Jubilee Daughters from Bombay Visit Virginia
By Jackie Bong-Wright
Jubilee Campaign’s Vision and Action
On July 14, as the French marked Bastille Day, a different kind of liberation was being celebrated at Reality Gospel Church in Alexandria. Jubilee Campaign USA, a Christian organization, welcomed to the U.S. eight young women freed from the hell of India’s red-light districts.
These women, in their twenties, had been rescued from Bombay ’s brothels. They were on a 3-week trip, staying in American homes. Their sponsors were Jubilee Campaign, headquartered in Fairfax, and local churches. Rev. K.K. Devaraj, Director of Bombay Teen Challenge accompanied the young women.
Ann Buwalda, an immigration attorney in Northern Virginia and Jubilee Campaign’s Executive Director, founded the US chapter in the early 1990s. She lobbies Congress on behalf of those suffering religious persecution and human rights violations, and travels overseas to promote religious tolerance and assist human rights victims. Jubilee also works against the exploitation of children and teens, paying particular attention to the sex industry in Asia.
Jubilee Campaign was founded by Danny Smith in London in the early 1980s after he and others had helped free the “Siberian Seven,” a group of Christians trapped in the American Embassy in Moscow. Upon the group’s release, Jubilee Campaign set out to serve as a non-denominational human rights organization fighting religious discrimination internationally. In 1970, David Alton, a British MP, launched Jubilee UK.
Today, according to its literature, Jubilee seeks justice for the oppressed by informing legislators so they can put pressure on abusive and recalcitrant governments. Jubilee Campaign’s goal is “to rescue those locked in chains of modern-day slavery or held in prison because of their faith from the brick kilns of Lahore, Pakistan, to the brothels of Mumbai, India, from the prison camps of North Korea to the jungles of Indonesia.” Jubilee works with local partners, such as Bombay T ên Challenge.
Bombay Teen Challenge Works Wonders
In Bombay, Rev. K.K. Devaraj runs four Jubilee-sponsored homes, tending to street children, drug addicts, AIDS orphans, and women and children forced into prostitution in Bombay’s red light district. “Jubilee Home” provides the young women a safe and nurturing shelter along with an education.
A second home is the Ashagram Boys’ Center, where former drug addicts are given counseling, training, and job opportunities. The Ashagram Women’s center is a rehab home for their female counterparts. Rev. Devaraj also sends meals and medical vans to distant slum areas for drug detoxification and to care for HIV cases and sex workers. Doctors, nurses, and reformed addicts as well as sex workers volunteer to staff these homes.
K.K. Devaraj, born into a Hindu family, worked in Iran in the oil industry in the 1970s. There, he befriended a Christian Iranian family and, in 1978, became an active Christian. After completing a master’s degree at the Bible College, he founded Bombay Teen Challenge in 1990, helping street children around Bombay’s red light district find shelter and education.
Afterwards, Jubilee Action in England helped Rev. Devaraj purchase land and build a center in Bombay in 1997. With donations from around the world, Rev. Devaraj’s homes and other shelters serve hundreds of children and women who fall through the cracks. The tour of the U.S. is to familiarize the young women with Christian life here and to allow them to share their testimonies with their hosts and local churches.
The testimonies themselves are inspirational. Anit was 19 when she was brought from Nepal to Bombay to work in the sex trade. She later was given shelter at Jubilee Home, and learned to read and write. Now 34, she works at the center as a home-parent and caregiver, helping young girls from Bombay who have gone through the same experience as she did.
Vida’s mother was a prostitute who raised her in the fearful, dangerous environment of a brothel. She reached the Jubilee home on her own and completed high school. Now 21, she attends college and hopes to become an accountant after she graduates. Soba found at the Home a refuge from the streets where she used to sleep. Presently, she attends college and studies computer, but dreams of becoming a singer one day. Devi, 20, is another lucky college student.
Most girls at the Home are happy to complete high school and learn a trade, whether embroidery, tailoring, bag-weaving, or jewelry-making. The Home’s aim is to help them regain their self-esteem, become self-reliant, and re-enter society.
Despite these successes, India’s Minister for Women and Child Development said in May, 2007, that “the country has an estimated 2.8 million prostitutes and the number is rising.” Thus, Jubilee and Rev. Devaraj have a challenge that will, unfortunately, last far into the future.