Today’s guest writer is Terry Tennens who has served as founding Executive Director of International Justice Mission (IJM) UK since 2006. IJM is a Christian organisation with branches around the globe that secures justice around the for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Terry contributes to the development of IJM’s global strategy, provides counsel and support to IJM staff overseas, and meets regularly with government officials, justice professionals, and business leaders.
With the recent introduction of the draft Modern Slavery Bill, it is greatly encouraging to see the UK investing such interest in strong punishments against human traffickers and slave owners, to ensure justice and to act as a deterrent for other potential offenders. It is definitely an exciting first step in the battle against the evils of slavery and it is very encouraging to see our government taking this issue seriously, and using its influence responsibly.
At International Justice Mission, we view justice as a ministry – an outworking of gratitude for the freedom and restoration we have been given in Jesus, and a response to God’s constant call to fight for justice persistently, and to advocate for the global poor. We seek to restore to victims of violence the things God intends for them: their lives, liberty, dignity and fruits of their labour. The organisation was founded on the Biblical call to justice found in Isaiah 1:17: “Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
We are in a time when we have an unprecedented opportunity to engage in the issue of modern-day slavery. At IJM, we work to protect the poor from violence by rescuing victims, bringing the criminals to justice, restoring survivors to safety and strength, and helping local law enforcement build a safe future that lasts. But we also have a focus within our own borders to ignite change at a political and social level.
Similarly, all of us can look at how we in the UK can do our part to end the problem worldwide. IJM UK’s Stop It Together petition is one such example, which is enabling individuals throughout the UK to call on our government and ask that they do their bit in order to stop child sex tourism and human trafficking. Thousands of individuals around the UK have already supported the campaign – will you join them? And then to tell everyone you know about the problem and encourage them to sign the petition too!
So what is child sex tourism?
Child sex tourism is a crime in which predators travel to other countries where they believe they can sexually abuse children with impunity. Often they believe that in countries with weak criminal justice systems, they can get away with their crimes – and too often they do.
This crime often goes undetected due to its transnational nature and because of the pressures on governments and law enforcement in developing countries. Criminals can act without fear of being detected or brought to justice. Poverty makes people vulnerable to tourists who are willing to pay, and the weak and pressured law enforcement systems mean impunity is the likely outcome.
Child sex tourism is also taking place over the internet. IJM was one of three organisations CEOP asked to assist in Operation Endeavour, a global investigation which was recently announced as having dismantled an organised ‘cybersex’ crime organisation. The criminal organisation was facilitating the live streaming of sexual abuse of children in the Philippines to customers around the world. Fifteen children in the Philippines aged 6-15 were identified and safeguarded from sexual abuse. Operation Endeavour has to-date resulted in 29 international arrests, of which 17 of these were in the UK.
Child sex tourism is an all-too common and pervasive problem. This heinous crime must be stopped, but we must first realise that we can stop it together.
The UK has excellent laws which can hold its citizens accountable here in the UK, even when their crimes are committed against vulnerable children abroad. We are asking the UK government to prioritise the enforcement of these extraterritorial laws for those individuals from the UK who commit these crimes in other countries. If they are not held accountable for their crimes abroad, they need to be held accountable here in the UK. Because at IJM, we’ve seen external research prove that when laws are enforced, the violence will stop – and we can protect millions from ever being abused in the first place.
We have a responsibility to make sure that people do not travel abroad to take advantage of vulnerable children, women and men who have less access to the protection of the law.
Yet we take heart, because God is clearly working through His people. At IJM, we are seeing how He is working in churches, local communities, businesses and governments, here in the UK and throughout the world.
We know that even with all of the evils in this world, there is a God who is greater than all of them – and who cares more than we ever could about the least of us. He is a God who literally parted the Red Sea to deliver His people from their bondage and oppression. He separated the waters so that the Israelites could walk on dry land. He heard their cries and responded by delivering them from their oppression.
And us, being made in the image of God, are called to seek justice as well. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8.
Armed with this confidence in God’s amazing power and love, and challenged by his call for us to be the hands and feet to do His work of justice, we encourage you to take a step and act. Sign the Stop It Together petition and share it with everyone you know. Share it on Facebook, tweet about it (#UKStopItTogether) and encourage all of your friends, family, church community and colleagues to get involved!
It may be a small and quick step, but it will allow others to grasp the childhood of innocence, freedom and hope that God intended for them and protect others from having to endure the violence and abuse of this world.
Let us be encouraged by God’s heart for justice (Isaiah 61:8, Micah 6:8, Proverbs 17:15, Psalm 33:5, Psalm 140:12, Isaiah 51:4-5, Jeremiah 9:24) and His care for the oppressed (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 9:9, Proverbs 22:22-23, Jeremiah 7:5-7, Psalm 72:4).
Let us allow Him to help us change this world for the better because with God on our side, we can stop it together.