A Call to Prayer
Twenty seven million people are enslaved globally in various forms of sexual and labour exploitation. The WEA is calling churches around the world to dedicate a day to pray the prayer of Isaiah, chapter 58:16. "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?"Prayer Points
Prayer for the WEA Task Force and it's objectives: To develop strategic networks; to promote a biblical foundation for engagement; to mobilise informed resources; to identify, develop and disseminate resources; to listen to stories and to get others to listen.
Ukraine Pilot Project
The Anti-Trafficking Task Force of the World Evangelical Alliance, in collaboration with the European Evangelical Alliance, recently completed three (of four) phases of its Ukraine pilot project.
At the invitation of evangelical bishop Anatoliy Kaluzhny of New Life Church in Kiev, a research and pioneering team visited Ukraine from September 23-28, 2009. The team was lead by Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag, a member of the WEA Task Force. Other team members were Rachel Davies, Human Trafficking Policy Officer of CARE, a UK-based charity, and Jim Stewart of the Welsh Evangelical Alliance.
Over several days, the team met with politicians, NGOs, pastors, ministry leaders, and business people to learn about the trafficking situation in Ukraine, and to encourage them to combine their skills and resources to combat it.
Initial response was encouraging. Pastors from a variety of Christian confessions including the Orthodox gathered to discuss the issue. "This is the new issue for the church in Ukraine," predicted Bishop Kaluzhny. "In a few years, every church in the country will be engaged in this type of ministry." The team also conducted a day of practical training for local ministries, assisted by a Ukrainian NGO.
The European Freedom Network (of the European Evangelical Alliance) has committed to assist the Ukrainian believers with communication, facilitating networking and sharing of opportunities and best practice among the group via email.
In concert with the leadership of New Life church, the team gathered pastors and church leaders from around the country for a round table discussion of the issue of prostitution and trafficking in Ukraine. Around 25-30 people attended the round table, including members of the media. Various regions of Ukraine were represented, along with different Christian denominations and confessions, including Orthodox.
Significantly, the topic of ministry among women in prostitution – and victims of trafficking – also received a powerful endorsement from religious leaders. Bishop Kaluzhny's statements were reported on in Christian mass-media. Although the church has been hesitant to speak into issues of sexuality (and criminality), it appears that some are ready to break silence. "This is a miracle to meet you," enthused our Orthodox participant, amazed that Christians were engaged in ministry among women in prostitution. We have also been invited to contribute information and articles on the issue to InVictory Media, the largest Christian media portal in the Russian-speaking world.
We believe these meetings were key in putting the issue of prostitution and trafficking on the map for Ukrainian Christians. The meetings were useful both for moving people forward in their understanding of the issue, and helping them to move toward engagement. The opportunity to gather the church around this issue offered encouragement, resources, and momentum to local groups seeking to serve God and women in this area of ministry. Nadiya, the leader of Regeneration, told us after the training, "Everyone is going home planning to do this. One pastor will start this ministry throughout his region." Bishop Kaluzhny was even stronger. "This is the new issue for the Church in Ukraine. In a few years, every church in the country will be engaged in this type of ministry. And it started here."
The pioneering team facilitated a one-day training for staff and volunteers from local ministries and churches, including the Salvation Army and Regeneration, a ministry of New Life Church. Jim, the team's networker, broke the ice, while team member Rachel Davies offered words of encouragement on burn-out and ministry fatigue from Scripture. Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag shared tips on how to start a ministry among women and men in prostitution and victims of human trafficking. Regeneration used the opportunity to promote its trafficking prevention curriculum. A local NGO also trained the group in theatre-based methods of prevention and intervention. Approximately 35 people received training, from several churches and groups.
The team's visit helped local ministries to connect to each other, and to NGOs serving in this field. In one instance, volunteers involved in two different ministries working with the women were surprised to learn that they belonged to the same church (denomination) in Kiev! One local pastor seized the opportunity to access resources, and informed the team that he was contacting a local inter-governmental group (IOM) to provide follow-up training for the church. We were delighted to see people reaching out to connect to each other, to learn from local practitioners, and to access resources.
The team set the foundations for ongoing communication between interested parties, which we feel is the first step toward facilitation of a network. Jim Stewart has assumed responsibility for acquiring email addresses from those interested in the email forum, and will help to facilitate the group. In addition to sharing information, opportunities, and best practices, we are hoping that the group might occasionally find opportunities to meet. We hope that this will strengthen relationships and allow the group to work together to achieve common goals.
We also received requests for future training. Several participants in the training day asked for further training, particularly focusing on different regions of the Ukraine. One woman noted that around 80% of the funds and training brought to Ukraine 'pool' in Kiev. An urgent invitation came from our Orthodox participant, who was very keen to see training happen in his oblast, Herzon. We exchanged email information and will pursue these possibilities.