Human Trafficking: A Commitment to Protect Youth From Exploitation

Editors’ note: Lured by tales of prosperity, young people in Ethiopia are migrating overseas, often through human smugglers, only to end up being trafficked; others die on route. Journalist Hikma A. Abdulmejid spoke with a priest from the Tigray region, who is working to educate young people about the dangers of illegal migration and trafficking, and persuade them to stay. Learn about Abba Negasi Yohannes in this audio report, then read more about his work in “Drawn by Illusion” in the September 2023 issue of ONE. A full transcript follows.

On short notice, I had the opportunity to meet Reverend Negasi Yohannes, a remarkable individual dedicated to humanitarian work in Adigrat, Ethiopia. He is called Abba Negasi Yohannes among locals. “Abba” is a common term used in Ethiopia to address ministers of most Christian denominations. Abba Negasi was in Addis Ababa for only a week.

Despite his limited time, he graciously made room in his busy schedule to grant me an interview. Eager to learn about the impactful work his ministry was doing, my team and I went to meet him. As we arrived at the interview location, carefully chosen by Abba Negasi himself, I couldn’t help but notice the weariness etched on his face.

The recent war in the Tigray region had left its mark, and the trauma he had encountered was evident. Yet, his determination to share his ministry’s efforts to protect the youth in the area from human trafficking shone through his eyes. We settled into a quiet corner. Surrounded by the serenity of the location Abba Negasi had selected, the ambience was both peaceful and reflective, providing a safe space for him to open up about the challenges his ministry faced in the wake of the war.

As the interview began, Abba Negasi’s voice carried a mix of sorrow and strength. He spoke passionately about the urgent need to protect the vulnerable youth in his community, emphasizing how the issue of human trafficking had escalated due to the devastating impact of the conflict. With each word, Abba Negasi painted a vivid picture of the work his ministry was undertaking.

He shared stories of hope amidst the darkness, recounting how his team had established educational programs to empower the youth through counseling and various training. They aimed to equip these young individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to build a brighter future. As Abba Negasi spoke, I could feel the weight of responsibility he carried on his shoulders.

His ministry was not just a beacon of light in a time of darkness, it was a lifeline for those who had been stripped of their innocence and forced to endure unimaginable hardships. I couldn’t help but feel a profound sense of admiration for Abba Negasi and the countless individuals like him who dedicated their lives to making a difference.

Their unwavering commitment to protecting the youth and combating the horrors of human trafficking was nothing short of inspiring. Abba Negasi’s story touched my heart, reminding me of the importance of shedding light on the struggles faced by vulnerable communities and amplifying the voices of those working tirelessly to bring about change.

Hikma A. Abdulmejid is a freelance journalist and lecturer in journalism and communications at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.

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