To Release the Oppressed – Prostitution Lives

Written by David Johnson

“There is one. There is another. See all of the girls lined up on the side? They are getting paid about 50 cents a trick. Some areas pay as high as $15 a trick, but not much more than that,” Cherry shares with me as she gives me a dangerous night tour of the prostitution scene in Addis. “Look, David, see that boy chasing the girl! She is running to the police station for protection. The boys are free to abuse the girls on the street. That is just how it is out here.”

“For the last 15 years you have run Women at Risk and taken in these women to rehabilitate them. How did you come to have such a heart for the prostitutes?” I ask Cherry.
“I grew up in Ethiopia and have seen these women on the street ever since I can remember. I was raised in a Christian home and watched my Christian friends and family give little or no attention to the girls. They are not just outcasts in society; they are outcasts in the church. I just got tired of watching them be ignored, and so I began to build friendships with them, and what I discovered is that they are crying out for help. They want out, but are not sure how. They want to be set free, but are not sure how to be released.”

Cherry drives me through the most dangerous street in the city. The dim streetlights cast a hazy, yellow glow on the hollow eyes of the women, and the dark alleys lead into a hopeless abyss. Countless bodies of homeless men, women and children pile up on both sides of the street. Every ten yards there is a lonely prostitute, waiting to see if she is going to make any money to feed herself or her children. I have never seen so many social outcasts or felt such destitution…I bet if Jesus visited Addis, I would find him here.

Jesus restoring dignity to the woman at the well, and God redeeming Rahab the prostitute, has taken on a new meaning for me. When Jesus encountered the sick girl and said, “She is asleep, not dead,” the crowed laughed at him, for they thought she was dead and beyond help. Then he touched her, and her life was restored. Whether it was the Pharisees of the past or the Pharisees of today, those who study religious law often declare prostitutes and others bound by sinful patterns to be beyond intervention. They are declared to be dirty and unworthy of entering the house of God. Maybe that is why Jesus had to go to the well to meet her. Maybe that is why those of us who call ourselves Christians need to reconsider whom we are called to serve. For it was Jesus who said that he was called to, “Preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, and to release the oppressed.” Luke 4:18-19.

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