Middle East Conference 2013: “Your Rights & My Responsibilities” – Day 5 + Audience Responses

Welcome to Day 5!

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19) Building Social Cohesion in a Pluralistic Society: Religious and Philosophical Approaches to Human Rights [10:00 – 11:30m]

Session purpose: To explore the manner in which varying dimensions of ‘human rights’ and ‘social responsibility’ may be understood within the various contexts of the MENA region, wherein religions must coexist peaceably.

Discussants:

  • Paul Fiddes
  • Muhammad el-Hajj

Question to be Addressed:

  • Is it possible for religions to coexist peacefully, as based upon a shared understanding of social responsibility and/or human rights?

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20) The Internal Trafficking of Children & Child Labor: The Realities on the Ground [12:00 – 1:30pm]

Session Purpose: To gain a deeper understanding of the situation that leads to the internal trafficking of children for exploitative labor within Lebanon (in light of  regional and global realities), allowing participants to hear about different forms of child trafficking and how various government and NGO’s are seeking to address the issue. (Reference will be made to the growing issue in light of regional conflicts and the consequences facing many thousands of refugees and displaced families living in extreme poverty.)

Presenters:

  • Daja Wenke
  • Olivia Pennikian
  • Tim Costello

Questions Addressed:

  • How and where does the trafficking of children take place within the global context, what are the primary reasons for the scale of this industry, and what is being done internationally to address the issue?
  • In what ways does child trafficking take place within the MENA context, and in what ways is this situation here different to those of other contexts?
  • What are the primary ways in which children are trafficked in, through, and from Lebanon? (Manual labor, street begging, prostitution, child brides, illicit adoption processes, etc.)
  • In what ways are government and NGO’s are seeking to address the issue? How might the church also seek to respond?

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 21) Responses to Human Trafficking: Participating in a Prophetic Movement [3:00 – 5:30pm]

Session Purpose: To explore faith based responses to the issue of human trafficking.

Presentation:

  • Tim Costello
  • Olivia Pennikian

Questions Addressed:

  • How might persons of faith potentially respond the issue of human trafficking?
  • What are specific ways in which people can get involved in opposing human trafficking?
  • How can people raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking within their own spheres of influence?

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22) The Situation Facing Domestic Workers in Lebanon & the Middle East [5:00 – 6:30pm]

Session Purpose: To examine the situation facing domestic workers in the MENA region and the socio-economic and cultural forces that have given rise to this practice, hearing voices from the domestic worker community.

Presentation: This panel will feature representatives and guests from the following Lebanese organizations:

  • The Anti-Racism Movement
  • Insan
  • Caritas Migrant Center
  • Kafa

Questions to Address:

  • How have domestic workers personally experienced life in Lebanon?
  • In what ways are the rights of domestic workers being violated as a result of common practices within Lebanon and the MENA region?
  • In what ways are the legal structures within Lebanon complicit in human rights abuses as related to domestic work?
  • What are some potential responses to this situation on the part of government, NGO, and faith based actors/communities? How might local persons become involved in seeking to address the abuses so common in this context?

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Audience Responses – Day 5

20) The Internal Trafficking of Children & Child Labor: The Realities on the Ground [12:00 – 1:30pm]

It was a thoughtful arrangement that the presenters, three personnel from World Vision, discussed both the overview and the specifics of child trafficking in Lebanon. First presenter, Daja Wenke covered topics of human trafficking: its concept, background and global achievements and challenges; and the second presenter, Olivia Pennikian went over the issues of child trafficking specific to Lebanon, based on a research called A Preliminary Study on Child Trafficking in Lebanon conducted two-three years ago.

Poverty and continuing demands are mutually and simultaneously the biggest causes of the ongoing child trafficking issues, such as the sexual exploitation of children, child labors, child marriage and so on. Given examples were also very startling and agonizing as to bring tears to the eyes of the attendees. Issues regarding child trafficking do not seem easy to solve, since they are multi-layered problem.

Therefore, one of the most practical ways to abolish child trafficking suggested by Daja Wenke is the cooperation/collaboration of NGOs, churches, governments and so on. Olivia also suggested the idea of cooperation as she discussed anti-trafficking initiatives, such as roundtable for government ministries, UN agencies, NGOs and INGOs to regulate and control child trafficking. S.K.

21) Responses to Human Trafficking: Participating in a Prophetic Movement [3:00 – 5:30pm]

World Vision Australia CEO, Tim Costello led the session, Responses to Human Trafficking – Building an Activist Movement – Mobilizing for Systemic, Sustainable Change. Costello encouraged us to use our prophetic imagination to look beyond the presumed steps and solutions.

The most critical agenda item is to build the activist. After all Christians are people who set others free. Costello’s own journey started with Luke 4 and the epiphany that freeing trafficked children is the very meaning of spiritual, physical and emotional redemption.

He challenged us whether this battle waged against child trafficking is what it means to worship in spirit and in truth. To worship this way we need to change first our hearts. When all are mobilized an activist and ultimately an activist movement is born. S.L.

22) The Situation Facing Domestic Workers in Lebanon & the Middle East [5:00 – 6:30pm]

We’ve had great speakers and teachers at the IMES conference, but no one touched me with words so powerfully as the young girl from Africa who was held in slavery by a Lebanese family.  Her powerful story lent a moving personal face to the problem of human trafficking in Lebanon, and wherever people are treated as property.

As a Pastor in Lebanon, I’ve heard many horror stories about how the domestic servants are abused and exploited.  One day a Filipino lady came to a Church where I was preaching and told us it was the first time her madame had allowed her out of the house in two years.  But nothing prepared me for this African girl’s tale of horror.

Soon after Mona (not her real name) arrived from Africa, her recruiting agent discovered that she was two months pregnant.  The agency demanded that she pay two thousand dollars (for breach of contract) and when she could not pay they took her to a local hospital for “treatment”.  There an abortionist murdered her baby against her will.  Her forced abortion caused medical complications that left her unable to urinate properly.  She said:

“They gave me work after the abortion.  I was not treated.  I had many health problems.  I could not go to the bathroom.  I stayed for six months with this problem.   All the time I had blood coming out, I needed treatment but my employer refused to take me to a hospital.  I was sleeping in the bathroom.”

In desperation, when she was finally paid for work, she escaped her prison and ran to the airport.  There the police arrested her, and returned her to her employer.  He took her back to the agency, where she was beaten for running away.  She fled from the agency and made her way to an embassy where she was turned over to the care of the charity Caritas.  The prosecution of the abortionist is ongoing, and for now she has a place of safety.

As followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, can we hear this and not respond? C.T.

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