In pursuit of justice


In October, Viva’s Network Co-ordinators from across Asia gathered in Hong Kong for a week of team meetings and also attended the Justice Conference Asia. Rachael Ma reflects on the valuable time spent together.

A Typhoon 8 warning wasn’t quite the welcome we had planned for! We give thanks though that, despite this rocky start, all of our visitors landed safely in Hong Kong on time.

The week ahead combined the familiarity of old friends with newcomers too, with a team comprising leaders from Viva’s partner networks in Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal and the Philippines as well as Viva staff based in Hong Kong and the UK.

For the following days, there were opportunities to share struggles in working in networks, their successes and, more importantly, the children they were able to bless through their faithfulness.

We saw how our new-found network in Myanmar was able to learn from a well-established network from the Philippines in areas of fundraising, programme structure and people management. Kib, from Cambodia was able to share how the network can still thrive in times of political unrest and encouraged other network leaders who are, at times, dealing with similar challenges.

Leah from Mindanao Children’s Ministries Network welled up with tears in sharing the sad reality of war in the Philippines against ISIS, and touched the hearts of not only her colleagues but also our donors at our ‘Meet the Asia Network Leaders’ event held that week. This was the same day that the conflict was declared over. She reminded us that these are not merely statistics but children are suffering and traumatised by death surrounding their daily lives and that the work is not yet complete.

Bhabindra from Nepal shone light on the darkness of trafficking where young children are exploited and trafficked into Thailand and Cambodia. Many left inspired by the real life stories that are affected by the realities of war, poverty, exploitation and neglect.

After several days of capacity building, the Viva Hong Kong team and the Asia network leaders had the privilege to attend the Justice Conference Asia and also host a booth at the expo. We built paper models to demonstrate how we work with local churches and form networks to reach more children at risk through collaborative action.

It served as a great conversational piece that aided us in connecting with people who are unfamiliar with our work. Our Asia network leaders also took turns in running the booth to share about their work in the field with interested people.

This year’s Justice Conference was themed around the topic of ‘Love thy neighbour’ and we as a team were encouraged by the work of many other NGOs pursuing justice for the helpless in areas of human trafficking, vulnerable children, poverty, abused victims and refugees.

Fe, our network leader from the PCMN in the Philippines, also shared in a session of more than 50 attendees about the rising frequencies of online child sexual exploitation where families are able to earn quick money by selling sexual images of their children to the high demand on the internet.

They think that this is harmless as there is no touching involved but the network has worked with local authorities to rescue children from abusive families who care little to protect them.

As a group, we were encouraged but also challenged to continue God’s calling to “learn to do right; seek justice [and] defend the oppressed and take up the cause of the fatherless and of the widow.” Isaiah 1: 17

I’m thankful for the time together: the unity, the encouragements, the support of one another. It gave the Asia network leaders in particular refreshment and renewal, equipping them for the work they have ahead of them in challenging circumstances.