Religious Leaders, Be A Bridge Maker

Asian Women and Children in Modern Slavery Webinar

The Asian Conference of Religious for Peace (ACRP) and the Asia Pacific Women of Faith Network (APWoFN) held an online symposium on June 22-23 on the theme of “Asian Women and Children in Modern Slavery” to prevent human trafficking. A total of 150 participants from 17 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, and the United States attended the symposium.

ACRP and APWoFN also held a symposium on “Current Situation of Human Trafficking in Asia” in January this year, and this was the second webinar. (Click here for the previous report) This time, we focused on Asian women and children, who are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking, and discussed how to find solutions to the problem.

During the two-day symposium, the speakers reported the current situation on forced labor, child marriage, child labor, and bride trafficking in their countries. One of the speakers from India reported that sexual exploitation is on the rise. Economic growth in the country has led to growing inequality and poverty, and increasing numbers of people are being tricked into forced labor and sexual exploitation when they seek work. It was also reported that the new corona infection has been affecting people’s lives, and they have become both victims and perpetrators of human trafficking.

The first day mainly focused on the victimization of women. The topic of domestic slavery pointed out that domestic workers, such as babysitters and housekeepers, are subjected to severe conditions such as long working hours, low salaries, and physical and psychological violence. It takes time to identify and rescue the victims, as it is difficult to see the actual damage since they often live in a closed room and are isolated with little connection to the outside world.

On the second day, the session focused on child victims. It was reported that many children who are victimized are characterized as “easily brainwashed”, “extremely loyal to adults” and “have not developed awareness of danger.” As the role of religious leaders, adults, and parents, we need to prevent children from being recruited into the darkness of the human trafficking business and break the cycle of exploitation. Moreover, we could deepen our awareness of the importance of family education.

The issue of human trafficking is a complicated, tangled chain. Unless we break it somewhere, the problem will never be eliminated from the world. We, people of faith and religion, need to be responsive to the pain and SOS of the most vulnerable people. After listening to the reports from each session, we resolved that we would work together to create educational opportunities and safe employment for the people in poverty to solve the problem of human trafficking fundamentally.

What we need to do in the future is to take concrete actions. In addition to caring for victims, we need to create a world where people can truly trust each other, speak up to ask for helping each other, say “no” to any deed that threatens their dignity, and do not regard such challenges as someone else’s problem. We also need to be “bridge makers” between the victims and all the social workers and caregivers for the victims of human trafficking.

There is an imperative need to save the lives and dignity of women and children who are socially vulnerable and victimized. People of faith and religion need to work in solidarity with many people beyond religion, race, and nationality to prevent and eliminate trafficking in person as a whole society. All peoples are interconnected globally, and we must strive to reduce the number of people who suffer. We reaffirmed that we should harness the various international networks to raise awareness, such as campaigning against companies that induce human trafficking, promoting family education and civil grassroots activities as well as political actions.