NCM develops anti-trafficking ministry in Africa

Holly Beech, Out of Africa
Sunday, February 1, 2015
Almost one-fifth of the world's human trafficking victims live in Africa, according to the Global Slavery Index. Poverty, war and discrimination put many Africans at risk, and more than 6 million men, women and children are exploited through forced labor and sex trafficking. 
 
In May, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries-Africa brought on Stephen Phillips as the office's first ever anti-human trafficking and gender-based violence coordinator.

"I really believe it is something that we need," Africa Regional Director Filimao Chambo said. "(Modern slavery) happens in many ways that people don't really understand to be human trafficking."

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A group meets in Johannesburg for an anti-trafficking workshop.

In the nine months since he started, Phillips has built partnerships with anti-trafficking organizations and has spearheaded trainings across Africa for church leaders, at-risk women and vulnerable youth.

"Growing up, I've always been really strong into advocacy and speaking up for the rights of others," said Phillips, a 25-year-old from Johannesburg who recently earned a bachelor's degree in law.
 
Phillips' focus throughout his first year has been on researching the problem and developing a strategy for NCM's ministry. The year 2015 will be more hands-on.
 
"This year we hope to do more practical things to help," NCM Africa Regional Coordinator Cosmas Mutowa said. "How can we really assist in a tangible way these people who are victims?"
 
NCM is preparing to turn an office in Johannesburg into a counseling and support center for trafficking victims, Mutowa said. There's no open date set, as NCM first needs to staff the center with trained personnel.
 
The Church's anti-trafficking and gender-based violence ministry reaches across the continent.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, some of the children at NCM's child development centers are former child soldiers, Mutowa said. The centers counsel and support the boys and try to help them find their families.

In South Africa and Swaziland, Phillips has helped coordinate anti-trafficking trainings for pastors, women and law enforcement. In Ghana, a local church hopes to start social justice clubs for youth. In Kenya, NCM teaches sustainable farming to at-risk women. 

Phillips unites NCM's efforts with local partners, such as the National Freedom Network in South Africa and the International Justice Mission in Kenya.

Lasting partnerships are the most effective way to help churches and communities, he said. "So even when I leave, they'll continue to follow up with our local church."

Though NCM has not formerly engaged in the ministry of human trafficking in the past, Dr. Chambo said it's an important ministry. He hopes more churches began to catch the vision and create local anti-trafficking initiatives.

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Sustainable agriculture is a key pillar in the fight against gender-based violence in communities. Women are seen here at a Nazarene Compassionate Ministries farming project in Kenya. The site is also working toward opening a counseling center for victims of gender-based violence. (Photos courtesy Stephen Phillips, NCM)