Guest post by Major Estelle Blake
For 11 years I was the manager of The Salvation Army centre in King’s Cross, London. This was an outreach centre to men and women in pro
titution; including brothels, saunas, lap dancing clubs and street ministry. Just over 2 years ago, I moved to Rome to start a national awareness campaign within The Salvation Army and after a year the plan to begin a local community based outreach programme here in Rome.
And so it began – a threefold mission to bring and see change in this area of ministry: a response to the national and international movement; research for local possibilities of ministry; and discovering where we fit in by networking with other potential partners.
Human Trafficking is such a buzz word. It’s a part of The Salvation Army’s history and heritage. Now, in the UK the official term is Modern Slavery. Here in a country where we are learning so much every day as 1000’s arrive on our shores, we need to make sure of one thing the writers of Marching Towards Justice make clear on pg 20 – Training and Development is key in all areas. Italy is a small Salvation Army numerically, but it stands with millions of other Salvationists worldwide every day. In 12 months, I’ve spoken to over 1000 people (that’s more than double the members here in Italy). We needed our members to know the difference between smuggling and trafficking and so we focussed on that for the first year through seminar evenings, midweek groups & Sunday worship. A determined effort to teach all – from the leadership to the volunteers about language.
Lots of people wanted to be a part of this fight but didn’t know where to begin. So, with 11 years experience, I offered some insight and so in Rome, we held an awareness day and discussed the real issues of language and long-term ministry. You see I believe that we as Christians are very good at doing “Jesus”, but not so great at being “Jesus”, because the latter means a long-term commitment to our community and cause. And so we began to discover through relationships that a group of women were working in prostitution only a 10 minute walk from our church and community. That’s where we started – near to home. Changing attitudes and building relationships. Giving a voice to the silent victims of Sexual Exploitation. And each week speaking out in our community about the men and women we meet and being Jesus to them. Marching towards a society that sees people as people and not commodities. I remember one woman telling us before the summer she loved seeing us because we spoke with love from the heart and didn’t judge. She told us we are the only people who don’t come to get something from her. So with motivated and committed people we are being Jesus and wandering the streets to see change happen as we identify with those near our homes.