“If you can’t help 100 people, then just feed one.” ~ Mother Teresa
In January I spent time with two indigenous missionaries in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital of 19 million people and the fastest-growing, most densely populated city in the world. One missionary was a 28-year old single man, Raj*, the other, a middle-aged woman who is married with children, Saroj*. Great things have come from this unlikely pairing.
They were introduced by our Bangladesh director a few years ago, and they realized they both had a God-given burden, willingness, and availability to protect children from trafficking.
Saroj and Raj saw a need and decided to meet it.
Simply defined, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against their will.
Together, and with no help except for the modest monthly support they receive from us, Raj and Saroj rescue children, both girls and boys, from train and bus stations where many children are trafficked through. Depending on the situation – why the child was trafficked, their age, if the child knows where they came from, if they have physical injuries – these two help bring them back to their families or settle them in trusted children’s homes.
In the last few years, Saroj and Raj have rescued over 70 children, sometimes with help from the police but mostly on their own. And they continue to have a relationship with many of the children. Raj regularly visits the children, reading to them, playing with them, and advocating for them.
As the eighth most populated country in the world with about 165 million people, and bordering India and Myanmar (Burma) – two other hot spots for trafficking – Bangladesh has both a large supply and large demand for vulnerable women, children, and men. Children are particularly vulnerable; typically, they are kidnapped, or traffickers convince impoverished families to send their children with them with a promise of well-paying work and a better life for the child.
As a 2015 article observes, “In Bangladesh, human trafficking is one of the most money-making forms of illegitimate enterprise. The high profit, as well as the low penalty nature of human trafficking business, has made it more attractive to traffickers (criminal gangs) and as well as very large-scale organized crime in Bangladesh.”
With trafficking being such a lucrative business, directly rescuing children out of it is highly dangerous and difficult.
This is exactly what Raj and Saroj are doing.
Both bear physical scars of being attacked by pimps and traffickers.
When I hugged Saroj in January, I could see a fresh wound on her head from being hit with a glass bottle by a trafficker. Traffickers regularly come to threaten Saroj and her family at home, and last month she went to jail for three days because one of the traffickers was a relative of a powerful and corrupt man in Dhaka.
When I met him, Raj had recently been attacked by a large group, intent on protecting their commodity – children. He has since continued to be beaten regularly.
Neither Raj nor Saroj has any intention of stopping their work, regardless of the cost. As our Bangladesh director has observed, “Saroj is overlooking this browbeating and she and Raj are still continuing in the name of Jesus.”
The tears in their voices as they spoke to me about vulnerable children reflected this commitment. As did their humility as they shared, “We saw these children and nothing was being done. So we had to do something. But we want to know how to do it better. We need to be trained to rescue and care for these children better.”
Speaking to them this week, Saroj and Raj shared clear prayer requests. They want to either start or, if one already exists, work with a shelter home specifically for children who have been traumatized by trafficking. Along with this, they want to both educate vulnerable children on the dangers and signs of trafficking, and teach them how to advocate for themselves.
They are passionate about giving children a voice.
Harvest Bridge is currently working to partner with other organizations who can help Raj and Saroj with their vision. We would deeply appreciate your prayers in this as well.
Speaking about human trafficking is disturbing because it shines a light on almost unimaginable suffering. The horrors of trafficking are real. Horrors that many of us are not willing to enter into mentally, let alone physically. Yet there are people addressing these issues, and they are usually locals who don’t stop to broadcast their good work. They just do it.
As we find these people, let’s celebrate them, emulate them, and join them in any way we can!
As followers of Christ, we have the same Holy Spirit as the disciples, as Paul, as Raj and Saroj. Let us, like them, rely on this power and simply be available to be used by God.
Harvest Bridge’s mission is to come alongside indigenous Christians to holistically advance God’s kingdom. By supporting us, you specifically support Raj and Saroj, but also many other men and women like them.
Kate Therese, Director of Mobilization
*Names changed for safety