For more than five years Compassion First has been engaged in a remarkable work in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is an organization that has quietly taken a leading role in the recovery and restoration of child victims of sex trafficking in Indonesia, a nation that faces complications unlike any other. It has been their desire to go where they are invited and to help those who would otherwise receive no help. There is no clearer example of this value than Sarah’s House in North Sulawesi and the outreach work now underway in the Yellow Flower Cemetery in Surabaya.
For those who have been so generous in their support of Compassion First’s efforts, it is a necessary question to ask if Compassion First’s efforts are actually working and making a difference. The answer is yes. In fact, the work is deeply successful, beyond just numbers. Prior to Compassion First’s law enforcement training in 2012, the police in North Sulawesi had recovered only 9 girls. Post training, there have been 31 rescues. The numbers are important, but the relationships and support of local law enforcement in Indonesia have been the driving force that has sustained the police effort.
In order to continue with this momentum, Compassion First must remain engaged and prepare for an expansion of the work. The nature of sex trafficking in this part of Indonesia has demonstrated that North Sulawesi and its surrounding communities have become a focal point of traffickers seeking to bring young girls into the sex trade. If Compassion First does not expand and work to counter this trend, then the effectiveness of the work will be sharply limited.
A proactive approach will increase Compassion First’s effectiveness and reduce the number of girls being removed from North Sulawesi to be held captive and exploited in other parts of Indonesia. The work here has identified Papua, and to a lesser degree Makassar, as destination points for girls being trafficked from the North Sulawesi area. A critical next step will be to target the primary destination point and begin the process of equipping law enforcement and support services in Papua to identify sex traffickers, the businesses/brothels being employed and the victims held in bondage. By training local law enforcement and prosecutors, traffickers will be held accountable and victims will finally be returned home to receive care by Compassion First’s care team.
Papua is an important extension of Compassion First’s work. It is not the end point but the beginning of the next step. During the third week of April, Compassion First will be sending a team to Jayapura, Papua to meet with law enforcement officials and church leaders. During this trip, the groundwork will be laid for a future training conference on the model of the work in North Sulawesi. The goal will be to equip officials in Papua and thereby link the efforts of officials in North Sulawesi province to that in Papua. The result will assuredly be more children freed, traffickers held accountable, and fewer brought into sexual servitude.