The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
Sex Trafficking of Minors Grows in U.S.
BY KATHERINE KIPP ©2008 Baptist Press
merican children are becoming victims of human sex trafficking, according to statistics released by Shared Hope International.
"The figures we use say between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are at risk of trafficking," said Karrie Delaney, director of communications for the Vancouver, Washington-based organization that seeks not only to prevent sex trafficking but to rescue and restore women and children trapped in it. “At least 100,000 American children are trafficked each year," Delaney said.
Based on these numbers, domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) has become a serious problem in many locations across the United States. A fact sheet on the Shared Hope International (SHI) website reports age 12 as the average age of entry into illegal pornography and prostitution.
How are young girls lured into the trafficking business? "Luring happens in a variety of ways," Delaney told Baptist Press. "In interviews with victims, we have had reports of girls being lured at 12 years old by a pimp or a trafficker by him approaching them at a mall or on the street. He is usually an older boy and buys her presents, making her believe he's her boyfriend.
Many of these girls are taken off the street. The SHI website says a third of the 2.8 million children living on the streets are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.
Since trafficking is such a hidden crime, however, it is difficult to manage an accurate count of how many girls are lured each year. Many girls do not realize they are being lured until it is too late, Delaney said.
Demand is a major cause of the rising trafficking business, Delaney and an awareness video on the SHI website point out. "As long as there is a demand that fuels this market, there will be a supply," Delaney said. "We feel that since there is a growing demand, it is going to be a problem that grows as well. Across the United States, there is a culture of tolerance in the media really sexualizing children and making sex scenes the norm. Men often feel very entitled to buy sex."
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N.Y. Teachers Vote to Strike During Pope's Visit
Teachers from 10 New York Catholic high schools have approved plans to strike while Pope Benedict XVI visits New York later this month.
The Lay Faculty Association, a union representing about 420 teachers in schools from Poughkeepsie to Staten Island, wants the Archdiocese of New York to agree to a new three-year contract with improved pay, pension plan and health benefits.
The teachers have been working without a contract since August 31. Negotiations between the union and the archdiocese reached a stalemate in December. The teachers do not hold Pope Benedict responsible for the dispute, but striking during his visit will draw wider attention to the problem and pressure the archdiocese to make a deal, said Henry Kielkucki, union business manager. "This is not against him," he said. "It's so people know what's going on. It will continue even after he leaves, if we still don't have a settlement."
Archdiocese officials said the most recent contract presented to the teachers is "very generous," and strongly criticized the decision to strike. "If the teacher's union does seek to use the occasion of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI ... as an occasion of protest and as an occasion of division, I think that's an insult to Pope Benedict and an insult to the Catholic faithful of the Archdiocese of New York," said Joseph Zwilling, the spokesman for the New York archdiocese.
The union's previous strike, in 2001, lasted 17 days.
Religious Freedom Panel Urges Bush to Boycott Beijing Games
A federal religious freedom watchdog panel has urged President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics unless "there is substantial improvement" in China's treatment of Tibet.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said China must open "direct and concrete talks" with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibetan Buddhism, before Bush attends the opening ceremonies.
If those talks do not occur, the nine-member commission called on Bush to first visit the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, and urged Bush to request a meeting with Chinese political prisoners or dissidents during his visit.
"For too long, the Chinese have employed a `security' approach to Tibetan Buddhism--preferring repression, control of leadership decisions, castigation of the Dalai Lama and `patriotic education' over freedom of thoughts, conscience and religion," said the panel's chair, Michael Cromartie. "That approach is no longer viable; in fact, it is counterproductive."
Tensions flared last month between Tibetans and Chinese forces after peaceful protests against Chinese control grew violent. On April 6, the Dalai Lama called the recent violence the result of "pent-up physical and mental anguish of the Tibetans and the feelings of deep resentment against the suppression of the rights of Tibetan people."
The religious freedom panel called on China to end all "patriotic education" programs of Tibetan monks, allow open expressions of devotion to the Dalai Lama and repeal laws that say Beijing must approve new lamas.
"Religious freedom cannot be ensured without recognizing the authority of the Dalai Lama, his centrality to the beliefs of Tibetan Buddhists, and their steadfast loyalty to his leadership despite severe restrictions," Cromartie said.
Update: 4 of 6 Ministries Submit Materials to Grassley
US Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said on March 31 that the majority of the six prominent ministries he has been investigating are now cooperating with his requests to provide him with financial information.
Bishop Eddie Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, has said it will provide information on April 15, Grassley's staff announced. And a lawyer for Randy and Paula White, who co-pastored Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Florida, told Grassley's office that materials had been sent to him.
The office had already received materials from Joyce Meyer Ministries in Fenton, Missouri, and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas.
Creflo Dollar Ministries in College Park, Georgia, has refused to submit financial records, and Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Newark, Texas, has responded to the request but hasn't provided sufficient materials. Dollar's and Copeland's ministries each sent letters to members of the Senate Finance Committee in late March expressing concerns about the privacy of their congregants.
Grassley, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, plans to "continue dialogue" with those two ministries, his office said.
Grassley, in a letter co-signed by committee Chairman Senator Max Baucus, D-Montana, had requested materials from Copeland, Dollar, Long, and the Whites by March 31.
"It's good to see the majority of the ministries offering information," said Grassley. "The ministries' sharing of material with the Senate committee in charge of tax policy shows an interest in accountability for their special tax status."