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Human Rights Defender: Fulata Moyo

Fulata Moyo Profile Image Quote: We live in a world with disparities, where some women are left with few choices and trade their bodies as commodities. We have to be with these women on the streets and with women in the church pews who work to end these inequalities.

Fulata Moyo is haunted by a young woman, maybe 14-years-old, whose swollen belly shows the late stages of pregnancy. She remembers how it felt to look at her.

"It was like I could not see in her, in her face and her eyes. She was not in her body. She was…it was like I was meeting a body that didn't have a life in it," said Moyo.

The ghostly young woman was staying at a church-sponsored center for sex trafficking survivors in Thailand that Moyo visited in 2010 for her work leading the World Council of Church's program on Women in Church and Society. Moyo was troubled, and asked the center's leaders what they did for these girls. She was told that they taught them to forgive their captors and abusers, because God tells us to "forgive those who sin against us." In the young pregnant woman's case, she should "embrace the baby as a gift from God."

"And looking at these girls," Moyo says, "it was clear to me that they did not even listen to this girl, maybe even ask her, 'What are you feeling? What are your questions?' I thought that was so important."

Moyo believes that religious scripture must be applied in context. Rather than the rote teaching of forgiveness for healing survivors of sexual trafficking, she believes religious communities should approach scripture in the context of women's experiences to also help raise awareness of issues that dehumanize women, like trafficking.

She cites an interpretation of the Bible's book of Ruth, in which two widowed women depend on each other to survive, as a text on trafficking. Placed in this context, Moyo sheds new light on Naomi's motivation for instructing Ruth, a widowed daughter-in-law, to marry her employer as means to secure their futures.

"Ruth and Naomi are so deprived that Naomi had to use young Ruth to rescue back the possibility of their livelihood. Naomi was not unlike the traffickers, the women who are mediators. They intermediate because most of them are desperate, and they have to use someone else," said Moyo.

Remembering the young pregnant woman in Thailand that was "like a body without a life," Moyo wonders: Are there Ruths and Naomis in our communities, and do we know their stories? Now, what can our faith communities do to help them?