Tuesday, 22 June 2010 04:10 PM EDT Sarah Stegall News – Featured News
Soccer fans have awaited this year’s World Cup for the last four years—and so have human traffickers who’ve brought in possibly thousands of women and children to serve as sex slaves during one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
To help stop the potential exploitation of thousands, Exodus Cry, an anti-trafficking organization birthed during a time of worship and intersession at the Missouri-based International House of Prayer, sent a team to South Africa to aid in what they call "the prayer movement to end slavery."
Led by Exodus Cry’s director of philanthropy, Blaire Pilkington, the team of 14, which includes those from the United States, Canada, Holland and South Africa, have visited several South African cities including Bloemfontein and Durban. They are currently in Cape Town, where they will stay until June 30 leading their prayer, outreach and awareness initiatives.
"Our mission is to see the ending of slavery by raising up intercessory abolitionists," said the ministry’s director of abolition, Bret Mavrich. "We’re not just waging war on flesh and blood, but we’re actually shifting things in heavenly places."
Working with other organizations including the Salvation Army, Pilkington and the team are going out to the streets between the soccer stadium and brothels, praying and ministering to prostitutes, traffickers and those who are looking to buy sex.
"We’re talking about being intercessors and standing in the gap—an actual locatable gap," Mavrich said. "Unless something happens, they [women and children] will be raped between 10 and 30 times every night."
Because of an increased police presence around the stadiums and high-prostitution spots, Pilkington said "activity has gone even more underground than normal."
"Human trafficking in its nature is cloaked in darkness, and we have been contending for the Lord to shine brightly in the darkest areas of this nation," she said.
But human trafficking isn’t just a problem in South Africa; it’s a global issue. Earlier in June, the U.S. Department of State released its 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report.
Though Mavrich said other estimates are much higher, the report states that there are more than 12 million adults and children in forced labor, bonded labor and forced prostitution around the world, which has created a multibillion-dollar industry for traffickers.
For the first time, the U.S. ranked itself. "The United States takes its first-ever ranking not as a reprieve but as a responsibility to strengthen global efforts against modern slavery, including those within America," said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"This human rights abuse is universal, and no one should claim immunity from its reach or from the responsibility to confront it," she said.
Although human trafficking is a problem in many nations, Mavrich said generally victims are being trafficked from impoverished areas. Countless poor women and children are being deceived into prostitution with little chance of escaping.
"They’re forgotten and cast aside. … Nobody would account for them if they went missing," Mavrich said.
So why is human trafficking and prostitution a booming business during an event such as the World Cup? With the influx of thousands of soccer fans to South Africa, Mavrich said human traffickers see a demand for what they offer.
"Where we would see the tragedy of a lifetime … human traffickers or organized crime syndicates would see the opportunity of a lifetime to profit," he said.
With thousands of lives on the line, Exodus Cry is reaching out to those who are hurting—and they’re seeing results.
While visiting the red-light areas of Durban, the team was led to two women standing on the streets. "We began ministering to the two ladies, telling them of the Lord’s love for them, His plans for their life and that there was more for their future than a life of prostitution," Pilkington wrote in an email report.
"The girls’ faces began to change as we talked, and then they told us they were ready, they wanted out," she continued. "We grabbed their hands and led them through the streets littered with clubs, pimps and prostitutes."
Exodus Cry President Benjamin Nolot is convinced of the power of prayer. The night Pilkington’s team ministered to the two women, Nolot and others met in the U.S. and prayed for such leading and deliverance in South Africa.
"Blaire being on the ground with our team there is an embodiment of what we’re really all about, which is touching the real lives of real human beings in real time and space," Nolot said.
"Our team goes out there with this burden of pouring out their souls … and to stand in the gap and make intersession and embody the fragrance of Christ and the testimony of Christ through the gospel," he added.
In addition to caring for the women and children, the team is handing out awareness cards, hoping to change the minds and hearts of traffickers and those looking to buy sex for the night.
"Jesus said should I have My way, I would change the heart of human traffickers, I would change the heart of sex buyers, I would change the hearts of prostituted women, and I would see them all come into the kingdom of heaven and be restored fully and be resurrected on the last day," Mavrich said. "It’s the eternal perspective that only Jesus can bring."
Follow Mavrich, Pilkington and Nolot on Twitter at @ExodusCryKC, @JBMavrich and @WhereIsBlaire.