Last night my husband and I finally sat down to have an evening off – it’s been a while! We had a film to watch that he had picked from Love Film. As it started, and many times throughout, we both wondered why he had picked it! He kept saying “I can’t watch this” – and I kept saying “We must”. The film – Flowers of War. What a heartbreaking, compelling, horrific movie telling of the horrors of what is known as ‘The Rape of Nanking’ (1937). During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japanese soldiers literally tore the Chinese city of Nanking apart, killing and brutalising everything in their path.
The film is based on a book that, in turn, is inspired by the diary of Minnie Vautrin. She was a US missionary in China who, along with the main character in the film, John Rabe, worked hard throughout the war to protect women. Just a quick look online allowed me to find some excerpts from Minnie’s diary:
“There probably is no crime that has not been committed in this city today. Thirty girls were taken from language school last night, and today I have heard scores of heartbreaking stories of girls who were taken from their homes last night—one of the girls was but 12 years old. Food, bedding and money have been taken from people. … I suspect every house in the city has been opened, again and yet again, and robbed. Tonight a truck passed in which there were eight or ten girls, and as it passed they called out “救命！救命！ Jiuming! Jiuming!”—save our lives. The occasional shots that we hear out on the hills, or on the street, make us realize the sad fate of some man—very probably not a soldier.”
The film made for extremely uncomfortable viewing, especially the parts where Japanese soldiers entered the so-called safe zone of a church to try to rape the young girls there. And when two women were brutally raped and murdered I must confess to almost being sick. Minnie herself commented on similar events that she witnessed firsthand:
As my husband and I squirmed in our seats, wondering why we were continuing to watch, all I kept thinking was how cheap the lives of those women had become. They were totally expendable to the men who used then killed them. Yes it is often a sickening side effect of war, and yet such events are still going on today. Yes, in our so-called ‘civilised’, ‘peaceful’ Western societies day after day after day girls are taken, suddenly, against their will and forced into a life of slavery, servicing upwards of ten, twenty + men a day. This simply should not be happening! During this week, which includes EU Anti-Slavery Day on Friday, let’s make it our mission to find out more about the horrifying things that are going on on our doorstep – yes Europe is rife with human trafficking. Writing about the Jubilee+ Faith and Justice conference I attended earlier in the year, I quoted Gareth Davies of CARE, who informed us that: “trafficking is the second largest form of international crime – unlike drugs, people hold their value as they can be bought and sold many times.” How horrific is it to stop and think about the reality of what that means for those individuals trapped even today?
The problem may seem overwhelming and, indeed, one individual can do little to make a change. But together we CAN make a difference. There are some fantastic anti-trafficking organisations out there, such as Stop the Traffick and A21. The latter has a team of volunteers cycling 1250km through some of the main trafficking routes used in Europe – from Sofia, Bulgaria to London, England (and going through ten countries where the problem is most prevalent). Their Freedom Challenge is taking 11 days (ending October 16th) and, as their site says, has been undertaken to: “raise awareness both in countries where many young women and children are taken, as well as to raise $210,000 for The A21 Campaign shelters and victim assistance programs.”
If you don’t know how the Freedom Challenge is going… find out! Support them as they come to the end of their huge undertaking. And look at these organisations’ websites to see if there is anything you can do to get involved and help. Really, in our society, in our lifetimes, HOW can this STILL be going on?