07/14/2020, 14.21
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The mission of the Indonesian Church against child trafficking

by Mathias Hariyadi

AsiaNews spoke to Sister Laurentina, of the congregation of Divine Providence in East Nusa Tenggara province where two underage victims of human trafficking were saved and cared for seven months. In the end, they went home refusing to pursue their studies. Charity is stronger than “desolation and distress".

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The battle against illegal trafficking in human lives, even more so in the case of minors, is one of the primary missions of the Catholic Church in Indonesia.

Sister Laurentina, a member of the Congregation of Divine Providence (Penyelenggaraan Ilahi), is playing a leading role in this fight. She spoke to AsiaNews about her daily work, which sometimes comes with disappointments and failures.

Recently for example, two teenage women were saved from their tormentors, cared for months by the nuns, who gave them a chance to study as well, only to see them run back to their native village.

Despite such setbacks, “we have no intention of abandoning our humanitarian mission,” said Sister Laurentina. “This is my pastoral task.”

For her, two factors shape the context of abuse and exploitation: "the system and the family".

The first concerns the trafficking of migrant workers, even underage, which is very difficult to eradicate amid widespread poverty. The second is another critical element to be addressed, due to the widespread ignorance that makes victims and families easy prey to traffickers.

Sister Laurentina is well aware of the situation. She works in Kupang, the capital of the province of East Nusa Tenggara.

The two aforementioned teenagers found shelter with the Sisters in October 2019, at the disposal of local authorities after being rescued from unscrupulous traffickers, during a routine check at the local airport.

Law enforcement find at least a hundred irregular migrants, adult and under age, every trimester.

"When they informed me of the situation, I rushed to the airport and took the two young women,” the Sister said.

Often victims do not want to return to their villages of origin, fearing retaliation by "pimps and traffickers". But in this case, after living seven months with the nuns, the two young women suddenly left without explanation.

"I was shocked when I learnt of their disappearance", she said, also because "I had found donors who would have paid for their studies.”

After some enquiries, the nun found that the two girls had returned to their native village of Amfoang, more than 10 hours away by car, through an impervious path that involves crossing dangerous bridges and fords during the rainy season.

"There are at least 50 rivers to cross between Kupang and Amfoang,” she explained. However, the nun did not lose heart and set off, finding a minivan that took her, not without risks and perils, to her destination, after spending a night in a parish (Naikliu) on the way.

After reaching the village, she searched and finally found, with the help of the local chief, the home of one of the two young women.

"I told the parents that their daughter had been secretly taken to Malaysia to work, despite being underage and without papers,” she said.

Despite pledges that they could finish their studies and have a better chance at building a better life, the young woman and her friend did not want to return to Kupang.

“I'm sorry for their decision,” Sister Laurentina said. “We had encouraged them to study, but we did not succeed and this saddens me.”

On this occasion, “our mission has not been successful, but we must not let ourselves be overwhelmed by desolation and distress.” At the least, the two young women "have returned to their parents" and survived the traffickers.

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