Christine Caine talks on her work for A21, anti-human trafficking campaigners

7 Nov

A21 are a group set up by Christine Caine, which sets up rescue and rehabilitation centres for the victims of the sex trade, and pays for legal action against human traffickers. Yesterday she explained why she became inspired to embark on this mission at the Hillsong church service – held at the Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road, also home to the ‘We Will Rock You’ musical.

Because the speech took place as part of a heavily marketed religious organisation, it was dogged by biblical extracts and an emphatic, preaching style of addressing the audience. The ‘Good Samaritan’ parable was evoked, and she tried to impress upon us its continuing relevance – of not ignoring the outside world and its problems, but taking action and responsibility. Because that, she asserted, is the role of the church in society, not as a secluded Bible study group with endless treatises on ‘The coming of the Beast.’ She also pointed to the selfish motives of many who claim themselves to be dedicated christians, in both the limits of their empathy (‘Christine, my parishioners think they’re sympathetic people when they’re able to cry at a sad movie.’) and the prosaic self-centred nature of the subject of their prayers. This was also evident earlier in the service, where about half of the personal prayers offered seemed to be requests for God to find them a job.

In addition to this slightly bullish evangelist style of address – which was no doubt effective and necessary – Christine also offered several personal reasons why she had adopted this particular campaign. Having had personal experience of the social services in Australia, as a result of some unspecified difficulties in her home environment, she could sympathise with the plight of the women in question. As a mother herself, she had a further reason to empathise. She described how, when arriving at a Greek airport and surveying the missing persons board during the height of the hunt for little Madeleine McCann, she was astonished by the number of other women and children also lost and presumed missing. One had the same name as her daughter, which brought home to her how losses and problems which seem distant can in fact happen to anyone, and indeed have happened, to someone else’s daughter or sister.

Greece is in fact the European centre of the ‘sex slave’ trade. Several films played provided visual impact of the phenomena. One featured a girl leading dual lives – one successful, graduating from college and attending her leaving prom, coming to terms with her alter ego, the girl she could have been had she been kidnapped and subjected to violent sexual abuse in a foreign country. The message is obviously that this could happen to anyone. It is, though, more likely to happen in Eastern Europe where the mafia run this lucrative business with utter ruthlessness. The Ukraine is the most popular sourcing ground for prostitutes, partly because chronic unemployment and poverty (75% of unemployed are women) propagate the dream of making a new life abroad, in the richer EU countries. This is one of the ways in which the deeply rooted criminal organisations – and petty criminals – trick young girls into giving away their papers and intimate family details.

When they arrive in their destination country they usually do not speak the language and have given away their formal means of identification to those who claimed to be processing them for Visas or job applications. Those who run the rings often use these details as blackmail to prevent the girls going to the police – because they might harm their relatives back home. Another popular trick is apparently to dress as policemen while undergoing the ‘hazing’ (grossly ineffective term of phrase) process and after, to persuade the victims that there is no point trying to escape because all the authorities are in collaboration with their persecutors.

It is very sad that there is a demand at all for this kind of disgusting and degrading service, but by tackling the roots of the cause – the heartless monsters who profit from this modern slave trade – A21 are providing a valuable service. Sex trafficking is apparently the fastest-growing crime in Europe, if not the world, a terrifying statistic. Some of the stories actually sound like they have come from the pages of a history book, with victims occasionally transported en masse, like cattle, in the cargo holds of ships, many of them dying as a result of the appalling conditions. It is wonderful that someone is tackling the taboos surrounding this issue and bringing it into the open, as well as helping rehabilitate the victims.

Let us give thanks to the modern-day missionaries. And also some money, if you can afford it.



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