So last weekend I didn’t manage to write a post as I was in London. I had the amazing privilege to be present at the first UK conference of the International Justice Mission (IJM), called Make Darkness Light. I say privilege because I was humbled to hear of the brilliant work this charity is doing in some of the toughest places in the world.
I am not quite sure how I first heard about IJM. I think it was at a screening of the Nefarious film (produced by another great charity called Exodus Cry). After the film, there were stalls for various charities working to fight trafficking, and I signed up to a few mailing lists, including IJM’s.
I have been receiving IJM emails for some time now, and I confess the majority ended up in the deleted items file, unread. But then in the summer I was accepted onto a Masters course in Theology, and picked modules concerning social justice issues for my speciality. I had been interested in the issue of human trafficking for a number of years but always pushed it to the back of my mind because I didn’t really know what I could do about it. So in choosing the social justice modules I was admitting to myself that this was an issue I really cared about, and that it was high time I learnt what I could do to help.
The next email I received from IJM was an invitation to the conference. I straightaway knew I wanted to go, but even though tickets were not expensive, at the time I had no job and less money, and was unsure how I would be able to go. I mentioned it to my Dad, and he said to leave it for a week or to (there were a few weeks of early-bird discount left) and see what happened. Later that week we went out for coffee with my Nan. She asked if there was anything particular I wanted for my birthday this year. I couldn’t think of anything, but then my Dad mentioned the conference and my Nan offered to buy my ticket as a birthday present. A few days later I booked my ticket.
The whole day was full of heartbreaking stories mixed with great hope about what could be done to help. We lifted up in prayer the IJM staff, the victims, the perpetrators, and the local justice systems. Where we knew names, we prayed for individuals. Where we could not find the words, we let our tears be our prayers. We worshiped the God who is stronger than the powers of this world and who cares about the poor and the oppressed. And we were encouraged to act – to raise money, to raise awareness, to be a voice for the voiceless.
IJM work in some of the world’s poorest countries, where violence and oppression are a part of daily life, where millions of people are trapped in slavery, trafficked and forced to work in horrendous situations, stripped of their rights and their voice. When IJM hear of victims of slavery, sexual exploitation or violent oppression they work hard to rescue the victims, restore their health and dignity, get them counselling when needed, train them in new skills and help them to avoid becoming trapped again. But this is not all they do. They work closely with the local justice systems of that country to take the perpetrators to court, to try to prevent them from commiting the same crimes again. They do not win every case, but in working in the system they find all the loopholes, the corruption, the structures that keep the victims victims and allow the perpetrators to get away with their crimes. With this knowledge they can start to change the systems from the inside. They are also working with our government to keep the issue of slavery on the agenda.
Trafficking is a huge problem in our world, and I can’t not do something about it any more. In December I will be raising awareness of the issue of slavery and the work of IJM (and hopefully raising some money too!) by joining women all over the world in taking part in Dressember. For the 31 days of December, I will be wearing dresses everyday, to stand in solidarity with women worldwide who are victims of oppression.
I will be taking a photo of my outfit each day, and posting it online with the hashtag #Dressember. (if you want to see the pictures, they will appear on my old tumblr blog: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/squishymeanderings and on my personal twitter feed: @cerilouise_87)
I have also created a fundraising page at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Ceridressember if you would like to donate, and UK taxpayers can giftaid their donations. If you are in the USA, it’s better for you to sponsor me through Dressember’s own site, so you can do your tax-related thing… Go to http://www.dressemberfoundation.org, click on give, then ‘support a specific participant’ and search for me (Ceri Webb).
To find out more about the work of IJM and sign up to their mailing list, visit their website here: https://www.ijmuk.org
And ladies, It’s not to late to join us – check out the Dressember website for how you can get involved.
27 million people trapped in slavery is not okay. Speak up. Raise awareness. Be a voice for the voiceless.