JGJPP - Tina Ramirez - The Struggle to End Religious Oppression

Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
 Matthew 14:15-16

Before leaving for Iraq, Tina Ramirez was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to join the students of Regent Law in a lunch series event hosted by the Center for Global Justice and Journal of Global Justice & Public Policy on the issue of religious oppression. According to Tina Ramirez, founder and Executive Director of Hardwired Global, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting religious freedom, religious oppression is a major contributor to numerous social evils, including human trafficking and child marriages. The antidote for change is religious freedom. Hardwired zealously advocates and promotes for the right of religious freedom by training individuals to bring the fight to their government’s front steps. The name “Hardwired” comes from the notion that everyone “of us [is] hardwired for something bigger” and that we are all made “for something spiritual.” Because of this “hardwiring,” Tina believes that everyone should be given the opportunity to pursue their special purpose, to seek the god of their choosing and to practice their religion without fear of oppression.
Tina introduced us to Meriam Ibrahim, a 27-year old Sudanese woman who was arrested last May and charged with adultery and apostasy in Sudan. Meriam was accused of adultery because the Sudanese government refused to recognize her marriage to a Christian man. The government considered Meriam an apostate because she left the Islamic tradition held by her father. After being convicted, she was forced not only to bear the weight of her chains attached to the floor of her jail cell, but also to bear the psychological weight of capital punishment until she agreed to recant her Christian faith. However, Meriam never lost her faith, and through the birth of her son in prison, Meriam has now been delivered from the oppressive country she once called home.
Hardwired focuses not just on rescuing individuals like Meriam, but also on carrying out a two-fold mission designed to affect systemic change: (1) advocating for laws in favor of religious freedom and (2) inspiring oppressive countries to adopt new customs shying away from religious oppression. Tina stands determined to train individuals to accomplish that goal in many areas of the globe, and her hope is that we become a generation of students that not only stay informed on the issues relating to religious oppression, but also diligently seek to compel our government to take action against countries that continue to violate the fundamental right to freedom of religion. Tina calls us to bear our cross, to help dispense religious freedom, and to strive to correct the oppression around the globe. I thank her for her passion and for her faith in letting God take the smallness of her portion and feed a multitude of nations.


LEARN MORE ABOUT TINA AND HARDWIRED @ http://www.hardwiredglobal.org/

JGJPP - The Human Trafficking Summit with Congressman Scott Rigell

       Do you know Lacy? A short film by the NGO Shared Hope International set the theme for the night. The film tracked the story of a young girl named Lacy who was courted by a charming older boy. As the boy took Lacy on expensive dates and lavished her with expensive gifts, she fell in love and he took advantage of her trust. Night after night, he sold Lacy for sex—multiple times per night. No one noticed and no one helped. This is the very real story of Lacy, which happens to be the same story of countless girls around the world and across the United States—including right here in Hampton Roads.

       On Wednesday, August 27th, 2014, Congressman Scott Rigell hosted “Justice Against Slavery: A Summit on Human Trafficking” at the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library in Virginia Beach. Congressman Rigell opened the summit by asserting that the first step to finding a solution is to acknowledge that the problem exists. While human trafficking is often not recognized as a local problem, Congressman Rigell called on those present to raise awareness of this exact problem in the Hampton Roads area. To bring about that awareness, several prevalent community members spoke about human trafficking in Hampton Roads.

       First, David Dennison from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spoke about the leaps and bounds being made in the fight against human trafficking at the federal level. Last year alone, DHS initiated over 1000 cases against perpetrators of human trafficking. This number is dramatically up since 2010. So what makes the difference? “Support and collaboration,” said David. Working with local task forces that have been trained in combating trafficking has helped DHS be more effective in its efforts.

       DHS follows the approach set forth in the Palermo Protocol in the fight against human trafficking: prevention, protection, and prosecution. Prevention focuses on efficient outreach and effective education. Protective services are victim centered, and prosecution focuses on successful law enforcement investigations and criminal prosecutions. With respect to the protection aspect, Mr. Dennison noted that currently, Virginia has no shelters specifically for human trafficking victims. This is a huge problem that must be remedied.

       Next, Tanya Street spoke about her story as a victim of human trafficking. Tanya was jus another girl like Lacy. She was seduced and sold by a man she thought loved and cared for her. She now spends her time raising awareness about human trafficking and working towards breaking the stereotypes towards women seen on the street.

       The night ended with a panel of local professionals in the fight towards eradicating human trafficking in Hampton Roads. First, Officer Michael Hudgins of the Newport News Police Department informed the audience of recent human trafficking investigations in Newport News and the efforts local law enforcement is taking to apprehend the perpetrators. Virginia Beach Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott Alleman spoke next. Mr. Alleman spoke about the recent prosecutions of pimps in the area, including a case that resulted in a 35-year sentence for a trafficker. Finally, Meichell Worthing and Larisa Sutherland spoke about counseling services available to human trafficking victims in the area. Ms. Worthing provides counseling free of charge to those who have suffered from this crime. Ms. Sutherland works at Samaritan House, a local nonprofit with 11 emergency housing shelters in the area.

       The night ended with an unexpected plea. We were called on to think like traffickers. If we as a community are able to spot potential victims faster, we can beat the traffickers to the vulnerable among us, offering them love and care instead of exploitation.

Thank you, Congressman Rigell, for your efforts to combat this heinous crime in our own backyard.
Emily Arthur, 3L
Regent University School of Law
Graduate Assistant for the Center for Global Justice
Contact info: emilart@mail.regent.edu

For further information on how you can get involved:

Summit on Human Trafficking Resource Fair Participants
Virginia Beach Justice Initiative, Lighthouse Counseling, Virginia Beach Police Department: Crime Prevention Unit, Virginia Beach Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, Community Collaboration Center, Samaritan House, Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law, Awaken Church, Bon Secours Health Systems, Newport News Police Department, M1:Zero, Real Life Church, Identifiable Me, Homestead Ranch 

Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit
This link is to the Homeland Security Investigation’s site, which Special Agent Dennis Davidson spoke on. It was not listed under the resource fair participants; however, it may be a helpful link to include if you ID his position with Homeland Security.