International Justice Mission (IJM) has launched in Australia with the aim of mobilising the church in this country to respond to the hidden epidemic of violence perpetrated against the poor. It is estimated that some 4 billion people around the globe live outside the protection of the law. Throughout the developing world, fear of violence is part of everyday life for the poor. “I first witnessed the reality of everyday violence for the poor 8 years ago in India when I began working with IJM on cases of modern day slavery. At that time I met Mariamma, who was forced by her “owner” to work long days at a brick kiln and often gang raped at the day’s end,” IJM Australia’s Chief Executive, Amber Hawkes, said.

“We have launched International Justice Mission Australia in order to involve the church here in this work of hope on behalf of victims of violent abuse. We want to help Christians understand the impact of violence on the poor in our world and act effectively on their behalf. “Having worked as both a corporate and criminal lawyer in Australia, I know that some terrible crimes are committed here.  But we have a justice system, that while not perfect, works to protect us. “Our country is located in a region where 75% of the world’s poorest people live and they simply do not have the same protection.  These are our neighbours, neighbours who daily live in fear of violence. 

The bible calls followers of Jesus to do justice and love these neighbours as ourselves.  IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other violence. It works to bring criminals to justice; to restore survivors to strength, helping them rebuild their lives; and to strengthen justice systems through training, support and advocacy in order to keep the poor safe. This year, IJM Australia’s focus will be on our neighbouring country, the Philippines, where IJM is currently partnering with local authorities in “Project Lantern” to rescue and restore children who are victims of sex-trafficking, and to reduce, overall, the level of child sex-trafficking in certain regions.

This work in the Philippines, is now in its second 4 year phase and has led to a 79% reduction in the number of children being sold for sex in metro Cebu in the Philippines. IJM supported local police in the rescue of more than 220 individual victims and secured the arrest of nearly 90 suspected perpetrators. IJM also works with a range of international agencies including the Australian Federal Police, to ensure Australians engaged in child sex tourism in the area are held accountable. IJM’s Philippines director of operations Sam Inocencio, is currently in Australia to hold talks with government officials, anti-trafficking groups, companies and churches about Project Lantern.

“Protect Lantern has the ability to be replicated across many countries to combat sexual exploitation and other types of violence against the poor. Australia has an incredibly important role to play, particularly in contributing to efforts in Asia to strengthen broken justice systems that allow perpetrators of sexual exploitation and other crimes to operate with impunity,” Mr Inocencio said. “IJM’s philosophy is simple: When public justice systems are made to protect the poor – and slave owners, traffickers and other criminals can no longer act with impunity – millions of vulnerable children, women and men will never be abused.”

Source: Press Release International Justice Mission

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A leading child protection expert fears the number of young children sexually abusing their peers in pre-school and primary schools across Australia is on the rise. Dr Freda Briggs has just published a report which says children as young as five are displaying problem sexualised behaviour. She says it’s a neglected area of research. Teachers, doctors and social workers are not well equipped to deal with the issue. A Sydney mother was recently told by her eight year old son that he had been taken into the toilets at school and had his pants pulled down and was fondled and touched by another boy wanting to have sex with him. The mother reported it to the school, but they denied it was happening.

When the other boy admitted it, the principal suggested she move her son to another school. It feels like a dirty little secret. Nobody wants to talk about it because it’s not a legal crime. There’s nothing you can do about it. Professor Briggs, who has been working in child protection for more than 50 years, says the phenomenon of children sexually abusing other children is on the rise. She says while international research shows it’s happening more often, there have been no attempts to measure rates here in Australia. Children of 6 are sexually abusing children of 5 and usually it is about replicating either what’s happened to them as abused victims or that they’ve seen too much pornography.

Professor Briggs has just published a report on the problem and is currently advising parents at an Adelaide school where a group of six year old boys have been forcing five year olds to perform oral sex on them. I went to the principal and she said, “We don’t believe you, we don’t believe it’s happened at school.” Professor Briggs says schools typically don’t respond well. Typically schools have ignored it and dismissed it as normal sexual curiosity when it isn’t and as a consequence they haven’t reported it. But teachers are just not supported, police are not interested because the children are much too young to be arrested as there’s no crime committed.

Professor Briggs says in 80 per cent of cases child perpetrators are re-enacting their own experiences of sexual abuse. They will replicate what’s happened to them because it releases some of the fear if you can play at it with other people. Your problem is that if the children enjoy the power that it gives them when they do this with younger children, it’s apt to continue and become habitual behaviour. In 2010 an Australian Crime Commission report concluded that a culture of confusion, denial and non-disclosure had created a hidden population of children at risk. It recommended a raft of changes to ensure children in need received therapy, but professor Briggs says little has changed.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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Another High Court challenge against Chaplains in Schools across Australia will be heard on 6th-8th May. Scripture Union Queensland, which provides Chaplains to many schools, has to appear at the High Court for a hearing to defend the Chaplaincy in schools program. This is the second High Court Challenge that SU QLD has been drawn in to by a Toowoomba-based Plaintiff who wishes to end funding for school chaplaincy in Australia.  This challenge questions the funding model legislation that was agreed upon by both sides of parliament at the end of the first High Court Challenge in June 2012.

As a result of the last High Court Challenge it was determined that something more than cabinet approval of chaplaincy funding was needed and less than a week after the verdict, both sides of parliament responded to correct this, passing the new legislation which is now being challenged. It was a great win for the future of chaplaincy and for the countless students who could continue to turn to their “chappy” for help and support!  This time, the Toowoomba Plaintiff is also arguing that, even if the legislation itself is valid, school chaplaincy should not be one of the programs it covers.” More than 450 federal programs are at risk, including 82 educational programs, if the challenge is successful.

Please pray that the challenge is unsuccessful and that School Chaplaincy will continue in its present form across Australia.

Source: Scripture Union Queensland

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