Eugene Cho

27 million reasons

call-response-banner

There are 27 million reasons why you should give a frack about Human Trafficking. I want to invite you to join us for a special film screening of Call + Response.  And if you’ve seen it, see it again and bring someone along.  If you’ve already seen the film, can you share some of your reflections so that others might be encouraged to watch this film or screen it on their own?

We’re not here to bait and switch, ask for your money, or get you to come to our church or buy more cups of coffee.  We simply want to partner together to love mercy and seek justice.  

Join Quest Church and Q Cafe for a screening of the landmark film on human trafficking in our world. Following the film screening, join us next door at Q Cafe for an advocacy fair with local and global partners in the fight against human trafficking to learn how you can be involved. All profits go to World Concern and Break the Chains/International Justice Mission to support their work against human trafficking.

Human trafficking is considered the third largest industry in the world and despite our advances as a human society, there are more slaves today than any point in human history.  That – folks – is the essence of human depravity.  Tickets are only $5 and all proceeds go to benefit the fight and cause.  Seats are limited so purchase your tix now.  Help us spread the word by sharing this post or share the Facebook Event.

Two articles I want to share with you.  The first is a recent article from the NY Times/blogpost

Anyone who thinks it is hyperbole to describe sex trafficking as slavery should look at the maimed face of a teenage girl, Long Pross.

Glance at Pross from her left, and she looks like a normal, fun-loving girl, with a pretty face and a joyous smile. Then move around, and you see where her brothel owner gouged out her right eye.

Yes, I know it’s hard to read this. But it’s infinitely more painful for Pross to recount the humiliations she suffered, yet she summoned the strength to do so — and to appear in a video posted online with this column — because she wants people to understand how brutal sex trafficking can be.

Pross was 13 and hadn’t even had her first period when a young woman kidnapped her and sold her to a brothel in Phnom Penh. The brothel owner, a woman as is typical, beat Pross and tortured her with electric current until finally the girl acquiesced. [read full article]

And this one  from Time Magazine entitled Iraq’s Unspeakable Crime: Mothers Pimping Daughters:

She goes by “Hinda,” but that’s not her real name. That’s what she’s called by the many Iraqi sex traffickers and pimps who contact her several times a week from across the country. They think she is one of them, a peddler of sexual slaves. Little do they know that the stocky, auburn-haired woman is an undercover human rights activist who has been quietly mapping out their murky underworld since 2006.

That underworld is a place where nefarious female pimps hold sway, where impoverished mothers sell their teenage daughters into a sex market that believes females who reach the age of 20 are too old to fetch a good price. The youngest victims, some just 11 and 12, are sold for as much as $30,000, others for as little as $2,000. “The buying and selling of girls in Iraq, it’s like the trade in cattle,” Hinda says. “I’ve seen mothers haggle with agents over the price of their daughters.” (See pictures of Iraq since the fall of Saddam.)

The trafficking routes are both local and international, most often to Syria, Jordan and the Gulf (primarily the United Arab Emirates). The victims are trafficked illegally on forged passports, or “legally” through forced marriages. A married female, even one as young as 14, raises few suspicions if she’s travelling with her “husband.” The girls are then divorced upon arrival and put to work. (See Iraq’s return to “normalcy”.)

Nobody knows exactly how many Iraqi women and children have been sold into sexual slavery since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, and there are no official numbers because of the shadowy nature of the business. Baghdad-based activists like Hinda and others put the number in the tens of thousands. Still, it remains a hidden crime; one that the 2008 US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report says the Iraqi government is not combating. Baghdad, the report says, “offers no protection services to victims of trafficking, reported no efforts to prevent trafficking in persons and does not acknowledge trafficking to be a problem in the country.”

While sexual violence has accompanied warfare for millennia and insecurity always provides opportunities for criminal elements to profit, what is happening in Iraq today reveals how far a once progressive country (relative to its neighbors) has regressed on the issue of women’s rights and how ferociously the seams of a traditional Arab society that values female virginity have been ripped apart. Last month Baghdad’s minister of women’s affairs, Dr. Nawal al-Samarraie, resigned in protest at the lack of resources provided to her office by the government. “The ministry is just an empty post,” she told TIME. “Why do I come to the office every day if I don’t have any resources?” Yet even Samarraie didn’t think sex trafficking was an issue. “It’s limited,” she says, adding that she believed the girls involved chose to engage in prostitution.

That’s a view that infuriates activists like Yanar Mohammed, who heads the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. “Let me take her to the nightclubs of Damascus and show her [trafficked] women by the thousands,” she says. To date, the government has not prosecuted any traffickers. For the past year it has also prevented groups like Mohammed’s from visiting women’s prisons, where they have previously identified victims, many of whom are jailed for acts committed as a result of being trafficked, such as prostitution or possessing forged documents.

That’s where Mohammed’s group first saw Atoor several years ago, at the Khadimiya Women’s Prison in northern Baghdad. Now 18, Atoor married her 19-year-old sweetheart, a policeman called Bilal, when she was 15. Three months later he was dead, killed during one of the many bloody episodes in Iraq’s brutal war. After the obligatory four-month mourning period dictated by Islamic Shari’a law, Atoor’s mother and two brothers made it clear that they intended to sell her to a brothel close to their home in western Baghdad, just as they’d sold her older twin sisters. Frightened, she told a friend in the police force to raid her home and the nearby brothel. His unit did, and Atoor spent the next two years in prison. She was not charged with anything, but that’s how long it took for her to come before a judge and be released. “I wanted to go to prison, I didn’t want to be sold,” she says. “I didn’t think it would happen to me. My mother used to spoil me. Yes, she sold my sisters but she regretted that. I though that she loved me.”

Hinda the activist-investigator also knows what’s its like to be betrayed by family and considered human merchandise. Raped at 16, she was disowned by her family and left homeless. In many parts of the Arab world, the stigma of compromised chastity, even if it was stolen, is such that victims are at best outcasts and at worst killed for “dishonoring” their family or community. Desperate and destitute, Hinda turned to prostitution.

Now 33, she is using her knowledge of the industry to infiltrate trafficking rings across the country. She gathers information about the victims, where they are from, how much they’re sold for and who is buying them. Most often she poses as a buyer for overseas clients, a cover that enables her to snap pictures of victims and claim that they are for her potential customers. She drags out the negotiations for several days, knowing that the victims are usually sold during that period. Playing a disappointed pimp helps keep her cover intact, she says. She can’t rescue the girls, but the hope is that when the government decides to take trafficking seriously, her work and that of others will eventually help prosecute offenders and identify victims. She moves away from each trafficking ring as quickly as she can. To linger would be to invite suspicion.

But these days, she says suspicion is getting harder to avoid. She has been beaten before, by the security guards of pimps who suspect her of encouraging young victims to escape or offering them help. But in the past week she has received several death threats, some so frightening and persistent that she penned a farewell letter to her mother. “I’m scared. I’m scared that I’ll be killed,” she says, wiping away her tears. “But I will not surrender to that fear. If I do it means I’ve given up and I won’t do that. I have to work to stop this.”

After her husband was killed, Atoor's family tried to sell her to a local Baghdad brothel.

Filed under: justice, seattle, , , , ,

16 Responses

  1. rexhamilton says:

    Hi Eugene. I’m a pastor here in the Eastide. Kirkland to be exact. I’m curious as to how, or what we could do to get the movie to show here. I’m completely supportive of this movie, but I’m not sure many from the Eastside will drive over to Seattle. To my knowledge, no one is showing this film here and we need to do something to bring exposure to this area.

    I’d appreciate any details you might have to forward me…thanks!

  2. greg says:

    Rex
    you can contact Joel directly concerning the film as they are now touring with it..

    Also there is an Abolition Rally in Mill Creek area Wednesday March 25th… http://www.wearetheyoung.org

  3. minna says:

    this was an amazing and eye-opening rockumentary!
    i hope the cafe has a great turn-out!
    if you don’t have plans, people, you should definitely check this out!!!

  4. Stephanie says:

    If I lived in Seattle, I would be there. Saw this film/rockumentary in Portland when they came through. It is excellent and fantastically disturbing. Personally, I need to be reminded daily that I am not the center of the world… this film does just that. Great music, but an even greater way to partner with the International Justice Mission and really “seek peace and pursue it”.

  5. Tom says:

    You’re doing such very encouraging stuff, Eugene!

    Hey, I’ve got a bud in LA (Troy Anderson) whose starting up a new project called Speak Up to combat sex trafficking. He was on staff for a number of years with Servant Partners (one of the orgs I started up and helped develop), then ended up as a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office in LA County. He’s been doing pro bono stuff with International Justice Mission and just left the DA’s office to give himself to this new work. Great guy with the goods to get a lot done.

    He’s looking for like minded folks around the country–can I hook him up with you and your networks up there? I’m sure he’d love to talk to folks in your neck of the woods who have a passion for this fight. Anybody in particular up there he should get in touch with (go ahead and send me an email if you’ve got ideas)

  6. everyone has to see this movie. as christians we should not be able to go on with our everyday lives while stuff like slavery exists in this world. yes, this movie is disturbing – go see it anyway. if we love our neighbors we have to see how they are being treated and then do something about it.

    if you want to know more about the film – http://julieclawson.com/2008/10/23/call-response/

  7. amazing movie, hard to watch. I have a project idea based on the open-source movement Justin Dillon is calling for. Info available here at http://www.nameyourdreamassignment.com/the-ideas/carlmc/27-million-slaves/

  8. eugenecho says:

    @rexhamilton: there you go. question answered. although i have to tell you that there’s a fee to obtain the right to show it. you can email my global presence pastor at leah[at]seattlequest.org and she can get you more info.

    @tom: sure. but for whatever reason, i feel like the network in the NW is really scattered and weak. my tow cents.

  9. Tom says:

    @eugene–It’s sort of scattered and weak everywhere on this issue, but I think we’re all a little overwhelmed right now with all the challenges. I know I am.

    In any case, good to get the scattered and weak and like minded together. Good things can come out of that mix with God’s strength. I think you’re pretty good at drawing that kind of crowd together.

    If there was ever a challenge that everybody can come together about, this is it. Maybe we need spokespeople like you who can touch a wide variety of people, and then a whole bunch of folks like Troy who can do the nuts and bolts.

  10. rexhamilton says:

    Greg and Eugene: Thanks for the leads!

  11. [...] New ‘rockumentary’ Call + Response deals with contemporary issue of slavery March 12, 2009 Film site (HT: Eugene Cho) [...]

  12. “Frack?” PE? Have you been watching a bunch of Battlestar Galactica again? ;-) Starbuck would be proud.

    Seriously though, I can’t wait to see this film.

  13. eugenecho says:

    @blake: actually, no. it’s been a year or so but i do like BSG. what else can you say about the evil of human trafficking, right? frack human trafficking!

  14. friday funkfest 9 « just being christian says:

    [...] Just in case you needed a reason to get fired up and motivated to do something about human trafficking. [...]

  15. Stephanie Jira says:

    I live in AR. I heard mt pastor speak on human trafficking in Mexico and my heart broke. I found myself crying and decided I would do whatever I could to help. At my teachers request I have been writing a speech and doing a presentation on the subject. I have learned things I never wanted to know. I really would love to see the movie but do not know where I can find it around here. I am praying for your showing and the lifes it will influence and touch!

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One Day’s Wages

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I love my church. So proud of the ways they seek to embody compassion and justice. Some of them were in downtown Seattle this week to demonstrate their solidarity with Ferguson.

I'm in the middle of a 3 month sabbatical at Quest. I'm grateful for this time of rest and rejuvenation...but I miss my church dearly. Can't wait to be back in October. There are some amazingly beautiful churches around the world. Just remember though that true worship begins when you exit the church walls and live out your faith and convictions.

#LightandSalt
#PrincetonUniversity Home, sweet home. 
#seattle 17.5 Year Anniversary!
We still got it. We look gooooood!

Blessed to be back in Princeton, NJ for couple days recently. We had our wedding ceremony in Korea but got "legally" married in the US at Miller Chapel in Princeton Seminary. So, it was only fitting to go back and have my kids take our 17.5 Anniversary  pics. Someday when our kids become adults and they feel like their parents wronged them or neglected them, and they feel like they need to get counseling... I'm going to show them this picture and say, "I HAVE PROOF. WE TOOK YOU TO NYC AND BOUGHT TICKETS TO WICKED ON BROADWAY!" RIP Robin Williams. 
Folks: Please go and - call or hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them. Remind them how you much appreciate them.

We need to (re)learn how to be more human. Don't avoid eye contact. Don't hide behind gadgets. Smile often - both to neighbors and strangers alike. Ask about peoples' stories. And listen.

And most importantly, remind yourself that YOU are loved. Not just merely by your loved ones but also by the ONE who created all that is good and beautiful.

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