Saju Mathew is an American lawyer working in India to bring about change in the most vulnerable group in the world and end child sexual slavery. I met him at the Matrix Hotel in Edmonton, Alberta – an aptly named venue to begin a journey into reality.
A Shift In Identity
Saju introduced his subject with the story of “The Ugly Duckling.” He said,
“Change can only happen when there is a shift in identity.”
Saju spoke matter-of-factly about a child prostitute in Chennai, India.
The promise of a better future deceived her into leaving home.
Once settled into her new surroundings she was told to take off all her clothes and put on a mini-skirt and tight fitting top. When she asked why, she was told “for your clients.” When she panicked and said she didn’t want to be a prostitute she was beaten and then raped.
She was raped multiple times a day.
20 times on a Sunday.
She was gang raped over…
and over again.
That’s when I start rubbing my eyes.
How could this happen?
“There are 10,000 child prostitutes in one district in one city in one country.”
How can that be possible?
Changing Destructive Behavior
“The annual revenue from the international sex trade is more than the combined income of Starbucks, Google and Nike.”
Saju works for the International Justice Mission in India. IJM is a human rights organization that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.
Saju went on, “There has been extensive research by social scientists on the theory of change. Their studies show that patterns of destructive behavior must be unlearned and replaced by a new pattern – a new normal. When the driving force is powerful enough, it causes an internal shift in thought, feeling and behavior which liberates people from their old patterns of behavior.”
When people change, systems change.
When systems change, history changes.
“From my work on the frontlines, I can see the momentum for change building. We can be a driving force for change, as we work to re-build broken police, court and aftercare systems. I believe we are facing a very unique window of opportunity in India to make lasting change; to redirect the course of history.”
There Is Hope
So what of the child prostitutes? Is there hope for them?
Police and IJM workers rescued the girl in the above story from the brothel and took her to a safe house. Workers lovingly cared for her, reunited her with her family, and she testified against the brothel owners bringing them to justice and imprisonment.
“We can be the generation that ends slavery in India once and for all.”
Saju referenced the abolition of slavery in England at the turn of the 19th century. It was a 42-year long political and social crusade led by William Wilburforce and a tenacious group of Christians.
Gary Haugen, founder of IJM and author of “The Locust Effect,” wrote, “The victims of injustice in our world do not need our spasms of passion; they need our long obedience in the same direction – our legs and lungs of endurance.”
What is God calling you to do to make history in your world? Leave a comment below. The work of IJM is worth looking into. You can find more info here.
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I have been a member of IJM for about 13 years. They are an Excellent organization!
Great article, Bob! Such an important topic to write about and a great organization to reference.
Erin, it is so good to know you are working with IJM. All the best to you.