Category Archives: National

Federal help comes for Baton Rouge area residents impacted by floods

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baton-rouge-flood-national-guard

By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

BATON ROUGE, La. – Like many who have seen the flooding in the Baton Rouge area, the images are startling. ForBaton Rouge residents stand in line at for assistance from the American Red Cross. local residents, the disaster is shocking.

“I’ve been here all my life, and I have never seen anything like this before,” said State Rep. Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge).

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Aug. 15 that federal disaster aid has been made available to the state of Louisiana to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and flooding beginning Aug. 11, and continuing.

The president’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is available to the state and eligible tribal and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work as a result of the severe storms and flooding in East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Smith said the help is available for affected residents, but they must remain patient as FEMA process requests.

“They must follow the application process through. It is a long process, but they must follow it through.”

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).  Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

Walmart announces $500,000 toward La. flood relief efforts

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have made a commitment to provide support through cash and in-kindWalmart prepares to deliver one million water bottles to affected areas across Louisiana. donations of $500,000 to organizations helping with relief efforts for those affected by the floods in Louisiana. Working closely with the Salvation Army, American Red Cross and the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, coordination efforts are being made with elected officials and governmental entities across the region to meet the needs of those affected by the overwhelming flooding in the Louisiana region this week.

With widespread flooding and thousands of people displaced from their homes, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have coordinated efforts as part of the $500,000 donation to send truckloads of water to affected areas of the state, anticipating over one million bottles of water to be delivered in the coming days.

We are deeply saddened by the devastating floods in Louisiana and the catastrophic effect it’s having on our associates and members of the community,” said Mark Cooper, Senior Director of Emergency Management for Walmart. “We are fully committed to the relief efforts and will continue to work closely with local officials to do everything we can.”

Photo cutlines

Top: Baton Rouge residents stand in line at for assistance from the American Red Cross. (The Pew/Grelan Muse Sr.)

Bottom: Walmart prepares to deliver one million water bottles to affected areas across Louisiana.

Medical doctor’s heart attack led to near-death experience in heaven

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By Mark Ellis
ASSIST News Service

As a staff physician at the University of Texas Health Center he was well acquainted with the symptoms of a heart Landry-Gerry-259x300attack. But this time, the M.D. wasn’t examining someone else – he was grappling with troubling signs of his own.

At home, Dr. Gerry Landry, 55, felt overwhelming fatigue and crushing pain in his chest for more than an hour.

“Denise! This is serious! Please pray!” he called out to his wife.

His wife began to pray after she called an ambulance. She also called Christian friends to pray. “We committed the situation to Almighty God and asked Him to heal me,” he says.

In spite of the excruciating pain, a wave of peace washed over the doctor and his wife after they prayed, a peace that defies understanding (Phil. 4:7).

“All I remember during the ride to the hospital was calling out the name of Jesus, over and over again,” the doctor recalled.

A few years earlier, praying for God’s help would have been last on his to-do list. He was a nominal Christian, devoted to his church, but praying for his patients was not part of his life.

But that changed one day. “I witnessed a young couple praying for a patient of mine, I actually felt God’s presence in the room and was strangely moved. They prayed as though God was their closest friend. I envied them. It started me on a journey, a search for a true, deep, personal relationship with God,” he said.

“Before long, I met Christians who taught and prayed for me to receive the Holy Spirit. After that, Jesus became real to me, and the words of the Bible suddenly came to life.”

Landry entered the same Emergency Room where he had treated hundreds of patients. The doctor in charge showed him his EKG: His inferior coronary artery was completely knocked out.

“The cold clamminess of my hands warned me of collapsing veins,” he noted. “Yet, the sweet presence of Jesus continued to enfold me with His peace.

But as his wife prayed quietly by his side, his heart suddenly stopped beating. “I became acutely aware of my spirit separating from my body and I died – pronounced ‘clinically dead’ at 4:13 p.m.”

Immediately he found himself transported to heaven — a place of dazzling beauty!

“A multitude of radiantly beautiful people surrounded me. In spite of the crowd, I looked around and actually recognized some of my late relatives, as well as some historical figures who had preceded me a long time ago.   We were in the Eternal Now, without past or future and I was perfectly at ease, full of joy.

Read more here.

Photo cutline: Dr. Gerry Landry

 

 

Resource publishes list of 50 most affordable Bible colleges

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Special to Inside The Pew

Leading Christian higher education resource, Christian Universities Online, recently published a ranking of 50 Most Affordable Bible Colleges for 2016

At the top of the list is Hobe Sound Bible College in Hobe Sound, Fla. Clear Creek Bible College in Pineville, Ky., andHobe Logo Bethesda University in Anaheim, Ca., came in second and third, respectively.

Five Texas schools made the list: Arlington Baptist College in Arlington, Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, Dallas Christian College and Paul Quinn College, both in Dallas, and Messenger College in Euless.

For its methodology, this ranking began with schools that are members of the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), or accredited members of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS). Theological affiliates of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) were also considered. Christian Universities Online then collected and compared each school’s net price and total cost of attendance. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), average net price is found by subtracting the average amount of federal, state or local government, and institutional grant or scholarship aid from the total cost to attend a given school. The total cost of attendance is the sum of a school’s published tuition and required fees, books and supplies, and the weighted average for room and board and other expenses.

Anna-Rebekah Orr, the editor for the ranking, states that the goal of the ranking is to highlight schools that are very open to grant and scholarship funding as well as keeping overall costs as low as possible. Orr adds, “It is good to see schools put the value of their programs (from a student budget perspective) above the school’s potential income.”

Christian Universities Online  is an online resource for students and families researching Christian higher education. The site publishes rankings and reviews of the best Christian colleges and universities, information about Christian scholarships and financial aid, and many other resources for finding, getting into, and paying for a quality Christian education.

Love and how it will heal Baton Rouge

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Montrell Jackson with baby

By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

BATON ROUGE – I begin this column by sending my condolences to the families of the three wounded officers and the loved ones of the three Baton Rouge peace officers who lost their lives on July 17: Montrell Jackson, 32, Matthew Gerald, 41, and Brad Garafola, 45. My city has been a place of turmoil since the shooting of Alton Sterling on July 5. However, in the midst of the turmoil, I see a Baton Rouge that is capable of making change.

After reading Montrell Jackson’s Facebook post, written on July 8, we were all confronted with a man who felt heMontrell Jackson with baby was not respected on either side of the fence. Despite all the nasty looks Jackson contented he received, he adopted the only emotion that is kind, unselfish, and perseveres: love.

It is the only thing that will help us mend a wounded Baton Rouge.

Somewhere along the way, we have become numb to the concept of respecting life. Jesus came to do away with all evil acts (1 John 3:8). Now, more than ever, is the time to adorn the façade of Christ: Stand up against the enemy. Instead of attempts to play the blame game, now is the time to pray ask for forgiveness. Remove the political and selfish agendas. Once all that is gone, we have common ground.

Remember what the Bible says about love? Ask for our Father to restore us with agape love. The greatest commandment that we love one another as He loved us (John 13:34). Ask God to restore us as a people and a nation.

When we focus on loving each other, healing begins. Speaking of agape love, we have a generation who believeGrelan Muse Sr. bloodshed is the only way to express themselves. Youth know a cold world. Mentors of youth: Let’s listen to lesser-known voices and show them positive steps toward unity and understanding while simultaneously showing discontent. I recall Martin Luther King Jr. achieving a lot without harming a soul. Young men and women have it within them, but they need role models to show the young an effective way to express their anger. Channel that anger for change that is beneficial and life-changing. The answer isn’t violence.

Solomon wrote there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9). Now is the time, Baton Rouge, for us to plant seeds of positivity and to harvest love for all.

Photo cutlines:

Top: Slain Baton Rouge police officer Montrell Jackson.

Right: Grelan Muse Sr.

Grelan A. Muse Sr., a Baton Rouge resident, is founder of Inside The Pew and Pew Talk Radio.

© 2016 Inside The Pew

Prayer vigil brings solace after Dallas police shooting

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

DALLAS – Mourners of all faiths converged on Thanksgiving Square in Dallas on Friday to pray for the city and individuals directly impacted by the attack on Dallas and Dallas Area Rapid Transportation (DART) police officers. The attack, called the deadliest attack on U.S. law enforcement since 9-11, left five officers dead and seven other officers and two civilians injured.

During his closing prayer, Bishop T.D. Jakes asked for spiritual guidance and asked for men and women to gain courage to take on other people’s burdens.

“If we agree, we can turn this nation around. Our country is laying on the edge of destruction, but just because it is on the edge doesn’t mean it has to fall over. Let that which unites us be greater than that which divides us.

“We were made from one blood. We have different skins. We have different styles. We have different philosophical ideologies, but by one blood that you made all men.”

Local and national leadership, Jakes said, should resemble the same love, compassion, and wisdom of the Almighty.

More hugs

One man in attendance wore his feelings for everyone to see. An unidentified man wore a shirt that read, “Free Hugs.” During an interview with a FOX 4 Dallas reporter, he said “This is what this city needs right now.” He wasn’t alone, as you can see from this video posted on Twitter by Kristen Hampton from WBTV in Charlotte, N.C.

Billy Graham team arrives in Dallas

ASSIST News Services reported Friday the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has been deployed to Dallas less thanBilly Graham RR 24 hours after the mass shooting.

“It’s hard to know what to say in the face of all of the violence we’ve seen in recent days. Our hearts are broken,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team in a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Rapid Response Team news release.

“Please pray for this entire situation, stretching from Minneapolis to Baton Rouge to Dallas. We’re sending chaplains into Dallas to offer a ministry of presence to a community in crisis.”

Michael Ireland of ASSIST News contributed to this report.

Photos

Main: Crowd gathers in Thanksgiving Square in Dallas for the Interfaith Prayer Vigil on Friday. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Campos.

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tax time, an uncertain time for the homeless

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2016 Tax Deadline and homeless people

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.With tax season and filing time being upon us, I wondered how our Joy Junction guests felt about taxes.

After all, while you can never escape from the long arm of the Internal Revenue Service, so to speak,Homeless people and filing taxes when you’re looking for a place to stay and a meal, taxes tend to take a second place, right?

But there are a number of reasons why homeless people should file, even though anyone making an annual income less than $10,150 as a single person or $20,300 as a married person filling jointly is under the threshold for filing taxes and therefore not required to file a tax return.

My staff asked a few of our guests whether they plan to file this year and for those who do file, how much any potential refund they’ve received helps them out.

When confusion about taxes reigns for those of us who do have a job and a stable living situation, it’s not surprising that uncertainty about filing was prevalent among those homeless guests to whom we spoke.

One guy newly homeless said he has never filed.

He added, “I have heard that if you haven’t earned more than $5,000 that you are not able to file taxes. Also the time I did work I never received my W-2 to file taxes. I just don’t know how to file taxes, or what I would need to file as a homeless person.”

However, between Feb. 1 and the end of tax season, Joy Junction is blessed to have Phil’s Tax Service twice weekly provide help for our guests.

Shelter Case Manager Carl Valles said the business has been a blessing.

“Phil’s has great enjoyment and passion providing free tax preparation to the homeless. I also notice their diligence of doing the preparation correctly, and following up with residents who were unable to complete their taxes due to missing documents. They also help resident acquire missing paperwork.”

Valles added, “The residents recognize Phil’s Tax service as friends who provide a most important service to them for free and in a respectful manner.”

Another guy appreciated his refund. “Because the government is helping us from starving. I believe it is a social responsibility of all citizens to care for all other citizens, otherwise it would be chaos.”
In addition, he added, “It is a way of keeping track of the homeless population and how tax dollars are distributed.”

Someone else said he was employed last year and filed taxes.

However, he added, “I was unaware of being able to file taxes as a homeless person. Receiving a refund is better than nothing. We should be thankful for what we receive.”

Another man said he hasn’t filed for five years because he has been unemployed and homeless. He said he tried last year, but was told he didn’t make enough to file.

Someone else said he didn’t believe the refund was much help.

He added, “And without dependents, you did not get that much back.”

Weighing heavily on his mind was this thought, “To get your taxes done they charge a lot, and to do it yourself is too complex. I would have to say that I got more (refund) money being homeless here at Joy Junction then we did last year not being homeless. Also, we had our taxes done for free here at Joy Junction.”

Someone else said, “Now that I’m in New Mexico I wasn’t sure if I was going to file. Phil’s Tax Services came here and did it for free, so I filed. I received $54 from federal taxes and was not (required to file) state taxes, because I have not lived in New Mexico (long enough) to qualify. So, the bottom line is it wasn’t much, but a lot when you do not have much.”

One woman said while she filed taxes last year, she received a letter from the IRS “stating they need proof that I am who I say I am.”

Someone else said she didn’t know the tax laws for the homeless.

While not directly answering the question, one poignant comment was from a guy who was incarcerated for 16 years. His answer went beyond just the filing of taxes and what he thought about (potential) refunds.

“I am new to all these things going on in society … Mentally I am still institutionalized and unable to understand my freedom, and how other people take it for granted. I am just thankful to receive anything at all.”

If you employ homeless workers, here’s a handy guide.

And for those of you who just want to know more about filing your taxes, click here.

Happy filing!

Photo caption: Homeless people gathering on the sidewalk on 6th and San Julian streets in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News).

 

Former elected official pens book for citizens to boost their role in local government

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

In this election season, Americans are taking to the polls to perform the most treasured act granted in a democracy.

But, the election process is just one way for citizens to interact with government. And, according to Cynthia Northrop White, the best way for citizens to increase their knowledge of government is to get involvedCynthia Northrop and Women in Transportation at the local level.

“I truly believe if citizens are knowledgeable about how local government works and how different levels of government interact they will be more successful in finding solutions to issues important to them,” White said.

White, a former Denton County (Texas) Commissioner, recently celebrated the release of her first book, Make a Difference: Navigating the Maze of Local Government (Austin Brothers Publishing, $24.95).

Touted as a “local government for dummies” type book that takes a holistic approach by connecting the dots between the different levels of government and how they each inform the other, White points to her ultimate desire of motivating and equipping citizens to engage in their local communities.

“We don’t learn about local government in school. I’ve talked to many citizens during my time in office over the years and have found that the more information they get on how local government works the more they want to get involved because they begin to see they can make a difference,” White said.

The book covers the nuts and bolts of local government structure and includes practical information on knowing who and how to contact, how the federal government informs local government and perspective onMake A Difference by Cynthia Northrop White what make a community successful.

White, who holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Texas, stresses the importance of collaborative partnerships.

“I believe synergistic communities of cohesive local government, community-minded businesses, strong and supported non-profit community and informed and engaged citizens spell success.”

Denton County Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell and former Commissioner White’s served on the Lewisville (Texas) City Council for three years in the early 1990s and Denton County Commissioners Court from 2001 to 2008.

“I was impressed by Commissioner White’s commitment to not only serving the citizens but to her passion for educating them as well,” said Commissioner Mitchell, specifically recalling White’s initiative in creating and initiating a Student Government Day for high school seniors, hosting town halls on specific topics of interest to her constituents, creation of a monthly transportation task force meeting designed specifically for residents of her precinct and the creation of the “380 Coalition.”

The book also includes a collection of columns on county issues White wrote while in office and distributed to community newspapers and through her own email distribution list.

“The release of Make a Difference: Navigating the Maze of Local Government allows me to continue my mission to provide a convenient and compact resource for citizens on how to understand, connect, and make a difference in their communities.”

The book is available at all major book retailers, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Photos:

Top: Cynthia Northrop White, right, makes a presentation during a Women in Transportation meeting.

Right: Book cover: “Making A Difference: Navigating the Maze of Local Government”

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.

 

COGIC Charities gives water, baby formula to Flint residents

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By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

In wake of the ongoing Flint water crisis, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Charities recently announced it is sending water and ready-made baby formula to Flint residents.

According to a press release, several COGIC churches in Flint will serve as distribution centers providing much-needed water and babyFlint Water formula to thousands of Flint residents for the next couple of months or until supplies are depleted.

“There are more than 60 Church of God in Christ congregations in Flint, Mich. When we heard about the crisis, we immediately began to mobilize and strategize how we as an organization could help our members and residents,” said Charles E. Blake, Sr., COGIC presiding bishop. “The leadership of the Church of God in Christ cannot stand silent as the innocent children of Flint and their parents suffer the ravages of poisonous water. We stand with these parents, and with all the residents, to call for the speedy, permanent restoration of clean, drinking water.”

The following COGIC congregations in Flint will distribute water and infant formula free of charge: Greater Holy Temple COGIC, 6702Flint Deliveries North Dort Highway; Cathedral of Faith COGIC, 6031 DuPont St.; International Inspiration Gospel Ministries COGIC, 901 Brown St.; Pentecostal Tabernacle COGIC, 401 Carton St.; Open Door COGIC, 3925 North Term St.; Lively Stone COGIC, 1023 Pettibone St.; Redeeming Grace Ministries, 802 E. Baltimore Blvd.; Greater New Bethel COGIC, 925 W. Atherton Road; Faith Temple COGIC, 5802 Fleming Road; Born Again Ministries COGIC, 3302 Lewis St.; and New Jerusalem COGIC, 617 Stockdale St.

For more information about COGIC Charities’ “Water For Flint,” visit www.cogic.org.

Photos:

Top: COGIC Charities has donated water and ready-made baby formula to residents of Flint, Mich. Courtesy of Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press.

Right: Charity donations were delivered by U-Haul trucks and cars.

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.

Epic biblical drama ‘Risen’ seeks to answer, ‘Can a Roman soldier prove Resurrection was a hoax?’

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By Michael Ireland
ASSIST News Service

LOS ANGELES – In a fresh take on history’s biggest event, seen through the eyes of a high-ranking Roman military officer, RISEN is an imaginative retelling of what happened Risenafter Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Following the crucifixion, Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) assigns Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) to find Jesus’ missing body and disprove any resurrection.

RISEN stars Joseph Fiennes (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE), Tom Felton (HARRY POTTER), Peter Firth (PEARL HARBOR) and Cliff Curtis (LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD). Kevin Reynolds (ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES) directs with Steven Mirkovich editing (THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST).

RISEN is an epic biblical story of Jesus’ crucifixion and the weeks following, through the eyes of the unbelieving Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a high-ranking Roman military officer. Clavius and his aide Lucius (Tom Felton) are assigned by Pontius Pilate to ensure that Jesus’ radical followers can’t steal his body and claim a resurrection. Within days, however, the body is missing, putting Clavius on a mission to find it, to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and to prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.

RISEN picks up where THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST left off. Here is why a ragtag group of disciples fanned across the Roman empire and changed the course of history. Politically, historically, spiritually … and seeks to answer the question: ‘Why is this story still so important?’

The Greatest Manhunt in History

High-ranking Roman military officer Clavius is on the detective assignment of all time: to disprove news of Jesus’ resurrection. RISEN filmmakers cast the story of Jesus’ life, deathRisen Poster and resurrection from a skeptic’s point of view, and the result is an exciting and fresh take on one of the world’s most-known stories.

AFFIRM Films is known for faith- and family-friendly classics such as WAR ROOM, SOUL SURFER, COURAGEOUS and WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL. AFFIRM Senior Vice President Rich Peluso leads the creative team behind films that satisfy the faith audience and go beyond to widely inspire, entertain and engage.

Early reviews suggest a new biblical epic hitting theaters this week is picking up where “The Passion of the Christ” left off.

“Risen” tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion through the eyes of Clavius, a Roman military officer who is on a mission to prove the resurrection did not happen. Actor Joseph Fiennes stars as Clavius. Fiennes shared more about the film with CBN News’ Efrem Graham.

“A big attraction for me was the way his mind worked, but to get to his mind I found I had to take a physical route. I went to gladiator school in Rome. I stayed long enough to never want to go back,” he told CBN News.

“I spent the good part of a week working with a brilliant set of guys, and what I learned from a military standpoint was a way into the man was conditioned and the way that he thought,” he said.

Clavius is an ambitious Roman soldier who first tries to keep Christ’s body from being stolen after his crucifixion. He then sets out on anmi_CLAVIUS_and_Lucius_02-25-2016 angry journey to find the body after it disappears from the sealed and guarded tomb. He’s a bit of a detective.

Director Kevin Reynolds shot the film in Spain and Malta, where Fiennes had no contact with the actor who played Christ until their first scenes together.

“We had a wonderful team of actors, and they were all very present and dedicated to the narrative. Like any great narrative in any great movie, it’s about relationships,” Fiennes shared. “I think your average good actor gets that and knows it and preps accordingly.”

“So, the disciples as a group of actors were incredibly bonded. They were a unit and a family. And I was very much polarized and outside of that, but when I got invited into the group, it was kind of like the arc of the film was the arc of my existence with them,” he continued.

“I wouldn’t have contact with them until we had made those scenes where we had contact. So that became quite emotional that journey,” he said.

“I think a big component in the movie for me and what I connect to with Clavius is the sense of the second chance, even if it is in the subconscious, which hasn’t quite bubbled to the surface or he has worked out, so I love that component.”

That second chance is exactly why Christ suffered, died and was “Risen.”

“Risen” opened in theaters February 19.

Photo captions: 1) Jesus crucified along with other convicted criminals in RISEN, in theaters nationwide, Feb. 19, 2016. Photo: Columbia Pictures. 2) Advertising poster for RISEN. Photo: Columbia Pictures. 3) Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) and Lucius (Tom Felton) execute orders from Pontius Pilate in RISEN. Photo: Columbia Pictures.

Belles: Super Bowl sex trafficking is not a myth

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

Now that Super Bowl 50 is history, one organization continues its call for more awareness on sex trafficking that occurs during the annual game and other large events.Nita Belles

Nita Belles, founder of In Our Backyard, recently took her fight for victims to San Francisco, taking issue with journalists and supporters of the sex industry who called increased sex trafficking during gatherings of this sort as an urban myth.

“An urban myth? Are they serious?” questions the human trafficking expert. “There is no myth about it.

“Traffickers smell the money present at the Super Bowl celebrations and bring their victims here to exploit them and take the money. We are not talking about voluntary prostitution,” said Belles, author of a book that bears the same title of her organization. “The fact is that adults and children are being forced into sex trafficking. Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing crime in the world—and that includes the United States. It is happening 365 days a year in every ZIP code. Trafficking, and even the recruitment of new victims, absolutely escalates around large events that draw big crowds like this week’s Super Bowl.”

Belles lead a team of professionals who worked non-stop to ensure that those who are being trafficked have a fighting chance at freedom and that the sex buyers and traffickers will be brought to justice.

“There’s a saying that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world,” Belles said. “But it’s the oldest abuse in the world. Here is my request to the media: Don’t be quiet. Don’t fall prey to the lie that human trafficking is not increasing.  All the traffickers ask is that we keep quiet and perpetuate the myth that it doesn’t happen here. I ask for the media’s help in making it hard to be a trafficker.”

A 2014 study by the University of Arizona about increased sex trafficking during large events stated that “The Super Bowl, or any large event which provides a significant concentration of people in a relatively confined urban area, becomes a desirable location for a trafficker to bring their victims for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation.”

After last year’s Super Bowl in Arizona, the FBI announced that Arizona police departments and law enforcement officers conducted recovery operations for six months leading up to the Super Bowl, where agencies recovered numerous juvenile victims, ranging in age from 13 to 17, as well as adult victims who had been subjected to physical abuse by their traffickers.

Overall through their efforts arrests included 360 customers of commercial sex, 68 traffickers and the recovery of 30 juvenile victims.  Belles said that in 2014, 45 arrests were made around the New Jersey Super Bowl, with 16 juveniles recovered.  In New Orleans the year before, 85 arrests made and five victims recovered.

“Any time you have a large number of people gathering in one place with a party atmosphere—especially males, it’s prime ground for sex trafficking,” Belles said. “I know of animals who are treated with more respect than those who are trafficked. They are forced into horrendous acts that we don’t even want to imagine. Prostitutes are usually victims,” she says, “and ‘john’ is too nice a word for someone who should be called a ‘sex buyer.’ She adds, “Those who are being trafficked are precious children of God and deserve to live free of modern slavery. That is why I do what I do.”

Belles explains that escape is difficult because victims are closely watched and often traumatically bonded to their captors. Those that are rescued are hoping that they can get the help needed to find a new, safe, happy life.  Sex trafficking victims, particularly minors, have a tough road in front of them, even under the best circumstances. They need trauma-based treatment, kindness, understanding, a stable and non-threatening environment, and lots of time.

“Many will need professional counseling and medical or mental health services to recover from the atrocities that have happened to them,” Belles said. “Those recovered in the anti-trafficking efforts in the Bay Area will be offered that help.”

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.