Many believe that the future is bright for our children. And yet, many children of this world are enslaved, trafficked, and forgotten. Here is the tragic reality of the loss of innocence.
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In this two-part series, we address the tragic abuse of children worldwide. The first part covered the issue of child soldiers, or the enslavement of children to fight war.
This second part will address other forms of child enslavement; children of parents who are enslaved in one form or another; and the tragedy of abandonment. Some of these issues may be distant, but others will hit close to home. We will address why these horrendous situations occur, and when and how they will end.
Slavery has been a terrible but regular occurrence throughout history. Unfortunately, most people immediately relate the issue only to the tragic history of slavery in America. Yet, down through time, other peoples have been enslaved in other parts of the world.
Most people also largely believe that slavery is a thing of the past—that somehow with the recent “social advances” of the Western world, others no longer take advantage of the poor and desperate.
But slavery is alive and well today! Even more tragic is the level to which children are involved. In fact, at this very moment, children are being enslaved by some of the most evil industries man has created.
An article in the September 2003 National Geographic, “21st Century Slaves,” by Andrew Cockburn, reported that there are currently 27 million men, women and children who are enslaved—defined as “physically confined or restrained and forced to work, or controlled through violence, or in some way treated as property.”
Mike Dottridge, former director of Anti-Slavery International, began to explain why: “Back then, black people were kidnapped and forced to work as slaves. Today vulnerable people are lured into debt slavery in the expectation of a better life. There are so many of them because there are so many desperate people in the world.” He identifies two key variables: (1) The seeking of a better life, and (2) an increase in both the number of desperate people and the level of desperation.
Mr. Cockburn specifically illustrated the situation in Central America. First, most of the countries in that region were ravaged by various wars during the 1980s and 90s. Second, natural and man-made disasters wreaked further havoc on the infrastructure, particularly Hurricane Mitch (1998) in Honduras and Nicaragua. In its aftermath, the number of homeless street children jumped by 20 percent!
Such pressures create a desire and demand to move to the United States, which is still the “land of opportunity” for many. Unfortunately, the perils of migrating north are many.
In the same National Geographic article, Ademar Barilli, a Brazilian Jesuit, explained what local bar owners in the tiny Guatemalan town of Tecún Umán (where migrants gather to cross into Mexico) do to migrant girls who roll in every day on buses: “They talk about a job working in a restaurant. But the job is in a bar. After the girl has worked for a while just serving drinks, the owner reports her to the police and gets her arrested because she has no documents. She is jailed; he bails her out. Then he tells her she is in debt and must work as a prostitute. The debt never ends, so the girl is a slave.”
In El Salvador, another poor Central American country, thousands of children are forced to work in order to support their families. “I don't really have time to do anything like going to school,” said Javier, a fifth-grader who must work to support his single mother and four-year-old sister. “Sometimes I go after the [coffee] harvest is over” (Reuters, June 29, 2002, “Child Labor: Seeking Change for a 200-Year-Old Dilemma”).
Notice here the disruption of the family unit: Javier's education suffers, increasing the likelihood that his future children will also have to work early in life—continuing the vicious cycle of poverty.
Broken families are not uncommon in today's world. And, as we will see, this is one of the key factors creating poor environments for our children, and accelerating the general decline of most societies.
In 2001, ABC News reported that schoolchildren in the southeastern Chinese village of Fang Lin were secretly being forced to work at making fireworks for part of the day, supplementing the school's budget, as well as benefiting teachers and local officials. An explosion killed 42 students and teachers, revealing their enslavement. One parent, whose 11-year-old son was killed in the blast, said that the children were ordered not to tell their parents about what was going on—and those who did were punished.
So far, however, what we have covered has only scratched the surface of child slavery.
The enslavement of women as prostitutes and the addiction to sexual perversion is not new to mankind. But as in war and child labor, today's “sex industry” increasingly enslaves the youngest and most vulnerable of the world—children. Their innocent lives are completely shattered! And the “services” that this industry offers are in high demand—typically by the more affluent of the world. Many “successful” and “prominent” people travel great distances just to indulge in perverse pleasures.
In the United Kingdom, the problem is multi-faceted. First, African teenagers seeking asylum, some as young as 14, are rounded up by gangs and sold as prostitutes in Italy (BBC News, March 8, 2001, “Child Asylum Seekers Sold for Sex”).
Second, according to both the police and childcare agencies, hundreds of children are being used as prostitutes in and around Britain. Many are addicted to crack cocaine, and will do anything to feed their habit.
Another BBC News report stated, “These children exist on the margins of society—they are extremely distrustful of the police and social services. It has been described as a revolving door situation—the police hand them over to social services, but within hours they are often back on the street.”
One case, involving a particularly dangerous pimp, included 22 girls, ages 12 to 18. A police inspector explained, “He [the pimp] was extremely skilled at identifying disaffected, unhappy, vulnerable young teenage girls, most of whom where either already in the care system or on the brink of the care system. On a commercial basis, he recruited and exploited them as prostitutes on the streets of central London.”
In 1996, The New York Times summarized the horrific nature of the child-prostitution industry in Asia. The article estimated that there were tens of thousands of children who were slaves working in “the plantations of the 1990s”: The brothels of Cambodia, India, China, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan and other countries. The article explained that these brothels were built by customer demand from Americans and other Westerners, and have in fact, descended from the brothels of the Vietnam War. What takes place in them would be classified in the West as child molestation and rape!
The Times article identified three factors that seemed to aggravate the situation in that part of the world: Rising economic development, which initially seems to increase the appetite for children more quickly than it reduces the supply.
The rise of capitalism in places like China and Indochina is resulting in markets emerging not just for rice and pork, but also for virgin girls.
Perhaps most important, the fear of AIDS, which drives customers to younger girls and boys whom they regard as more likely to be disease-free.
Note the correlation with the world's rising economic development, which is based on the wrong goals and values—primarily greed, and the lustful appetite for children as sex slaves.
Also consider the current American (and former British, French, and Dutch) influence in that part of the world. How many American businessmen have partaken in the “comforts” of Asian brothels over the last century? Finally, note the fact that the fear of AIDS, which at one time would have scared most people “straight,” actually drives them deeper into their addiction and perversity.
In Japan, the situation is disgustingly different. A 1996 Wall Street Journal article pointed out that child prostitution there is not driven by poverty or slavery, but by materialism. Japanese teenagers have expensive desires—such as possessing the latest and most outrageously priced fashions from Italy—and so many sell their bodies to make money their parents would never give them.
“I wanted to make a lot of money all at once,” said 15-year-old Aya, who started prostituting when she was 13. Shinji Miyadai, a sociologist at Tokyo Metropolitan University, estimated that eight percent of schoolgirls nationwide—and one-third of girls at some schools that are not geared toward continuing education—are involved in the sex industry. Japanese police and social workers blame weak laws (i.e., poor and/or lack of leadership from politicians) and permissive attitudes among both parents and children.
Of course, this social scourge occurs in America as well. A Burlington Free Press article titled “December 15: Woman jailed on sex-ring charges” covered a 2000-2001 story in which a Burlington, Vermont woman pleaded guilty to recruiting local teenagers to work in New York City as prostitutes. The indictment referred to 12 young girls, half of whom were younger than 18. The woman, named “Holland,” would drive her victims to New York, where she taught and supervised their work there as prostitutes. Each road trip lasted up to one week before returning home; some made the trip several times. Holland had exerted a great deal of influence over her desperate victims—more influence than, regrettably, their parents and friends.
In addition to sex, some children have to live with their drug-enslaved parents. A 2001 article in The Scotsman reported a study from the University of Glasgow showing that 20,000 children in Scotland were living with parents addicted to hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine and amphetamines. One can be sure the problem is not much different in the U.S., Canada or any other affluent country.
A growing problem in several developed countries is that of child abandonment. Authorities, after finding newborn babies left on porches, along highways, behind motels, in dumpsters, and even stuffed in knapsacks, are desperate for a solution.
However, as mankind often does, people choose to address the effect and not the cause. Several American states and European countries have, therefore, developed child abandonment programs and centers, in which mothers can anonymously discard their unwanted children within hours of birth without fear of prosecution.
A telephone hotline worker for Project Cuddle, based in California, said, “We have received approximately 26 crisis calls from Chicago alone and [we] have rescued 11 babies” (“Discarded Babies Bill Up to Ryan,” Daily Southtown, May 27, 2001). At that time, the hotline had fielded thousands of calls and rescued more than 300 babies.
In Russia, the child abandonment problem has an additional tragic face: The babies are often HIV-infected. When a special infants' ward in the Infectious Disease Hospital in Irkutsk opened in the late 1990s, the first arrival was tiny Vanya, who had been abandoned by his mother 12 hours after he was born. By 2001, the roster numbered 18, consisting of children between four months and two years old. All were infected with HIV and abandoned by drug-addicted mothers. (Detroit Free Press, “AIDS in Russia: An epidemic's tiniest victims,” Dave Montgomery, March 22, 2001).
Mr. Montgomery reported, “HIV was first recorded in Russia in 1987. It developed into a real epidemic in the mid-1990s as drug addiction spread, said Arkadiusz Majszik, who tracks AIDS in Russia for the United Nations. The number of HIV cases has at least doubled there every year since 1996.”
It is difficult to determine the exact number, but officials estimate that several hundred abandoned babies with HIV are hospitalized in Russia. In St. Petersburg, 30 abandoned children crowd a ward at the Republican Hospital of Infectious Diseases. The hospital's director estimates that 20 percent of drug-addicted mothers abandon their babies.
Some children are subjected to a bizarre combination of abandonment and slavery. This atrocity is the result of the increasing black market for the organs of children.
In November 2000, CNN reported that while illegal adoption is nothing new in Russia, the case of an orphan named Andrei shocked police. He was sold for $90,000 by his grandmother and uncle for his organs—kidneys, eyes, and possibly his heart or lungs. The uncle, a father of two daughters, explained to police, “I wanted to buy a house and a new car and some clothes. It was my dream. I wanted to leave him at the orphanage, but my mother was insisting that we could get $70,000 for organs.”
A more recent BBC report contained the following statement from Azerbaijan National Security Minister: “Under the guise of adoption, children who are allegedly afflicted by grave diseases are taken out of Azerbaijan, ostensibly for treatment. In the course of our investigations, it has come to light that these children are used for organ transplants, but we have no hard evidence.” The article also reported from an anonymous tip that more than 100 children disappeared in transit between orphanages and hospitals in 2003—allegedly the result of official corruption.
According to UNICEF, the UN agency for children, about 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide each year in a thriving business worth $10 billion. And it is only getting worse.
The International Campaign Against Child Trafficking points out that children are not only trafficked for their organs and body parts, but for a variety of illegal purposes, including sexual exploitation, adoption by childless couples, begging, and transporting drugs.
Most people, given the time to digest and reflect upon the hideous facts of the reality presented above, should soberly ask, “Why?” And, “When will it end?”
These tragedies are a direct, cumulative result of man living his own way for 6,000 years—and quite plainly, “his way” is the way of get, or greed. It is also the way of Satan the devil, who has broadcast his influence (Eph. 2:2) upon mankind since the time of Adam and Eve.
Whether it is Japanese schoolgirls who sell themselves sexually or a Russian uncle who sells his nephew for his organs, people want more. They succumb to their lust for something they do not have. And, instead of choosing hard work, they greedily seek an easier way to “make a lot of money all at once.”
In addition, the propensity for adults to have children outside of wedlock, or to divorce at the drop of a hat, simply creates vulnerable human beings—both the parents and children. God intended children to be born and reared by a loving, married, mother and father. It is only this way, combined with living the way of give—God's Way—that the family unit can remain strong and stable (Ecc. 4:12). Because a strong, physical family is a basic building block of any society, and is also a type or reflection of both the God Family and God's Plan, Satan hates and tries to prevent and destroy as many families as he can.
But thankfully, the time is coming when these heartbreaking calamities will end. However, that bright future will not come at the hands of man. The soon Return of Jesus Christ will usher in that time of great peace and abundance. Satan and his influence will be removed (Rev. 20:1-2). Then all will have an opportunity to unlearn the way of get, and to then learn and implement the way of give. At that time, all children will rise up to laugh and play and hold to their innocence.