30 July, 2013

National Missing Persons Week

An estimated 35 000 people are reported missing in Australia every year and individuals living with a mental illness are at higher risk of going missing (http://www.missingpersons.gov.au). 


Just Salvos believes in advocating for those affected by mental illness. Breaking down the stigma around mental health allows greater support systems and understanding. To read more about National Missing Persons Week, download this article (here) written by our amazing co-worker, Barry Gittins, published in the July 27th edition of the War Cry.

26 July, 2013

Annual Day of Prayer for Victims of Human Trafficking

The Annual Day of Prayer for Victims of Human Trafficking is taking place on September 29th. Just Salvos have sent out a resource pack consisting of a prayer guide, sermon outline, meeting plan and A4 poster to all corps and youth ministers. The pack is also available for download here: 

A4 Poster: download
Trafficking - A Personal Prayer Guide: download
Sermon Outline: download
Meeting Plan: download

16 July, 2013

Helping Exploited People

As previously reported in on fire, Salvationists Ben and Sarah Knop travelled to Cambodia in May to see for themselves what was happening in trafficked people’s lives; others shares some follow up queries.

You reported that Daughters of Cambodia (DOC), a faith-based NGO funded by donations and a sponsorship program, administers fair trade businesses for young women. What are they? Daughters of Cambodia operate a cafe, a boutique stocking sleepwear, tees, jewellery, toys and bags, a guesthouse and a beauty spa. ‘Sons of Cambodia’ product is also stocked at the boutique, including screen-printed T-shirts and sunglass cases; http://daughtersofcambodia.org has more information.

Photography by Ben Knop.
What is the age range of young women trafficked into sex work who DOC care for, and are there other genders or sexual orientations represented? We do not know the age range of the young women at DOC; however, at another social enterprise organisation we visited for victims of sexual trafficking, girls and young women working there producing t-shirts and jewellery, were aged 15-17. DOC also work with young men through their partner program, Sons of Cambodia.We would assume information regarding sexual orientation is confidential.

In terms of people who successfully transition from sex work into safety and sustainable incomes, what exit strategies were deployed? DOC partners with girls to apply an exit strategy with them individually, including: social service programs with medical services, counselling, domestic support, day care and a domestic violence project; education, including life skills, health education and literacy; creative classes or art therapy; and the invitational option to attend church. The success of this model of rehabilitation was evident as we saw the confidence, happiness and hope on the beautiful, smiling faces of the girls we met and also in hearing their stories of young women who have been able to move on to great success including furthering their education and starting their own business.

Regarding World Vision's 24-hour wholesale food market and youth group street team, what responses do they make to vulnerable kids? World Vision responds to the needs of children by providing them with the chance to ‘be a child’ for a night, with colouring-in activities and storytelling. They educate them around child protection issues, including child rights awareness, and teach them how to identify risks or cases of abuse, child labour or trafficking. They also teach life skills including health and hygiene – we saw a great session in which staff and volunteers demonstrated teeth cleaning.

Photography by Ben Knop. 
Creating a supportive and safe environment where children feel comfortable to play and learn is a vital part of World Vision’s prevention work. On a practical level, World Vision also assist in providing access to a shelter where children have stay safely, while helping arrange alternative, more fixed housing arrangements. Whilst the children who attend WV's street team activities are vulnerable to human trafficking, they are currently exploited by their engagement in child labour. Many of the children we met earn a small income (approximately USD $1 a day) picking through and selling rubbish from the local rubbish dumps. Consequently they are exposed to disease and a lack of hygiene and, in many cases, do not attend school. A recent Cambodian socio-economic survey reported that over 300,000 Cambodian children are engaged in the most dangerous forms of child labour.

The Salvation Army’s corps in Cambodia, Phnom Penh Corps, is a new church; what inroads are they making? On the day we attended, over 200 children came to kids’ church and around 100 people were at the main service/meal. The corps appears to be well supported by The Salvation Army in Korea. The relationships they are building and the support that they are able to offer is well-received. It’s evident that the Holy Spirit is moving powerfully in their community.

As well as the sex trade, what other forms of trafficking are applicable to Cambodia? The sex trade is certainly best known internationally; it gets the most media attention and is highlighted in highly publicised films such as Half The Sky. The ILO estimates that 43% of trafficking victims are sexually exploited. What we found, however, was that labour and forced marriage trafficking were the prominent issues for the Cambodian people. With Cambodia bordering Thailand and Vietnam, and being in close proximity to China and Malaysia, many Cambodians are trafficked across-borders. Victims of trafficking are often provided with an opportunity to earn a higher wage (US$1–2 a day) in Thailand and so they make the decision to migrate, only to find when they arrive that they have been deceived. They are enslaved as labourers. An all-too-common example of this is boys and young men who are trafficked onto fishing boats in Thailand.

Do people wanting to assist trafficked persons encounter opposition from corrupt government/police/military personnel? NGOs including World Vision are committed to partnering with governments and the police to eradicate the issue of trafficking. As has been widely reported by organisations including Transparency International, there is undoubtedly corruption in Cambodia, but NGOs who have made connections with local authority and government groups have seen some successful partnerships. These have resulted in improved circumstances for the community. 

To further awareness and education regarding children and teenagers caught in the human sex trade, Just Salvos is holding a screening of Trade of Innocents. Inspired by true events, Trade of Innocents tells the compelling story of a couple who set out to rescue young girls sold into South East Asia’s sex slave trade, where women and children are purchased for exploitation.
When: 7pm August 31st
Where: The Salvation Army Camberwell 7-11 Bowen Street, Camberwell VIC.
Cost: Free
After the film screening there will be an opportunity for Q&A from a panel of individuals involved in the work of anti human trafficking campaigns.

09 July, 2013

The Value of Indigenous Ministry.

As I think about this year’s NAIDOC week, I reflect on the theme for NAIDOC Week 2013 - “We value the vision: Yirrkala Bark Petitions 1963”.  As an Aboriginal person, I thank God for my Indigenous leaders who have challenged and continue to challenge established societal norms, legislation and the Australian Constitution.

But what I especially wanted to reflect on is how as Australian Christians, we can support and love our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and respect and acknowledge them as the first people of Australia. 

The fact remains that Aboriginal people are among the most marginalized people in Australia.  We think about the statistics – 58% of Indigenous people living in poverty, homelessness at four times the rate of non-Indigenous people, unemployment at 3.2 times the rate of non-Indigenous people, life expectancy approximately 11 years lower than non-Indigenous people, Indigenous children twice as likely as non-Indigenous children to grow up to be unemployed, high rates of prison incarceration, poor health, and the list goes on.  We must remember that for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that these statistics are talking about our Uncles and Aunties, our Brothers and Sisters, our Cousins, our Nieces and Nephews. . .our family, our community.  For us, these statistics have names.    

When I think of these statistics I think of the scripture in Matthew 25:35-36:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

This scripture is constantly with me.  I envisage God, speaking to Australian Christians, and imploring us to read this scripture through the eyes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  As Mother Theresa once said:  “I know you think you should make a trip to Calcutta, but I strongly advise you to save your airfare and spend it on the poor in your own country. It's easy to love people far away. It's not always easy to love those who live right next to us”.

My vision for Australia, is one where every Australian, including all Governments, and all Churches, recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first people of this land.  My vision for Australia is one where Australian Christians don’t just let Governments “look after” Indigenous people, but where Australian Christians open their hearts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to follow God’s call on our lives to love our neighbours.  My vision is to see Churches resourcing Indigenous Christian Leadership Development, to see Churches employing Indigenous people, and resourcing churches in Indigenous rich communities to show Chirst’s love in practical ways. 

For it is Christ’s love that brings transformation, so let us value a new vision for this country, one based on love for our first people and let us see what transformation Christ brings to Australia.    

Brooke Prentis is an emerging Aboriginal Christian Leader.  Her people are the Waka Waka people in Queensland.  Brooke is also a fully qualified Chartered Accountant and is one of one 17 Indigenous Chartered Accountants in all of Australia.  For the past 12 months Brooke was employed as the Ministry Leader of Indigenous Ministries in the South Queensland Division.  Brooke now does this voluntarily under the Ipswich Corps of the Salvation Army due to lack of financial resources.  Brooke currently serves on the Salvation Army’s National Indigenous Reference Group.  In Brooke’s spare time she is Coordinator of the Grasstree Gathering, a national, non-denominational conference bringing together emerging Indigenous Christian Leaders from across Australia.  Brooke is also a Board Member of TEAR Australia.