Fiji: Fighting human trafficking with gospel compassion
In December 2019, PSFC, the student movement in Fiji, were invited to join an initiative combatting human trafficking, nationally, regionally and globally – a big task. With a host of high-calibre organisations involved and funding from the EU, PSFC was invited to join a taskforce working to eradicate human trafficking from Fiji as part of the two-year project. Fiji is increasingly a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking, and there are many migrants trafficked into or through Fiji for exploitative purposes.
It is a worthy and incredibly daunting initiative, but Taniela, PSFC General Secretary, hasn’t been fazed. ‘I was glad that we said yes to this partnership,’ he shares. ‘It opened my eyes to the reality of this issue right before us. I’ve seen cases of university students involved both as perpetrators and victims. Alarmingly, these activities grew in lockdown’.
How can a Christian movement of students make a difference? Once, Taniela was asked by someone from another organisation what PSFC offers in the battle against human trafficking. He gave the most straightforward, powerful answer. ‘Jesus’. He explained that human trafficking is ultimately an issue of the heart. If that is not changed, all our efforts are wasted.
Knowing that cases of human trafficking have increased since the pandemic, PSFC students have launched a project to alleviate the impact of lockdown, ‘part of the answer for us in fighting human trafficking’, as Taniela explains. ‘5 Loaves and 2 Fish’ was an idea born in an ordinary student Bible study. As the students discussed Jesus feeding the five thousand in Mark 6, they saw an opportunity.
The plan is to distribute packs of groceries worth $100 to international students. 43 students have been identified, and PSFC are liaising with universities for more names. They hope to distribute their first packs this month. This has the potential to lift and sustain students from desperation, making them less vulnerable to trafficking. It displays the compassion of Jesus on the crowd in Mark 6, ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ (Mark 6:34).
Grace is a student representative and key leader in this project. She shares her experience of getting the project off the ground:
‘Getting to know what other students are actually facing has changed my perspective. Most have a loan which covers school fees, rent and allowances. This was reduced during the pandemic, and students were unable to pay their rent. They often had no other option but for 4 or 5 students to move in together. For those whose parents have lost their jobs, the reduced loan had to support the whole family.
‘I recently had a message from a close friend who is from the Solomon Islands, asking me for financial assistance. I was told that all sponsored Solomon Island students had not received an allowance for more than two weeks. One message just said ‘I’m broke and hungry’. Reading these kinds of messages from students studying in a country foreign to them really broke my heart and made me cry. But I serve a God who sees and knows the meaning of each tear that falls. I might not be able to help all of them, but my prayers are with them always.’
Pray for human trafficking victims in Fiji and the students of PSFC:
- Pray that God will deliver students from human trafficking. Pray for those already in these terrible situations, that they would be delivered. Pray that perpetrators would be brought to justice.
- Pray that the 5 Loaves and 2 Fish project will bring hope and stability to students.
- Pray that the project would prevent people from becoming involved in human trafficking, along with the other gospel work of PSFC. Pray that it would transform lives and turn hearts to Christ.