Asia

'In You I Take Refuge'

In 1994, Pierre Tami established the Hagar Shelter in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as a haven for women who had fallen victim to violence and sexual exploitation. Hagar has assisted more than 100,000 women and children through its social programs and economic projects. The U.S. State Department in 2004 selected Tami and the Hagar project as one of its six international heroes in the struggle against the global slave trade. The story of how Pierre Tami created one of the most innovative programs for freed slaves will inspire even the most entrenched cynics.

Tami, a Swiss businessman, had devoted 12 years to helping people in crisis—including a long stint in Japan aiding the homeless in the parks of downtown Osaka and several years more building up a youth drop-in center in Singapore. He could not explain why, but he understood these ventures as a training ground for some greater project. He received the invitation to visit Cambodia in June 1990.

A civil war threatened to throw the country into chaos. Though the ruling regime was paranoid about the presence of foreigners, it asked Tami to evaluate the potential of providing aid to its impoverished masses. Only 25 nongovernmental aid agencies were operating in Cambodia at the time.

When Tami first arrived in one village, silence blanketed the town—except for a single, terrible wail. A mother had just lost her 6-month-old baby, a casualty of malaria. She spilled out her agony and protest.

A traditional Cambodian (Khmer) proverb muses, "If Heaven could cry, then Cambodia would never know drought." For Tami, the mother's wail became the cry of a people, and it haunted him long after he had left the country.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2007
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Busting Pedophile Rings

The American owner of a bar in Cambodia that is frequented by international pedophiles was arrested in a faith-based human rights group’s effort to bring known pedophiles to justice. Investigators from International Justice Mission (IJM) alleged that Terry D. Smith, 54, sexually abused the 11- to 14-year-old girls who worked in his bar and prepared them to be sold to tourists. The bar is now shut down. Smith gave undercover IJM investigators a trump card by telling them about his active warrants in Oregon. After confirming warrants for child abuse and sexual assault, the investigators alerted Cambodian police, the U.S. Embassy, and the U.S. Marshals Service, which issued a federal warrant for Smith’s arrest.

  “Each arrest by Cambodian police of Western pedophiles reinforces an important message: Pedophiles are not welcome in Cambodia, and they will go to jail if they assault Cambodian children,” Sharon Cohn, who oversees all IJM investigative and intervention strategies, told Sojourners. IJM heralded Smith’s arrest as the success of international law enforcement collaboration.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2007
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Cashing in on Crisis

Anyone who has picked up a newspaper in the last several months has heard of the International Monetary Fund. This relatively obscure yet immensely powerful institution has been sprung to the front pages of the world’s newspapers by the Asia financial crisis and the fund’s role in bailing out the economies of Thailand, Indonesia, and South Korea.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was created in 1944 to oversee the global financial system and to extend short-term loans to countries facing liquidity problems. In the last several decades, however, the IMF increasingly has become involved in "structural reform" of its borrowing nations. While still providing short-term assistance, the IMF also attaches loan conditions that require fundamental changes in national economic policies. Even more recently, the IMF has begun to attach "good governance" conditions to its loans.

This deeper role has sparked a great deal of controversy. Critics from the Right argue that the IMF is interfering with the market by providing a guarantee of financing if a country’s economy, including the private sector, experiences a crisis. Critics from the Left want the IMF to recognize the impact of its policies on social cohesion, labor conditions, poverty, and the environment.

Because of its magnitude, the financial crisis in Asia has sparked an unprecedented examination of IMF policies and their impact. The Asian bailouts illustrate the IMF’s new approach—they require changes in the country’s banking and financial sectors and crack down on corruption. However, they also include the typical components of "structural adjustment programs" that have sparked longtime criticism of the IMF.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1998
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