Friday 23 October, 2020

Activist on 'slave' ring: Churches must excommunicate rogue leaders

People trapped in cages and allegedly enslaved in what was supposed to be a place of refuge – a church.

The horrific find was made by police during an early morning operation at a rehabilitation centre in Arouca in Trinidad on Wednesday.

Even more horrific are reports that people in the area, including police officers, may have known about it and said nothing, according to a statement by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service

Attorney and President of the Christian Youth Foundation, Jonathan Bhagan, said churches who are aware of unethical behaviour within the community must take action and excommunicate these rogue religious leaders.

Bhagan, who is also Director of the Organization for Abused and Battered Individuals (OABI) and Chairman of the Caribbean Committee Against Sex Crimes, told Loop News that specifically, evangelical churches lack a strong central authority to investigate reports of questionable behaviour.

“At present, the Evangelical church in Trinidad and Tobago lacks a strong central authority with the power to investigate and discipline other churches.”

“Even if other churches in the area knew about the church in question and its criminal activity, they may have been threatened into silence and lacked any power to deal with the situation.”

“Whenever there is an attempt to discipline pastors whose conduct is unethical and contrary to the morals of the Christian faith said pastors simply stop attending meetings and if need be break away and form their own independent churches.”

“I am calling on the leaders of the church in Trinidad and Tobago to have unity talks with a view to policing any rogue churches that are involved in criminal activity,” he said.

Bhagan said historically, the protestant church has used a procedure called anathema or excommunication to denounce rogue leaders to protect the rest of Christianity.

“I encourage the leaders of the church in Trinidad and Tobago to formally excommunicate churches that are known to conduct criminal activity. Moreover, there is a duty to report any crime taking place to the police.”

“Section 31 (1) of the Sexual Offences Act also puts a duty on persons with temporary custody of children, which covers Sunday schools and church camps, to report suspected sexual abuse to the police,” he said.

Bhagan also offered his services if help is needed.

“I offer my services as an attorney and the services of my organization the Christian Youth Foundation to any church leadership that may need advice navigating these issues,” he said.

What is human trafficking?

According to the Trinidad and Tobago Trafficking in Persons Act, human trafficking is deined as "The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power, the abuse of a position of vulnerability or the giving or receiving of payment or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation". 

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