Ireland is an island with a big reputation and a small area.
Ireland has been known as the “Emerald Isle” & “the land of saints and scholars.”
The weather is fickle, but you can count on the rain.
Ireland the island is technically two countries; one an independent country (the Republic) and the other a tiny northern portion (Northern Ireland, a part of the UK). [*Note: from here on out when I refer to “Ireland” I am referring to the Republic of.]
Ireland is home to a variety of ethnicities, including an increasing amount of refugees.
I’ve lost track of the number of people who have expressed surprise that human trafficking is a problem in Ireland. A couple have even implied I might be mistaken! But I get that. Ireland usually brings to mind rolling green hills, sheep, pubs…it can be shockingly unpleasant to create further word association: slavery.
A nation-wide campaign was launched earlier this year, called the Blue Blindfold Campaign. This is the Irish part in a European human trafficking initiative that is mean to “ensure that the EU becomes a more hostile environment for criminals engaged in the trafficking of human beings.” The Blue Blindfold Campaign encourages people to become aware: “Don’t Close Your Eyes.”
Each year the US publishes the Trafficking in Persons report, which rates countries according to how well they are enforcing the laws for trafficking & the general effort being made. (Tier 1 best, Tier 3 worst) Far be it from me to endorse a government-sponsored document, particularly one that rates other nations, but the report does provide some interesting information. Though Ireland is rated as Tier 1 (for good, solid anti-trafficking laws), in 2010 only 1 trafficker was convicted. A handful of victims were given assistance.
There are many other statistics and numbers. Basically, as in many other places, there is some disconnect between actual law and the enforcement. This is one area HOPE61 is concerned with & we hope to indirectly affect.
According to evangelical Irish pastors, a huge number of the Irish are turning further away from God and many more slipping into lifestyles reflecting that. So many are leaving the Catholic church – the chief denomination/religion of Ireland – and more than a few saying they find emptiness, or nothing, in the church. These things can be found in more than one source. This is in no way a personal attack against Catholicism; if you know me, you know that I find a lot of truth and beauty in the Catholic Church. I just want to see a strong passion for Jesus in the hearts of the Irish!
A high number of families are breaking apart, an increased suicide rate emerging as the briefly-successful economy has moved into a recession – young people who have grown up focused on material things are now finding themselves without, and hopelessness pervades with many.
These may all seem like separate issues that have little to do with human trafficking or with HOPE61. In truth, they’re tightly connected. Lauren and I have never been on the field. But we won’t be creating a plan here, in the US, and exporting it to Ireland – a unique, beautiful culture. All of these things are something we’re taking into account now, as we come up with ideas for what could work in Ireland!
Tomorrow, in part 2, I’ll explain how all these factors have shaped the way HOPE61 is approaching human trafficking education & prevention in Ireland.