Euro 2012 draws traffic, traffickers

A Prayer for Kiev from EFCA ReachGlobal on Vimeo.

In Kiev, ReachGlobal networks to prevent prostitution

Almost 1 million soccer fans will spill into the Ukrainian capital of Kiev over the next several weeks to watch the Euro 2012 tournament. They’ll buy the standard tickets, souvenirs and beer.

Kiev-Stadium-300x200Thousands also will buy sex.

The human-trafficking industry follows major world sporting events. In Kiev alone, an estimated 11,000 women and girls – probably more – work in it. Many are forced to sell themselves against their will. Others do it willingly, just to survive.

ReachGlobal staff members in Kiev have set up a prayer blog that includes updates and specific prayer requests during the games. They are calling on churches worldwide to pray against a sex industry that already has trafficked an estimated 500,000 Ukrainian women and girls out of the country in the past 20 years, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Standing outside Kiev’s Olympic National Sports Complex, where the tournament’s final match will be played July 1, ReachGlobal’s Amy Richey talked about the sex trade that accompanies major sporting events.

“I was just impressed with how much darkness will be here and the evil intentions of not only the people who want to purchase the services of prostitutes, but also the people who are buying and selling human beings like a commodity,” says Richey, ReachGlobal’s Kiev city team leader. “The sex industry is very alive and well in this part of the world. And so I’m asking for people to pray that Satan will be bound. I’m asking for God to protect the women and the children that will be sold during this time.”

Sex trafficking has run rampant in eastern Europe since the 1990s, the result of economic desperation after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In Ukraine, one of the major drivers of prostitution is poverty. From 2007-2009, Ukraine recorded a 4.9 percent spike in unemployed youth (ages 15-24), according to the International Labor Organization.

In addition, more than 33 percent of Ukrainian young people work in the informal economy, where there is no control over how much they earn or what they do to earn it.

“It’s hidden, but it’s a problem – a very big problem,” Natasha Kulbych, a youth worker from Kiev, says of the city’s prostitution situation. “I think it’s growing more and more because the country is not out of the [economic] crisis period. And young people, especially young girls, will do whatever they find. And they found, so to speak, easy money in trafficking.”

Richey works with Kulbych and other ministry partners in Kiev mainly on prevention – befriending young girls through programs like an after-school club run by a local church and weekly English classes. ReachGlobal also works with area churches and an orphanage in Kiev to help girls who are leaving the orphanage to steer clear of traffickers.

“I’ve made a very conscious decision in Ukraine to focus on prevention,” Richey says. “Is there a way we can get involved in people’s lives and have relationships so we can stop this travesty before it ever happens?”

One way might be simple education. With Euro 2012 as the impetus, ReachGlobal has begun working with the Ukraine Division of The Salvation Army. In the past few months, Salvation Army workers conducted awareness seminars about human trafficking in the four Ukrainian cities where Euro Cup games will be played – Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv – and will have booths set up outside stadiums where fans can stop by for a cup of water and information about sex trafficking, such as telltale signs of women who have been trafficked.

“It’s real, and it’s real people,” says Anne Westmoreland, director of women’s ministries for The Salvation Army in Ukraine. “We have seen how many Ukrainians are unaware that this is really happening in their country, and also the vastness of the trafficking to Ukraine and from Ukraine and within Ukraine.”

For the Euro 2012 games themselves, ReachGlobal is focusing its efforts on prayer. Europe East Area Leader Jim Baker says how the church responds could determine whether people allow God to expand their vision of ministry in Ukraine or simply remain limited by the past.

“The eyes of Europe will be on this city, and in many cases, it’s a bright achievement,” says Baker, who ministered in Ukraine for about 15 years. “On the other hand, it’s the advent of a lot of dark clouds moving in, because we know that with events like this will come a lot of prostitution, a lot of trafficking.

“We are praying for and asking many other people to join in prayer for a renewal of the spirit of hope and freedom and the aggressive proclamation of the gospel of Christ to those who are enslaved and those are enslaving – and to those who are still asleep and need to awaken to the reality so that we can be who we need to be today and for the future.”

© 2012 EFCA. All rights reserved. ReachGlobal News is a division of EFCA-ReachGlobal.

What You Can Do:

Pray:

  • That God would bind Satan, and that as fans cheer in this stadium they would remember their wives and children at home and not look to buy sex.
  • That the churches and ministries involved in outreach during this time would be willing to help people in whatever situations they can.
  • That God would help the Kiev city team multiply its efforts and the efforts of its partners so they all can motivate, connect with and inform the church about His work.
  • For God’s protection as Christians reach out to fans and trafficked women.
  • Safety and escape for the many prostituted women in Ukraine.
  • That God would continue to give ReachGlobal opportunities to help young girls avoid traffickers and prostitution.

Give

Support the work of the Kiev city team financially today!

Work in Kiev

For short-term missions opportunities, write to Amy Richey: amy.richey@efca.org

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