RELENTlessly Fighting Modern Day Slavery in Malaysia

17 Jan 2013 by Timothy Tai-

 

In my earlier interview with lead vocalist Neil Batiancila, he revealed that when RELENT isn’t out playing gigs or leading worship at church, they hold regular jobs at an organization called Change Your World (CYW). This time, I interviewed their drummer Cuzario David to find out more about their involvement in CYW and their fight against Modern Day Slavery.

 

RELENT playing at a Change Your World concert

 

CM: Why don’t you start by telling us what you guys do at Change Your World (CYW)?

Cuzario: Well, each one of us has a different role to play in the company. Daniel is the Creative Director, Jude’s the (music) Academy Manager, Neil’s the Social Media Executive and I’m the Communications Director. As a team our goal is to creatively create awareness and educate people about the atrocity of Modern Day Slavery (MDS).

 

CM: For those who are hearing about Modern Day Slavery (MDS) for the first time, can you explain what it is?

Cuzario: To be forced to do something against your will, exploited and treated like slaves; forced to work with little or no pay at all while your freedom and rights are taken away from you – those are hints of what MDS is really about.

 

CM: Is MDS the same thing as human trafficking?

Cuzario: In layman’s terms, you could say that MDS is the mother of the issues of which human trafficking is only one of those parked under it. Other examples of MDS include mail order brides (early/forced marriage), prostitution, sex trafficking, organ trafficking, baby trafficking, forced begging, child labor, slavery by descent, domestic workers and – not known to many – deep sea fishermen who were tricked of a job and would later be mistreated and murdered at the pleasure of their captors.

 

CM: Is MDS really a global crisis or is it something that only affects countries like Thailand and India?

Cuzario: Statistics tell us that it is the 2nd highest organized crime and “most profitable business” ever recorded in the world, losing only to the arms (weapons) business. Some experts believe that it is only a matter of time before MDS overtakes the latter to be on top of the list. That alone paints a picture of how serious this crisis is affecting countries around the globe.

 

CM: But MDS isn’t something that we really read a lot about in the local papers. How real is this problem here in Malaysia?

Cuzario: It really isn’t something new in this nation and just recently over the past few months or so, we have read some success stories in our local dailies. For that, I would like to applaud the government for stepping up their game in making sure that the scene doesn’t go out of hand.

Even so, whatever that was published for the public’s eyes are only success stories. There are definitely other serious cases that went unreported or have not been covered by the media so as not to reveal the truth and scare the public about the real situation locally. That is one of the reasons why news about it isn’t widespread, resulting in the public being unaware and clueless about MDS in Malaysia.

Just last year there were news about Indonesian and Burmese maids getting abused, some to the point of death; looking further back in time, cases of missing children, many still unresolved until today. Those are just some of the stories we know locally to remind us that we are not exempted and MDS does happen in our own backyards.

 

Shocking statistic!

 

CM: I can see now why CYW came about. So what does CYW do in the fight against MDS? Do you guys raid brothels at night and rescue women and children who have been forced into prostitution?

Cuzario: As much as we want to be, we weren't born superheroes. No we don't do all those. Our partner Tenaganita does all that – they are the experts.

Our role in CYW, as mentioned earlier, is to create awareness about MDS. One of the ways we do that besides running campaigns and tours is by hosting gigs we call School Gigs, Campus Gigs, Office Gigs as well as House Gigs. In each one of the gigs we do not only present updated facts and news about MDS but also entertain the crowd with live acoustic set music – and that is where our role as RELENT comes to play. The whole session is like a chillaxed infotainment show. You can find out more about the gigs on our website if you like.

Other than all that was mentioned, we also handle the after-care program called the Save One Life program where together with us, volunteers raise funds to support and meet the needs of the trafficked survivors. 

 

Models posing as human trafficking victims

 

CM: Do you have any testimonies about someone who has been rescued from MDS?

Cuzario: One would be the story of Sasa, a Cambodian maid we helped rescue. She came to Malaysia as a 17-year-old girl. Just to fill you in, the international laws consider it illegal for someone under 18 to be hired for work across any border and that it could be classified as child trafficking.

Like any other unfortunate foreign maids, or domestic workers as we call it, Sasa wasn't singled out from being mistreated and abused by her employer, having to work up to 20 hours each day and fed with very little or sometimes no food at all.

After years of misery she finally escaped from her employer and found a good Samaritan who knew Tenaganita who then rescued her. On our part, we raised enough to support and send her back to her family in Cambodia.

There's a video of her interview on our website if you want to know about her full story:

http://youtu.be/WXwzU1LijT8

Here's the website address: http://www.changeyourworld.com.my/s-a-v-e-d/save/

 

CM: Can you share one or two examples of people that CYW is helping right now?

Cuzario: At this very moment we are supporting a group of sheltered trafficked survivors, mostly women and children. What we actually do is give them simple jobs so they can earn not only money they could bring home but also a sense of self-worth because many, if not all of them have somewhat lost their sense of worth after what happened to them in their past lives. Hope is almost nonexistent, if at all.

With that goal, we launched a project called T2Bs just recently where these survivors turn pre-loved T-shirts into simple and yet stylish bags. These bags are actually pre-purchased and for each one that was made, we would pay the survivors a sum upfront on the spot.

One of the survivors actually said, "I never thought I could actually make money with my hands. All this while I've only used my body."

 

(I’m sure that many of you are finding it hard to believe that all this is happening so close to our homes. Although it’s great that RELENT and organizations like CYW and Tenaganita exist to help the victims of MDS, surely every one of us can get involved and help out. Keep on reading to find out how)

CM: As Christians, what do you think our role is in the fight against MDS?

Cuzario: Isaiah 61:1 says, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners."

As followers of Christ we could literally put what Isaiah taught us into action. Replace the word "me" with your own name, and that is exactly what you need to do. Practically, you could first protect your own family unit. Enlighten them about the reality of MDS and tell them it is not only something we see on television but it is actually happening in our streets.

Telling others who have no idea about the issue helps because believe it or not, awareness is one of the greatest tools that could help curb MDS.

As parents, be interested in your children's activities and if possible, know their exact routine. Try your utmost best to relate to them and not make them feel lonely because loneliness is a spark that will cause them to look for something from the outside world to fill the void you left. Once this happens, you are just welcoming the lurking predators to start attacking your family unit. 

 

RELENT educating college students about MDS at one of their Campus Gigs

 

CM: I’m sure that many of our readers are now feeling very strongly about MDS but don’t know what they can do to help. How can people with regular 9 to 5 jobs help in the fight against MDS?

Cuzario: Be aware of the situation, keep your eyes open and always be ready to help. You don't have to do big things to help. By simply reporting something you feel suspicious about to Tenaganita is a good place to start. They will then suggest some practical steps for you to do. You can save their hotline numbers (012-3350512 / 012-3395350) in your phone and give them a buzz when you sense something is amiss. 

 

CM: I really want to applaud RELENT and CYW for all that you guys are doing. You’re an amazing testimony to others around you so keep fighting the good fight! Before we end, is there a question that you were hoping that I would ask? If so, what's the question and what would your answer be?

Cuzario: Maybe some of the readers are wondering if we run faith-based events. Yes we do, and it's called Freedom Weekend. In Freedom Weekend we basically address the same issue, only to different groups of people. The beauty about Freedom Weekend is that it caters to all religions, not only Christians. Because MDS does not limit itself to certain boundaries or groups of people, therefore we too want to reach more and share our experiences as well as knowledge with anybody who wants to hear us. So if you know of any religious groups that need to hear about MDS, do let us know. We are more than happy to hook up with them.

 

Head on over to www.changeyourworld.com.my to join the fight to put an end to Modern Day Slavery in Malaysia. You can also follow RELENT on www.facebook.com/relentband to stay up-to-date about their upcoming gigs and concerts

 

Dear Viewers in Christ, if you find this article edifying to you, please share with your friends or loved ones by using the social media plugs (Share, Email to this article). The Lord will surely bless you as you bless others. May the Lord’s peace and love be with you. Amen.

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