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To Do Justice and to Love Mercy

Christa Foster Crawford speaks to young women who work in the bars

Most people wouldn't know what to do to help someone who has been brutalized, exploited, rejected by her family and community. Christa Foster Crawford '94 knows. It's what Jesus would do.

Inspired by her faith, Crawford seeks justice for women and girls forced to sell their bodies in Thailand's widespread prostitution industry. In September, she and her husband, Mark, began running the office of the International Justice Mission in Chiang Mai. Rescuing young women kidnapped or sold into bondage, the office places them in safe facilities that treat their emotional and physical scars, provides job training, intervenes with their families, and ensures them a safe passage home. The clients are often teens or even preteens, prized as a commodity for their youth and lack of sexual experience. Many face prosecution from local immigration officials. Yet no one responsible for their plight has ever been prosecuted in Thailand, according to Crawford.

She is working with the Thai government to change that, and working to change the lives of dispossessed people stigmatized by an existence they had no part in choosing. Crawford describes one of them, rescued in October, a university student from Burma whose mother had an illness and pledged her daughter to pay for medicine. Her mother died, but the student had to continue to pay her debt through prostitution. "The despair that must occur knowing that not only do you lose your mom, but that really you've lost your life, and the hopes and dreams you would have had," said Crawford.

If the job seems grim, Crawford is anything but. She laughs often and jokingly calls herself a "Jesus freak." And she is optimistic that conditions will improve, secure in the knowledge that God does care about injustice and works through the hands of people like her. It is, she says, a humbling opportunity.

"There's really nothing more rewarding than being able to hold the hand of a girl who's been raped and knowing that God's gifted me with a wonderful education, and that I can use those skills not just to hold her hand through her tears but also to hold her hand as she receives justice in the world," said Crawford.

She is not doing the work to pressure others to accept Christianity. People of all faiths deserve justice, she emphasizes. Her own faith never wavers, despite her firsthand view of man's inhumanity to man.

"There is a lot to be angry at," she said, "but I definitely don't do it out of anger. I do it out of love. I do it out of love of God and Jesus. He cared about the weak and victimized, and because he cared, I do too."

--Lewis Rice

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