grant equal rights for women if you are uncomfortable with equality in your own culture. (Remember, the US defeated our own ERA years ago, with strong support from US Christians.) Christian conservatives were opposed to the UN’s “Rights of the Child” movement in the late ’80s. (Much of the Dobson-style “spare-the-rod” culture was born then.) We had to fight a war (a war that in some ways is still going on) to end chattel slavery in the US.Simply passing laws banning prostitution, we know from experience, changes nothing except to open up huge opportunities for corruption. Draconian punishements just adds misery to misery, and makes it impossible for enslaved girls and women to seek help. The corrupt trafficers and officals are generally untouchable. It’s already illegal to sell your daughters in many places where it’s commonplace; desperate people break laws to survive. We know from our own and other societies that societal protections from grinding poverty and desperate need will do much more to end these abuses than anything else. (When was the last time you heard of anyone selling Norwegian girls?) Yet, as uncomfortable as Christian conservatives are with these protections in our own society, how can they encourage other societies to adopt them?I’d really like to hear from conservative Christians on this. Can you encourage Cambodia to develop a saftey-net, while mistrusting our own as “socialism”? Can we want equal rights for Asian women, while regarding gender-equality at home with suspicion? Can you argue for less parental control in other societies, while wanting more for ourselves? How can these causes get your support? The Lord knows, they could use it.

  • ccnl1

    The abuse of women starts early in many countries. For example, the abortion of female womb babies just because they are female!! And we wonder why females are who are lucky to be born are disrespected and abused???

  • Navin1

    GimipiI love what you have to say.Otherwise, they could learn self discipline, eat and consume less, and perform raja yoga to control the ego.hariaum

  • ccnl1

    The abuse of women starts early in many countries. For example, the abortion of female womb babies just because they are female!! And we wonder why females who are lucky to be born at all in these countries are disrespected and abused???

  • DouginMoz

    Navin1, your first comment was way off base, but your second post was right on target.May I ask you a question. Could you be a little more specific about how the work of Christian missionaries is one of the major causes of disparity in the world? As a Christian missionary, I just want to understand of what I am being accused.========================But, as I said, your second comment was right on. You wrote: “the root cause is lust.”We have created a world with a new morality concerning sex. The new morality is actually old sexual immorality and it has been with us a long time. It says that we should have sex with whomever, whenever, wherever and however we want. We peddle pornographic fantasies to turbo-charge a promiscuous environment and then wonder at the fact that three American men were just arrested this week for travelling half way round the world in order to have sex with children. And they aren’t even the tip of this iceberg. The fact that Moldavia has lost 10% of its female population to human trafficking isn’t the tip of this iceberg. You are right. Whether it is the lust of the flesh, the greed of wealth, or the search for power, it is our lusts that are the root cause of this problem – lusts so powerful that they threaten to create a new slave trade greater than that of the 18th century.

  • DouginMoz

    Gimpi wrote:Gimpi also wrote:

  • gimpi

    DouginMoz, thank you for your response. I am well aware of the valuable work that many Christian groups do in aiding the poor all over the world, and I commmend you for it. I live in the Seattle-Federal Way area, the home of World Vision, and I have been privilaged to work with this fine organization on a couple of small projects. I was both humbled and made very proud by the experienceHowever, your comment “The way that you will destroy human sex slave trade is to destroy the sinful desires that drive the market” is just not realistic. It has never, in the history of the world, worked. It just leads to blaming the victim. Sexual desire is both normal and a powerful force in humanity. Harsh laws keep women and girls bound to the sex-trade, and make corruption endemic in both their victimizers and the police. I remember, on this blog, Kay Warren taking about being “gloriously destroyed” when she discovered the global tragedy that is AIDS. Before her awakening, she, in her own words, “sat in judgement” on those suffering from AIDS, assuming they deseved their fate. Her awakening came in a global tour, where she was able to seperate her discomfort with homosexuality from the devastation of the disease. Without her unease about homosexuality, she wouldn’t have made what she now feels was a tragic mistake. As to pedophilia, rape, prostitution and polygamy, they are both traditional and Biblical. I assume you know your Old Testament. The “Kill everyone, except the virgin girls, and keep them for yourself” combat instructions? The “sell your daughter” verses? Joseph Smith cited Old Testament polygamy in beginning plural marriage in the Morman church. To assume these problems are part of modernity is just wrong. The more modern, the less traditional a society is, the less they are likely to be involved in sexual slavery, brutality towards women, or child-abuse. That was my whole point. Oppression of women, ownership of children, these are traditional. That’s why I’m curious about how people who believe strongly in these values feel about the dark side of tradition.I am well aware how rich the west is, compared to many cultures. That’s why I feel we need to get involved. but not with conversion-attempts or lecturing, but by helping to grow the economic base, to “raise all boats.” The Catholic church has largly eliminated standard missionary work, in favor of “boots-on-the-ground,” material help. I think that really creates a better witness, by their works you really do know them.

  • ccnl1

    Hmmm, “In the days before pre-natal testing and available abortions, infant daughters were simply exposed or drowned. Brutal, but highly traditional”.And somehow other brutal traditions like slavery, serfdom, and communism are to be tolerated???? Give us a break!!!!!!

  • gimpi

    ccnl1 |I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. I was trying to point out that these problems happen in spite of laws that try to control them, in spite of the harsh measures we try to impose, and they have all throughout history. Moralizing and lectures don’t stop them, either. Any honest apprasial of history will show that. And I am interested in what works, not in moral purity or absolutes. As I see it, what works best is a reasonable social support network, so mothers don’t have to sell their daughter to feed their son, and parents have a reasonably secure retirement, so they don’t abort a daughter because they fear she will be a burden, rather than supporting them in their retirement – the way a son is expected to. These, coupled with opportunities for women to educate and support themselves without resorting to the sex trade, seem to work better than anything else, to my eyes. Do you see it differently?Draconian punishments DON’T work. That much is known. Outlawing abortion just drives it underground. Desperate people do desperate things. Punishment for prostitution just traps women with their abusers. Those abusers can almost always bribe officals, and escape arrest. Slavery is almost universally illegal, yet girls are still sold by impoverished families. Desperation again. Treat the desperation, and it appears that you ease much of the symptoms it creates.Note, I said ease, not solve. People have tried to solve these problems for centuries, in many different ways, with all sorts of results, mostly bad. Again, I’m all about what works. One of my favorite sayings is “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” Lets do what should make things a bit better, never mind if it’s perfect. Let’s try to help suffering women and families, rather than sniping at each other about how bad we all are, and how we should punish each other. Lets do some good for a change.

  • ccnl1

    So put down your rosaries and prayer beads and stop worshiping cows and bowing to Mecca five times a day. Instead work hard at your job, take care of aging parents, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to charities and the poor and continue to follow the Commandments (e.g. Thou shalt not kill your fellow humans at any stage of their lives) of your religion or any good rules of living as gracious and good human beings. And lets all hope there indeed is a place called Heaven!!!And it is obvious that intercourse and other sexual activities are out of control with over one million abortions and 19 million cases of STDs per year in the USA alone. And from the CDC-2006How in the world do we get this situation under control? A pill to temporarily eliminate the sex drive would be a good start. And teenagers and young adults must be constantly reminded of the dangers of sexual activity and that oral sex, birth control pills, and chastity belts are no protection against STDs. Might a list of those having an STD posted on the Internet help? Sounds good to me!!!! Said names would remain until the STD has been eliminated with verification by a doctor. Lists of sexual predators are on-line. Is there a difference between these individuals and those having a STD having sexual relations while infected???Hmmm, so a growing baby is considered by some to be nothing more than an infection? Talk about having no respect for life!!!!! And Nature or Nature’s God is the #1 taker of everyone’s life. That gives some rational for killing the unborn or those suffering from dementia, mental disease or Alzheimer’s or anyone who might inconvenience your life??? We constantly battle the forces of nature. We do not succumb to these forces by eliminating defenseless children!!!!!

  • Navin1

    How do christian missionaries destroy the world? Ask the natives of the Americas, ask the european indigenous religious cultures, ask the ugandan Hindus, ask the rwandans caught between the curses of the protestant and catholic tribes, ask the celts, ask the south korean buddhists, as the phillipino native cultures, ask the australian aboriginees…How many cultures need to be destroyed before christians wake up to the misery they have created? How are these cultures destroyed: by forcing indian kids in christian schools where they are abused and raped, by economically undermining educational systems and health systems, by undermining natural agriculture that native peoples co-evolved with their land, by destroying the aural history of those cultures, by manipulation of property rights to favor the christian elites, by banning the free exercise of religious speech (from the romans to evolution), by finding the widow and not allowing her to grieve without opportuinism How have the christian missionaries caused disparity: by promoting a culture of over consumption, free trade by an invisible hand, obesity, akarmic spirituality, forgiveness of murderers, rapists, and theives that once converted go to heaven – thereby promoting those things (see constatine)..Take christ out of your mission and I will see you are trying to help and failed because yo are human. Keep him in and all you are doing is attempting to destroy the cultures that were the first born of God’s man. hariaum

  • Navin1

    So long as christ intervenes on the part of sinners, sin will increase. It is an ideology that promotes sinfulness.How would a demon appear in this world? Would a demon come and say I am a demon? No, a demon would come and say I am the son of God, I will guarantee you entry to heaven if you take MY name. No matter how you sin, if you take MY name you will be saved. And fools will pray in His name to the purposeful ignorance of karmic consequence and thus cause hell on earth. It is the ideology that is fallacious. God’s creation, man, is beautiful. You need an ideology of selfish heavenly gain to promote lust in the world and then come to the rescue. or you could ignore history.asato ma sad gamayafrom OM, Peace, peace, peace(see a prayer to God without a name, no ego, simply love and yearning for that god, that is a true religion)hariaum

  • ccnl1

    Hmmm, “Navin1” continues to show all the elements of a former probability wave. Any ideas as to the identification of this recent addition??

  • gimpi

    “So put down your rosaries and prayer beads and stop worshiping cows and bowing to Mecca five times a day. Instead work hard at your job, take care of aging parents, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to charities and the poor and continue to follow the Commandments (e.g. Thou shalt not kill your fellow humans at any stage of their lives) of your religion or any good rules of living as gracious and good human beings. And lets all hope there indeed is a place called Heaven!!!”If this was addressed to me, what exactly makes you think I haven’t done these things? What makes you think others don’t? I’ll have you know I took care of both my disabled parent until they passed, and have worked with several volunteer organizations to the best of my ability. As to my beliefs or lack of them, they aren’t any of your business. Sheesh, what got under your skin? As to often-posted anti-aphrodisac, I will only point out that you would need a totalitarian government in excess of that in China to make that work. You would have to blood-test, monitor and force medicate because ALMOST NO ONE WOULD TAKE IT WILLINGLY! Aparently, you haven’t yet grasped this, so I’ll just lay it out. You don’t control the world. People won’t just believe what you tell them, and do what you tell them, because you think they should. We are not all figments of your imagination. We have our own beliefs, our own desires. And, as to irrationality, I believe someone once said doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is one definition of insanity. You might want to take a look in the mirror about that one.Your reposted and reposted solutions just won’t work, because people won’t do them. I understand that you spend a fair amount of time thinking about these things, so I might suggest some time thinking about how you would make them work. If huge amounts of force are necessary, I invite you to consider the “success” of the current prohibition on marajuana, and the past prohibition on drinking.