South Africa has recently been spared the terrible phenomena of mass shootings that have affected other nations, especially the United States of America. We last suffered this kind of incident when right-wing extremist Barend Strydom in 1988 shot seven innocent black people in central Pretoria.
Be that as it may, crime and violence in our country are today at unacceptably high levels and something drastic needs to be done to make our country safe. This must be a national effort whereby we support Government and law enforcement in their work to protect our country and its people.
Gender-based violence against women and violence against children is especially high and families continue to be traumatised by these incidences.
In the last six months, we have witnessed the emergence of a rise in incidents of human trafficking. This has communities worried and points to new criminal networks operating in our society. In one case, a child was nearly snatched away in front of their mother in a restaurant, indicating that these criminals are emboldened and willing to operate in broad daylight. We cannot allow this crime to grow and undermine the basic safety of our country and our communities.
Even though human traffickers may target any person – indications are that women and children are the most vulnerable. Women and children generally tend to be the victims of crimes; they are at risk whether they are in the home or in public spaces – such as at shopping malls.
Worldwide, society has fallen short in ensuring the security of the vulnerable, especially woman and children.
This fact speaks to the degradation of society and the presence of dysfunction and hate which targets women and children, and continues to cause pain and harm. We have to work together to heal these wounds.
Human trafficking in particular is the abuse of children, women and men for their bodies and labour and is a form of modern-day slavery. Human trafficking and people smuggling violates the human rights of the victims and undermines their dignity. Victims are often subjected to various forms of physical, sexual, emotional and mental abuse.
It pains us to read and hear terrible stories about the trafficking of small children, ripped from their families and sold as sex slaves or cheap labor around the world. Women victims often suffer this fate too. Both the criminals who perpetrate the crime of trafficking and those who benefit from their exploitation are responsible for this scourge.
One cannot even begin to imagine the suffering, hardship, pain, and humiliation victims go through. Then there is the anguish of their families who live with the trauma and pain of realising they will likely never see their loved ones again, knowing that their loved ones may suffer until they pass on.
It is reported that as many as 40 million people globally are victims of modern-day slavery through human trafficking, according to 2017 estimates. This included 25 million people in forced labor, and another 15 million people trapped in forced marriages [stopthetraffik.org].
In 2013 the United Nations General Assembly held a high-level meeting to assess the situation regarding human trafficking. At that meeting, members also signed a Resolution and designated 30 July as “World Day against Trafficking in Persons”.
It is also reported that human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world today. The criminal justice system alone cannot win the fight against human trafficking, given the scale of the problem, and civil society and religious communities’ involvement is overdue. We need to raise an army of citizens to fight against this evil agenda, and we must not wait until our own flesh and blood are affected.
It is about time we stand up and be counted, we have been silent and sitting by on the sidelines for too long, watching as these inhuman acts happen in our country and communities. We must join the fight against human trafficking in our society, and must apply the principle that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’.
I challenge the religious community, in general, to raise this issue sharply within its circles. In my particular faith, the Bible implores us to protect the vulnerable and in particular, children. Children matter to God, we often say. Well, if they do, we need to reflect on how we treat and view children and allow our hearts to be softened to this issue.
Do we truly have God’s heart for children? If we do, we cannot keep silent while children are being harmed day in and day out or being sold as sex slaves. Churches, mosques and temples have to be focused on addressing this matter. Children must be able to look to us as a safe haven. We cannot be oblivious to their plight.
Government for its part must ask whether it is doing enough in the fight against human trafficking in our society and communities. Equally, those in law enforcement should ask themselves whether they are effective in ensuring the safety of our children, women and society at large. Our children are our future. This is a fight we dare not lose. Losing this fight will mean losing the future of our country.
We need a fresh resolve to elevate the fight against human trafficking in our society and to defeat those who have made it their mission to cause such harm.
We commend civil society organisations like A-21, who have taken the fight against human trafficking seriously – it is about time that we join hands with them to fight this scourge until we defeat it in our society.m
Comment by: Ps Ray McCauley
PASTOR RAY IS THE PRESIDENT OF RHEMA FAMILY CHURCHES AND CHAIRPERSON OF NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS COUNCIL