Let the victims’ voices lead the way

Let the victims’ voices lead the way

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. Ps. 147:3-6 NIV

PIMAHT joins the global community in observing World Day Against Trafficking today, July 30. We especially affirm this year’s theme, ‘Victims’ Voices Lead the Way,’ upholding the dignity, desires and dreams of our brothers and sisters who have fallen victim to human trafficking. Truly, they should be included, heard, and involved as we seek to address this social problem.

Even with the current status of the Philippines as a Tier 1 rank by the US Department of State TIP REPORT, human trafficking still thrives in the crevices of poverty, hunger, and massive joblessness. This is even aggravated as majority of the population are poor families struggling to survive from the economic backlash of the pandemic. Early this year, we have witnessed the exposition of well-coordinated trafficking of women in Syria, although reports were already made that all the victims were already repatriated back home. What was alarming was it involved officials in the government bureaucracy that made it a large-scale scheme.

Since the pandemic, thousands have been repatriated or have returned back to the country, facing the cyclical problem of unemployment, hunger and poverty, the same reasons why they had to leave our country. They join the many other Filipinos who are grappling against the economic impact of the prolonged lockdown in the country, unable to support their families who are relying on them. In a study released by IOM Philippines in May 2021, 83% of those who were able to return home remain unemployed. These are the Filipinos who became victims of human trafficking. At the same time, the Philippines recorded a significant increase of 264% cases of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) according to the Department of Justice, Office of Cybercrime (DOJ-OOC).

This affirmed our concern that when a humanitarian crisis breaks out under extreme conditions of poverty, social problems like OSEC thrive. Children become easy prey in times when families are barely surviving and grappling with hunger. Thus, government agencies, churches, faith communities and organizations must work hand in hand to support and protect vulnerable groups like children and make communities safer for them especially at this time of pandemic.

PIMAHT, with its mission to see Filipino communities of faith working together to eradicate human trafficking in the Philippines, is continuously tapping other organizations for partnerships in strengthening awareness and prevention campaigns against human trafficking and providing assistance to those at-risk, victims and survivors.

The organization, spearheaded by its three executive members: Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), and Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) together with member organizations, Philippine Children’s Ministries Network (PCMN), International Justice Mission (IJM) Philippines, and Talitha Kum Philippines (TKP), vow to prevent and serve as a shield against human trafficking through awareness campaigns, consultations, and provision of social services to assist and bring justice to survivors. In addition, the organization and its partner churches always open their doors to provide a safe space and sanctuary, help the survivors restore their life through psychological and financial support, and accompany them to a journey of healing caused by the nightmares of human trafficking.

As PIMAHT, we call on the faith community to keep extending mercy, compassion, and solidarity to the victims of human trafficking. Let us offer our spaces and resources for their needs. Let’s continue accompanying them in their quest for justice and accountability. As the faith community has a strong presence in the local communities, we encourage our churches to also strengthen the information drives to increase the awareness of sectors of the community as a pivot on preventing human trafficking.

We call on our government to intensify its campaign against human trafficking. We especially hope that it will finally address the root causes of trafficking – create life-sustaining jobs at home and extend basic social services to the poor to enable them to better their situations. We also call for the government to justly prosecute its officials involved in these schemes.

As PIMAHT, we continue to pray and extend our acts of solidarity to those who have fallen victims. Though all may come from different faith or religion, the passion and eagerness to cease human trafficking in the Philippines binds us together. United in faith through service and advocacy, we can provide justice and restore the dignity of the oppressed.

PIMAHT is composed of the 3 largest Christian Church Councils in the country -The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), and the Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches, together with Talitha Kum – Philippines, International Justice Mission Philippines, and the Philippine Children’s Ministries Network (PCMN). It is committed to stand against human trafficking in all its diverse forms and to support victims of human trafficking to reclaim their dignity and to seek justice, affirming the basic human right that every person bears ‘to life, liberty and security’ and that ‘no one shall be held in slavery or servitude’.

MOST REV. NARCISO V. ABELLANA, MSC
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)

BISHOP REUEL NORMAN O. MARIGZA
National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)

BISHOP NOEL PANTOJA
Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC)

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