On a late March afternoon, two Nicaraguan girls ages 12 and 13 left school, wrote notes to their families telling them not to worry, and hopped a bus to a nearby town.
A young girl who faced human trafficking is comforted by a woman who is helping her cope.
Enticed by two men who promised them jobs and money, the girls rode straight into the dark world of human trafficking.
They were instructed to go to a house in a town near the Honduran border. There the two men they had talked with before led them to a room, locked them in, and left them for several days while arranging for forged documents to get them across the border.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Trafficking in human beings has existed throughout history. In recent years, international laws have made it a crime to “force or deceive a person for the purpose of exploitation,” but that exploitation continues.
Globally, millions of people each year are tricked into a life of sexual exploitation and forced labor. Young women and children are by far the most frequent victims, and those living in poverty are especially vulnerable.
Earlier this year, in partnership with Christian Reformed World Missions, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) initiated a human trafficking awareness program in Nicaragua designed to work through churches.
Trainings are held every other month for church leaders from a variety of denominations. These trainings address such themes as the impact of human trafficking, a biblical perspective on the issue, existing legislation in Nicaragua, and how to counsel those who have been victims of human trafficking. Following the trainings, participants return to their own churches and replicate the workshops in their own communities.
The older sister of one of the girls who left on the bus was a participant in CRWRC’s pilot program in her community. When the girls suddenly disappeared, she recognized the possibility that they might be victims of human trafficking.
She notified authorities and helped them piece together clues about what had happened. In less than a week, both girls were located and returned to their families.
Raising awareness about human trafficking is new territory for CRWRC in Nicaragua. It is also a new topic of conversation for Nicaraguan communities where they work. Yet it is a topic that must be addressed as CRWRC strives to help communities become safe places where justice prevails.