17 December 2017

NO MORE TRAFFIK ON OUR STREETS

No More Traffik On Our Streets began with MCHN, two ordinary guys who design clothing based on ordinary people’s lives. They interviewed another ordinary guy in Lisburn one day, and found out about the problem of human trafficking. That’s where it all started. Shemek and Stephen couldn’t forget what they had heard, and decided that they would do whatever they could to contribute to the solution to human trafficking. So they birthed the idea of a daylong event in Belfast, involving a flashmob and “street experience”: DJs, dancers, skimboarders. They wanted to bring the message to the culture they knew so well. Ordinary, willing, committed citizens…that’s how the world gets changed, isn’t it?

What started out as a day-long event soon expanded into a full week of events. And so from the 12th – 19th May, Belfast and the surrounding area will hear a message, loud and clear: No More Traffik On Our Streets, because human trafficking is not just a problem ‘over there’. It is happening in Northern Ireland. Where we are. On our doorsteps. Indeed, over 69% of human trafficking victims found in NI are being exploited specifically in the sex trade. It is thought that at any one time, 170-180 women are available to be bought for sex against their will, ‘raped for profit’. There are also cases of forced labour, found in many industries; from fishing to fast food. And domestic servitude is another kind of human trafficking happening right here, right where you are.

This should, and we are glad to say that it does, not sit right with people. How can “our wee country” host such atrocities? How can this happen right under our noses? How can this be happening in the 21st century? And… how can we stop it?

We are big believers in the fact that if people are informed and aware, the problem begins to shrink. It all starts with awareness. Awareness of the issue, what it looks like, what to do if we come across it.

This helps the general public fight the problem in two big ways. Firstly, it allows us to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the PSNI – who take their responsibility to rescue victims and prosecute traffickers very seriously, but who acknowledge the fact that if it happens where we are, it is up to us (yes, you and me) to report anything we might deem to be suspicious. So, a woman who seems distressed, able only to talk about sex, accompanied by a violent and dominating person, wearing sexualized clothing; or a busy house, with people coming in and out constantly, heavily guarded, secretive. Someone in a kitchen or workplace who doesn’t seem to be allowed to talk to people, someone who works unhealthy amounts, someone who doesn’t have access to basic care, someone who doesn’t have a passport. When we come across these things, it is our duty to report them.

Secondly, human trafficking is based on a simple business principle: without demand, there would be no supply. So how is this ‘demand’ for human beings to be treated as commodities coming about in Northern Ireland? What does it look like? It comes from a culture that has lost its sense of human worth. A man who buys sex from a distressed girl in a brothel is not aware of either his or her sense of worth. Indeed, as Christians, this is where we can speak into the issue of human trafficking. God has created each of us fearfully, knows us each by name, has a plan for each of us, and ultimately, loved us so much that He sent his only Son to die for us so that we might know eternal redemption. That, in a nutshell, is what we are worth. Human beings are immeasurably valuable and no one should be sold. And it is through being aware of the problem of human trafficking, and from where it stems; in involving people in thinking about these issues, we can begin to move forward in creating a culture that no longer cradles or silently condones human trafficking; but that actively creates a culture where it is not allowed to breathe.

The dream for this year is to make Belfast a city that stands against slavery. No More Traffik On Our Streets aims then to contribute to this through raising awareness. That is our primary goal. As well as this, we aim to provide outlets for people to actively fight against human trafficking well after May 19th.

We have cross-party support from the Assembly, and the Belfast City Council is backing us as well. We also have an ever-growing list of (currently) 20+ partners in this, which includes Migrant Help, PSNI, QUB, Craigavon ACT, A21, International Justice Mission, Crown Jesus, Tearfund, New Irish Arts, Polish Association Belfast, YFC, YWAM, Belfast Abolition Collective and a host of others. It has been a tremendous blessing to join with so many wonderful organisations and individuals, sharing a heartbeat as we work towards a common goal.

The events aim to reach a wide demographic. It is not our hope that everyone will attend each event, rather, that as you and others look through the programme, one or two events will grab your attention. A “Run for Freedom”, a photography exhibition, a collaboration involving IJM and New Irish on a “Stories of Hope” evening, a rock gig, a Bluetree concert, two flashmobs, a political forum open to the public, a cage football tournament, an event for and at Stormont, a “Fashion and Fairtrade Chocolate” evening, an evening of prayer and intercession with Ian Hannah – and there are more.

We’d love you to get on board with this. Have a look at our website: http://www.nomoretraffik.com and get in touch with us over email, Facebook or Twitter. We’d love you to join us.

Gemma Wilson