Read this fantastic press release from Fuller Seminary, highlighting Anita's visit to the Pasadena campus recently:
Oasis India’s Anita Kanaiya Tells of Rescue of 300 Children
Gasps and murmurs could be heard in Travis Auditorium on Thursday, October 18 while Anita Kanaiya, co-director of Oasis India, wove a tale of the desperation and horror she has encountered while working to fight human trafficking in India.
The night, co-sponsored by anti-trafficking organization Oasis USA, Fuller's All Seminary Council and the School of Intercultural Studies’ Children at Risk program, included a half-hour documentary about a dramatic effort to rescue children forced into beggary on the streets of Bangalore, India.
Fuller students, staff, and members of the community attended the event to hear Kanaiya’s account and to learn how to get involved with anti-trafficking efforts.
“The film wasn’t made as a film,” Kanaiya explained. “Everything was filmed as it happened, because we wanted to pass it on to other cities so they would know how to go about doing an operation like this.”
The rescue effort was called Operation Rakshane–meaning Operation Protection–and was carried out less than a year ago on December 2, 2011. The thrilling documentary, Handful of Dreams, told the story of how the operation was organized, planned, and executed, resulting in the rescue of 300 trafficked children. The film was made by Bangalore police.
Kanaiya was instrumental in the effort and has been training police in other cities in India. She was interviewed by CNN in India after Operation Rakshane, which was widely covered by Indian newspapers.
Operation Rakshane was an unprecedented effort. It involved collaboration of the police, numerous governmental organizations and seven non-governmental agencies doing relief work. This type of cooperation rarely happens in India, Kanaiya said. But its success proved the need for communities to work together.
“Anita was asked by the police in Bangalore to help create a database tying together all missing children reports amongst the 75 precincts in the city,” said Desiree Segura-April, assistant professor of the children at risk at Fuller. “Oasis India created the database under Anita’s direction and staffed the operation until the police could be trained to take over. Within two months of implementing the database, half of the 2,200 missing children cases were able to be closed.”
Kanaiya told the audience that she never wanted to work in human trafficking, but after hearing the “horrific” stories of two young trafficked girls years ago, she couldn’t turn back.
“I’m not a brave and courageous person by nature,” Kanaiya said. But after her first rescue of trafficked girls, she said she couldn’t return to normal. “Within about a year, I really got into this trafficking work at Oasis.”
Kanaiya’s work often involves surveillance, investigation and dangerous raids of dark brothels. She is also involved in the long journey of working to rehabilitate and reintroduce trafficked girls into society.
She encouraged the audience to be brave and get involved in bringing justice to communities.
“We pray, ‘Let your kingdom come, God,’ but the process of God’s kingdom coming is messy,” Kanaiya said. “It is going to ask for us to be involved in ways that will stretch us.”
She noted that when people introduce her at events it makes her seem fearless and heroic. “But I’m just as ordinary as anyone sitting here,” she said. “It’s important that each of us finds what God has called us to do and do that first.”
The night ended with a question and answer session. One Fuller student asked how current students can get involved with the organization.
Joel Griffith, Oasis USA’s executive director and a Fuller alum, listed several ways students can join the effort to help fight trafficking.
Students can get involved with the local “TraffickFree Communities”—groups that are set up to help local communities research vulnerable areas for trafficking and work to fight it. Griffith noted that there is a Pasadena group that meets monthly.
Many students have done and can continue to do their practicums and internships with Oasis. There are opportunities to serve Oasis branches in other countries, as well, he said.
Students, who are balancing heavy workloads, can also engage in ad hoc volunteerism–providing a particular service when they can.
Griffith noted that Fuller students have a lot to offer and he encouraged the audience to have hope that work is being done.
Here is what Griffith had to say to students from each school:
For the School of Theology:
“With Fuller there’s an incredible connection, because we’ve got theologians and we need to convince our churches that the idea of justice is a holistic concept,” Griffith said. “Anybody who’s studied this knows what I’m talking about, because you’ve taken the same classes and read the same books, but part of our job is convincing churches to get involved and that this is actually part of God’s kingdom come.”
Of the 29 teams that participated in Operation Rakshane, four of them were run by Oasis India, Kanaiya said. Each team had 10 people in them, which means Oasis needed 45 bodies. “But we only have 25 staff in Bangalore,” Kanaiya said. “The rest of the 20 we got from the church.”
She added that the church volunteers had no experience, but were willing. “I think that’s what God looks at really,” she said.
For the School of Intercultural Studies:
Students from this school are integral in running organizations like Oasis. There is always a need for people engaging the issue on the non-governmental organization level, he said.
Griffith himself graduated from Fuller in 2010 with an MA in Cross-Cultural Studies.
For the School of Psychology:
Kanaiya said there is a great need, especially in India, for certified psychologists.
“We really struggle with this aspect,” Kanaiya said. “Trauma counseling is not easily available in India and counseling is really done by social workers trained locally. They don’t have degrees in counseling.”
Kanaiya said Oasis staff is always called upon to “double-up” as counselors. As a result, counseling is not professional but is more relation. Christian counseling, in particular, is hard to come by.
“So, School of Psychology students, that was the voice of the Lord, right there,” Griffith joked. He noted that the School of Psychology’s new Thrive Center is also a fantastic addition to students’ training to meet a need in the world.
For more information on Oasis, go here.
If you missed Kanaiya's presentation, you can listen to her speak on Friday, October 19 at Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters in Pasadena at 7 p.m. She will also be speaking Saturday night, October 20 at Hope Christian Fellowship in San Gabriel.
To learn more about Anita Kanaiya's work, watch “There Once was a Girl,” which tells the story of one girl’s return home after being trafficked in the city.