Cameron Phillips of London, Ont., travelled to the Philippines earlier this year to learn first-hand about how his colleagues at International Justice Mission are fighting against the online sexual exploitation of children. His report is adapted and reposted with permission.
The world has a lollipop problem.
No, I’m not referring to our addiction to sugary snacks – but something much darker. Something more sinister. It is an unspoken epidemic that is facing our world and destroying the lives of women, men and children.
“Lollipop” is a term sex offenders, predators and pedophiles use for victims of child pornography.
The EFC includes a great diversity of affiliate organizations with stories of ministry worth sharing.
Please contact us to share a story from your affiliate ministry so we can share it too on our website.
Use the custom search on our affiilates page to find out more about what our affiliates do and where they work.
Every 12 hours, 10,824 new images of child pornography (better described as child sexual abuse images) are detected online, according to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. The number of tips the Philippines receives regarding the online sexual exploitation of children, also known as cybersex trafficking, is more than 1,000 every month, according to International Justice Mission.
Cybersex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that was unimaginable before the creation of the internet. It is the live sexual abuse of children streamed via the internet, set up by adults who receive online payments from predators and pedophiles located anywhere in the world, including Canada. The more money that is offered, the more graphic and violent the abuse is.
To address the epidemic of cybersex trafficking, International Justice Mission (IJM) has been partnering with local government, police, prosecutors, churches and non-profits in the Philippines to rescue victims, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems.
I recently had the opportunity to learn more about cybersex trafficking by travelling to the Philippines with IJM in May 2019. I joined a group of IJM staff and supporters and travelled to the city of Cebu. Our travel group differed in age, ethnicity, gender and nationality, but we were united by two commonalities: we are followers of Jesus, and we want to end this sickening form of slavery.
During our time in Cebu, we had the opportunity to meet and learn from IJM’s staff on the front lines. From investigators and social workers, to lawyers and church mobilizers, each one of these modern-day abolitionists is committed to ending the problem of cybersex trafficking in the Philippines.
I heard many harrowing stories of violent abuse inflicted on young children. Children—both boys and girls—are being sexually abused in front of laptops, smartphones, and cameras for paying customers.
I was stunned when I learned that one of the youngest victims IJM has rescued from cybersex trafficking in the Philippines was a 2-month-old baby (a report verified by the Philippines department of justice).
I was absolutely sickened as Philippines police, social workers and IJM staff spoke about one particular predator from my own country of Canada, a young Saskatoon schoolteacher named Philip Chicoine.
Chicoine was arrested in March 2017 with the collaboration of Canadian and Philippines police units after he uploaded child abuse materials to a social media account.
In November 2017, Chicoine pled guilty to 40 sexual offences committed against children in a span of six years, during which he spent more than $20,000 arranging for the live streaming of child sexual abuse of victims in the Philippines and Romania. Upon his arrest, authorities uncovered his collection of more than 10,000 images and videos of child sexual abuse.
Corporal Jared Clarke of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (formerly of the Saskatchewan Internet Child Exploitation Unit) testified that the images and videos were the worst he had seen in terms of their violent and graphic content.
“His collection was vile,” Cpl. Clarke told CBC News. “It was some of the worst stuff I’ve ever seen. It caused nightmares, it caused me trouble dealing with my own kids at home.”
An empowered, holy mandate
Since returning to Canada from the Philippines I have felt burdened by the stories of abuse and violence I listened to from the lips of the abused. I’ve felt haunted by the memory of driving by the homes where this abuse happens. I’ve been changed by the young children I met in the aftercare shelter who, once trafficked and abused, now sing and dance with joy and freedom. I’m reminded of the little boys and girls who played games with me, who laughed with me (or at me) and asked me all kinds of questions about my life in Canada. I’m encouraged by survivors I met, like one young woman who is now an advocate against slavery.
I have also carried home with me a deep sense of encouragement. I am deeply motivated from meeting fellow Jesus followers working against this evil, meeting survivors of cybersex trafficking who are now restored and empowered advocates against slavery.
I have a restored vision and hope that though the world does have a lollipop problem – this sickening form of modern-day slavery, it also has the global Church to end it.
As Christians, we are called to stand up against the injustices committed against our neighbours, especially children who are vulnerable to abuse, slavery and violence.
Jesus has a special affinity for the life and livelihoods of children. In Matthew 18, Jesus taught his followers about having a child-like faith and protecting the innocence of children:
“If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
As followers of Christ in Canada, we have a unique opportunity to partner with what God is doing to end cybersex trafficking in the Philippines and here in Canada. We each have a role to play.
You can get involved in ending cybersex trafficking at IJM.ca
and at the government-supported Canadian Centre for Child Protection (ProtectChildren.ca
Cameron Phillips is the church mobilization coordinator for IJM Canada. He lives in London, Ont., with his wife Laura. Do you know of an EFC affiliate organization with a story we can share on our website? Please contact us.