partnership

Human Trafficking: Community Is Essential

Kev Draws / Shutterstock.com
Kev Draws / Shutterstock.com

Diedrich Boenhoeffer wrote about it. Pastors preach about it. Churches strive for it.

Community.

It is a concept that has had a long history in the American church. It can come in many forms. Bringing a meal to a stressed out new mother. A church ice cream social. Youth group. Singles ministry.

But what does community look like when working on a social issue?

For human trafficking, that community comes in the form of partnerships. The 2000 federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) originally addressed human trafficking by creating the three 'Ps': prevention, protection, and prosecution. But after implementation occurred, the anti-trafficking community realized there was something missing. Thus, in 2008, the fourth 'P' —partnership — was added.

A Lifesaving Partnership

Thokozile Beatrex Phiri

Thokozile (Thoko) Beatrex Phiri, a Malawian advocate for global health, has experienced tremendous loss due to poverty and disease. Losing several family members to HIV-TB co-infection was devastating for Thoko. But her suffering has not silenced her.

As an ambassador for the Global Fund—an institution that financially supports prevention and treatment programs for people living with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria—Thoko boldly speaks out for those in need of the fund’s lifesaving efforts.

Through the support of the Global Fund and other donors, Thoko’s organization—the Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association (MIAA)—focuses on the education, treatment, and mobilization of Christians and Muslims against HIV/AIDS. This faith-based partnership is not only smart, strategic, and sustainable—it is changing lives.

As part of Sojourners magazine’s August 2013 coverage on health care, assistant editor Elaina Ramsey sat down with Thoko in July 2013 to discuss the urgency of investing in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria.—The Editors

Elaina Ramsey: Tell me about your work with the Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association.
Thoko Beatrex Phiri: MIAA is an umbrella for various faith-based organizations. In Malawi, 98 percent of the population belongs to one faith or another. The faith communities are on the forefront of HIV, TB, and malaria treatment because of their influence.

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From the Archives: March-April 1999

IN A CROWDED auditorium [in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch] that served as a shelter for 900 people, the scarce supply of drinking water was kept in a bucket and labeled with a sign that said "Do not use your own cup." Five bored, mischievous children, however, could think of nothing better than to try to stick their cups in the water. Then one relief worker gave them a special assignment. "This water is very important," she said. "I need you to be the guardians of the water so that no one dips in their own glass." And they, feeling respected and needed, became the fierce, undaunted protectors of the water supply.

Similarly, countless Hondurans are saying, "If not us, then who?"—righting their relationship with themselves, assuming the task of rebuilding their homes and communities, recognizing that progress occurs when they participate. Women, who have never even valued their never-ending activity as work, are speaking up when the pay sheets are evaluated. "I planted a garden. I rebuilt the wall of my house. I earned my corn and beans."

What other relationships are being righted? First, Hondurans of all stripes in communities marked by division and distrust are working together in local emergency committees: men and women, evangelicals and Catholics, Liberals and Nationalists—debating ideas, prioritizing projects, participating in work crews. Mutual support and mutual respect are the expression of Jubilee.

Jennifer Casolo was coordinator of the Women's Pastoral Center in San Isidro Labrador Parish in Tocoa Colon, Honduras, when this article appeared.

Image: Water bucket, Dawn Hudson / Shutterstock.com

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