Stop child trafficking: how the local church can join the global movement for freedom

‘To hold your breath without breathing for five minutes, three minutes, it is not easy. It is not easy.’ – Godwin

Imagine, as a child, being forced to dive deep underwater to untangle fishing nets caught on submerged trees. As you swim in the darkness, you pray you won’t get tangled, knowing you could drown. This was Godwin’s reality after he was trafficked into the fishing industry on Ghana’s Lake Volta.

During the pandemic, we’ve seen so much suffering on our TV screens, our news apps, in the lives of those around us. But what’s even harder to comprehend is the suffering we can’t see, like the hidden suffering caused by child trafficking.

With children out of school during lockdowns and more families forced into poverty, it’s all too easy for traffickers to coerce or deceive children into dangerous work. This can take many forms, from children forced to untangle nets underwater on Lake Volta, to teenagers forced to work in the garment industry in South Asia.

For Godwin, the nightmare began when a woman claiming to be his aunt turned up at his house, offering to take him to see extended family and buy schoolbooks. The reality turned out to be very different. She took him miles from home, with no way to contact his family, and sold him to a fisherman who forced him to work in dangerous conditions.

During the pandemic, more children could find themselves in terrifying situations like Godwin’s. But, there is good news: even in these challenging times, God continues to inspire His people around the world to work together for justice, and not grow weary in doing good.

In Ghana, IJM’s team have travelled between islands on Lake Volta, equipping churches in how to protect children in their communities. And in places like the Philippines, we’ve seen churches come together to help child trafficking survivors to rebuild their lives, providing shelter and educational support. Right now, local churches are changing nations all around the world.

Three years ago this month, Godwin was brought to safety by Ghanaian police, supported by IJM.

What he chose to do next was remarkable: he supplied information that led police to identify other victims. Miraculously, because of his courage, more than twenty children are now free.

Like Godwin, we can use our freedom to bring freedom to others today. Here’s how:

• You can give to IJM UK’s #StopChildTrafficking campaign, which raises funds for our global teams to work alongside local authorities and communities to bring freedom to victims.

• You could help spread the word by sharing IJM UK’s BBC Radio 4 appeal, presented by rapper and author Guvna B which airs Thursday 27th May at 3.27pm

• Or you could sign up for our online Champions Training Day on 12th June, where you’ll learn how to take action, pray and advocate within your community for the end of child trafficking, slavery and other forms of violence.

In the time it’s taken to read this, a child could have held their breath under the surface of Lake Volta. With your help, we can move one step closer to a world where every child is free.

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International Justice Mission is a global organisation that protects people in poverty from slavery and violence.

IJM partners with local authorities in 24 communities in 14 countries to combat slavery, violence against women and children, and police abuse of power against people in poverty.

IJM works with authorities to bring victims to safety, provide trauma-informed care to survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and help strengthen public justice systems.