In every country in the world, including Japan, the COVID-19 lockdown is challenging traditional perspectives and, to a certain extent, even redefining the values of society.
Japan is famous for its hard-working culture; with fathers, mostly employed as so-called salarymen, working excessive overtime – often just to live up to society’s expectations.
There is even a term, karoshi, which means to literally work yourself to death. Although hard work is admirable, it presents the danger of a generation of children growing up with a father who is basically invisible. He is often just the tired man in the dark suit who comes home late and leaves again early.
The absence of fathers creates an open door for the enemy to attack children. Many young boys don’t have a role model to teach them the meaning of being a real man who values women. Instead, they absorb and mimic whatever the media feeds them. Many young girls learn about life – and love – from friends, movies or online.
To fill the emotional void, children often turn to a popular networking app where they can interact with randomly selected strangers, ignorant of the danger of traffickers just waiting to take advantage of their vulnerability. What starts as a seemingly innocent online friendship soon leads to a face-to-face meeting with the trafficker during which the child is sexually abused. Photos and video footage taken during the abuse become key weapons that the trafficker uses to instill fear and force the child into further submission and continued abuse. Without the safety net of strong family relationships, children simply don’t have the courage to turn to their parents for help.
Government reports show that “the number of people under 18 who fell victim to social media-linked sexual and other crimes in Japan in 2019, rose 271 from the previous year to a record 2,082 cases.” These are only the reported cases; the tip of the iceberg. But there is always HOPE.
And your life will be brighter than the noonday;
its darkness will be like the morning.
And you will feel secure, because there is hope:
you will look around and take your rest in security.
Just observing the parks in our neighborhood during the lockdown, COVID-19 is clearly bringing families together – perhaps for the first time. The previously invisible fathers are suddenly popping up everywhere! They are pitching to their future baseball-hero sons, or jumping rope with their daughters. We see them climbing trees, creating memories together, sometimes even crying and just being vulnerable together. We truly believe that these restored relationships are not only a blessing to all family members, but also serve as a natural prevention strategy against child trafficking.
“Many times it takes just one member of a family to initiate the action to bring a family back together again.” – Billy Graham
As their hearts are softened by the joys of being part of an earthly family, may they also discover the love of our Heavenly Father and open their hearts to Him.
Written By: Annerie Van Wyk, ZOE Japan Missionary