A Journey to Full Restoration

Silhouette creating the shape of a flying bird. Photo via Shots Studio /

Mint's life has been changed since working at NightLight. Having an economic alternative is an essential part of bringing liberation to women who have been trafficked or prostituted. The exit or rescue is only the beginning of freedom. At the same time, a job alone does not restore a woman to her true identity and humanity. There is a well of pain and trauma that lies beneath the surface.

Most organizations that provide after care for survivors struggle to support the financial burden of restoration. When the rescue is over, the support often dwindles before the woman is fully restored and ready to thrive on her own. Without intentional and holistic after care, victims who are rescued often find themselves vulnerable again. Left alone, the familiarity of their slavery can begin to look like the best option for survival.

A successful business can provide the wages and benefits needed to sustain a woman while giving her the opportunity to reach full restoration. When the greater community invests in freedom products, we can help vulnerable women reach their full potential.

For Mint’s sake and other women and girls, may it be so.

VIDEO: Travel with Us—A Visual Poem

Around the world, children continue to be trafficked and sold to the highest bidder in the global sex trade. In “Protecting the Innocent” (Sojourners, May 2014), Lynne Hybels features the work of The SOLD Project, an organization that seeks to prevent the exploitation and trafficking of children in Thailand.

Journey with SOLD to empower at-risk children in Thailand. Check out this visual poem about SOLD’s hopeful vision to end human trafficking—one traveler at a time.

Travel With Us :: A Short Visual Poem from The SOLD Project on Vimeo.

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Protecting the Innocent

AN UNQUENCHABLE demand for sex, coupled with an endless supply of vulnerable children, creates a seemingly endless cycle of child exploitation.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Department of Defense contracted with the Thai government to provide “recreation and relaxation” for U.S. soldiers. Sex tourism was organized and expanded into a major industry. Today, sex tourism is a huge source of income for Thailand: The country remains a hub for tourists who can get anything they want at a very low price. Many children are trafficked into Thailand from surrounding countries or are fleeing military genocide. Others are pressured by their own family members to contribute to the household income. Uneducated and hopeless, these desperately poor boys and girls help feed the sex trade industry’s insatiable hunger for children.

A friend of mine recently traveled to Thailand. “I’d read books and watched documentaries about the sex industry in Thailand,” says Jennifer Laine VanBeek. “But nothing prepared me for Bangkok. Even beyond the red light districts, the sex trade is impossible to ignore. I was defeated by the sheer volume, the visible presence, the young ages of the exploited girls and boys, and how engrained it seemed to be in Thai culture.”

Jennifer visited Thailand—often called “Disneyland for Pedophiles”—with her Westmont College friend Rachel Goble, president of The SOLD Project, an organization that works to prevent child exploitation. Early in 2008, Rachel moved to Thailand’s Chiang Rai region, whose lush landscape and laughing children belie the harsh reality: Generations of women from this village have been and continue to be exploited by Thailand’s sex trade.

Young men in desperately poor families such as those in Chiang Rai can bring honor to their families by becoming monks, but girls are expected to provide financially. Traffickers understand this vulnerability, prey on it, and easily lure girls into life in the brothel.

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Thailand Looks to Arrest Buddhist Monk for Insurrection

Protesting on the Streets of Bangkok. Photo courtesy Terence Lim via Flickr / RNS

Authorities in Thailand are preparing to arrest and possibly defrock a senior Buddhist monk on charges of insurrection and breach of Buddhist discipline for leading anti-government protests.

Police on Tuesday asked a criminal court to authorize the arrest of Luang Pu Buddha Issara for laying siege to government offices in Bangkok’s Lak Si district and obstructing voting during last week’s general elections, the National News Bureau of Thailand reports.

Issara, a 58-year-old monk from the Wat Or Noi temple in the central province of Nakhon Pathom, is a leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee that is seeking to topple the government.

In Thailand, US Evangelicals Work to End Prostitution

Mint, a former sex worker, now makes jewelry that helps support the work of NightLight International. Photo: Bear Guerra / RNS

A small delicate silver cross hangs around Mint’s neck, a charm she reaches for nervously from time to time as she speaks.

Mint is her nickname, an Anglicized version of the long Thai name she was given and would rather not make public. As a former prostitute, the 24-year-old is concerned about bringing shame to her family, though she says everyone in her village in the northeastern province of Issan  — a poor agricultural region along the border with Cambodia and Laos — would assume, or simply know, she had to be doing sex work to send money back home.

Everyone in Bangkok knows how it works. Many of the countless massage parlors, go-go bars, and karaoke joints peppered throughout the city are frequently thinly veiled fronts for prostitution. Heavily made-up girls hang around in the periphery of joints catering to Western tourists.

Thai University Apologizes for Banner Featuring Adolf Hitler

Photo courtesy RNS/

Thailand’s most prestigious university apologizes for offensive "congratulations" banner. Photo courtesy RNS/

Thailand’s most prestigious university apologized to the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Monday for allowing its campus to hang a huge, hand-painted “Congratulations” banner illustrated with Captain America, Batman, and other comic superheroes, topped by Adolf Hitler giving a Nazi victory salute.

The apology came three days after the Simon Wiesenthal Center published on its website a photograph of a female student in a university graduation gown posing in front of the larger-than-life banner with her arm outstretched in a Sieg Heil salute.

“Hitler as a superhero?” asked Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Simon Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, in a statement posted on July 12.

Report: Religion at Heart of Illegal Ivory Trade

 RNS photo © Brent Stirton/National Geographic

The largest ivory crucifix in the Philippines hangs in a museum in Manila. RNS photo © Brent Stirton/National Geographic

Since the ban on international trade of ivory in 1989, the ivory black market has been on the rise, and a National Geographic investigation found that demand for religious art pieces carved out of the precious material has played a considerable role.

“No matter where I find ivory, religion is close at hand,” said investigative reporter Bryan Christy, whose article, “Ivory Worship,” is included in the new edition of National Geographic magazine, released Sept. 14.

“Elephant poaching levels are currently at their worst in a decade,” Christy wrote. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) estimates that at least 25,000 elephants were poached in 2011, mostly for their ivory tusks.

Philippine Catholics use ivory to construct crucifixes, figures of the Virgin Mary and other icons. The province of Cebu is particularly known for its ivory renditions of the Santo Nino de Cebu (Holy Child of Cebu), used in worship and celebration.