A few years ago, Rob Rolleman was in Thailand with his teen daughter and the pair found themselves at a hotel in the middle of the red light district in a town known for sex tourism.
Not a place you’d expect to find a Christian minister.
It was there he learned about the prevalence of human trafficking to bring women into the sex industry against their will and saw the victims of such practices.
“I these poor, impoverished areas of world the majority of women working in the sex trade were forced into it by fraud or deception — and yet North Americans and Europeans are going there and supporting that industry,” Rolleman said, sitting in his office at the Eleos Centre Ministries in Fairview. “You can’t see something like that and not want to do something to stop it.”
In the time since his visit to Thailand, Rolleman has worked to raise awareness locally about sex slavery by showing documentary films on the topic. In November he’s hosting an evening screening of Nefarious: Merchant of Souls in Central elementary school gym.
The public event is a fundraiser for Kone Kmeng, a Cambodia-based charity that, among other things, offers micro-loans and education to young women and children who are at risk of being drawn into the sex industry.
“A lot of young people there don’t have any options,” Rolleman said. “They’re desperate for work, and when someone promises them a job, even if it’s across borders or overseas, they take it without realizing what they’ve gotten themselves into.”
Once the traffickers get the women out of the country, they often seize their passports to prevent them from returning home. The women are sold as prostitutes and their owners take the money; they are essentially slaves.
The United Nations reports that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world, rivaling the trafficking of illegal drugs and fire arms.
Rolleman points out that its an attractive industry for criminals because, unlike drugs that can only be consumed once, the women can be sold again and again.
“It’s so overwhelmingly disgusting, it’s easy to just want to ignore that this type of thing is even going on,” Rolleman said.
Still, he hosts the documentaries in hope of sparking people’s desire to help stop human trafficking.
“There are many organizations working to create other opportunities for these women. Some are faith based, some aren’t,” he said. “I hope people will find some way they can contribute.”
The screening of Nefarious is November 3 at 7 p.m. in the gym of Central school, 811 Stanley Street. Tickets are $12 at the door, or $10 in advance at the Eleos Centre.