SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA – For the first time, pastors and police joined together in one of Cambodia’s Northern provinces to discuss human trafficking. During the April training, IJM staff led nearly fifty church leaders through a study on the Bible’s call to seek justice for the oppressed, and then the chief officer from the Siem Reap Anti Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection police unit shared about human trafficking and how church leaders can help their communities report the crime.
Some of the pastors said they had never actually spoken to a police officer, let alone thought to involve one when a church member came to them in crisis.
One pastor encouraged her peers to think creatively about how they could work with police for good—a bold challenge in a community where police are often viewed with suspicion by the poor. She commended how police in her community had investigated a case when she reported a girl was being abused, adding,
“We are all working for the same thing, to end sex trafficking and violence, so we need to work together!”
Police And Pastors Work Together To End Sex Trafficking
The pastors who attended IJM’s training are oftentimes the first to hear of violence or rumors of trafficking in their rural communities. Through the training, these leaders learned how they can help make their communities safer, and the anti-trafficking police explained how they can access laws designed to protect all citizens.
The chief of the Cambodian anti-trafficking police in Siem Reap, Lieutenant Colonel Duong Theavry, shared tell-tale signs of trafficking and advised pastors of the kinds of questions they can ask if they suspect a girl is in trouble. She explained how to file a police report – and made sure they understood their right as citizens to demand protection in their communities.
During an open question-and-answer time, participants asked if police would actually respond when they receive cases of child trafficking. The Lieutenant Colonel assured the pastors they would. The police distributed emergency contact cards and made sure all of the pastors had the national anti-trafficking hotline number.
Understanding the Bible’s Call to “Seek Justice” As A Call To Action
The participating pastors were not only trained, but also received tools they need to train others.
"We want to empower the church and their leaders,” explains Chantra Sok, who is IJM Cambodia’s first Director of Church Mobilization.
He adds, “I see the church as an indispensable partner to IJM. We need to be dependent on one another so that we can work together for the poor and oppressed.”
Several pastors led the group in prayer for specific areas of need in the fight against sex trafficking. Many were visibly touched as they prayed for children who are vulnerable to sexual violence. They prayed for the police and the authority police need to keep investigating trafficking crimes. When one IJM staff member led the group to pray for the traffickers and perpetrators, several eyes flew open. For many in the room, it was a powerful and surprising application of the Bible’s call to “pray for your enemies.”
Several pastors said the teaching was a first; according to one, “All of us know the Bible, but for many church leaders, biblical justice is a new concept. Some of them had never heard, or thought, about certain parables as a call for God’s people to seek justice.”