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07 March 2014

Tackling bride kidnapping

Tackling bride kidnapping

In the lead up to International Women's Day (8 March 2014), child development charity and member organisation, Compassion, has been seeking to raise awareness about the under-reported phenomenon of bride kidnapping, also known as 'marriage by abduction', still practiced in parts of Central and Southeast Asia and Africa.

Young girls are captured for the purpose of marriage and often raped in order to legitimatise the union within the community. This human rights violation continues to be tolerated as a traditional custom, despite the horrendous trauma and abuse inflicted.

These girls are seriously at risk, powerless and in need of protection. But Compassion, through its work with vulnerable children, is working with the local church to change attitudes from the grassroots. Responding to the mandate in Proverbs 31:8-9, Compassion focusses on speaking up for the most vulnerable in our world, children in poverty.

In parts of Thailand, among the Hmong people, the abductions, know as zij poj niam, are common. Compassion's unique focus on child development, through individual sponsorship, means that a significant difference can be made in childrens' lives from a young age.

One Compassion church partner, Kao Kor Grace, has more than 500 children registered in its program. Mrs Wasana, the project director, explains: "We may not be able to change the whole culture immediately, but we can start with the mindset of our children.

"They're learning about their rights in society, what the Bible says about their identity and their freedom to choose their life partners without being subject to the Hmong's traditional practice."

Emanating from this child focus, Compassion is also working hard to change the attitudes of parents and the wider community. Pastor Wittaya of Ban Nam Sum church says: "We've been sharing with our village leaders our stand on this issue, building a network with other areas who share our thinking and strictly applying the law in our community."

"Historically, people in this village are intimidated by some of their tribesmen's power and are afraid to report abuse cases," says Mrs Wasana.

"But these people know that I do not condone this kidnapping practice and that we, at Kao Kor Grace church, have connections with the local police. So the villagers trust in me and secretly inform me about certain incidents. As a result, we can now see that the bridal abduction practice has gradually decreased."

With their mission of releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name, Compassion works exclusively in partnership with over 6,000 local churches, in 26 of the world's poorest countries, to provide children with a powerful and lasting way out of poverty, as well as an opportunity to hear the gospel . Compassion believes that the Church is God's chosen instrument to bring hope to a hurting world and to deliver justice to the poor and oppressed.

The child sponsorship programme connects one child with one sponsor and this has proved an effective and strategic way to end childhood poverty. Through monthly donations, prayer and letter writing, sponsors invest in the lives of children living in extreme poverty. Each child has the opportunity to develop their God-given potential and experience hope and a future. Many go on to become leaders through the leadership development programme and work to transform their communities and nations.