'iEmpathize' Leader Speaks about Human Trafficking
BY STEVE CRAIN
Special to The Pilot
"Do I empathize?" asked Brad Riley of "iEmpathize" as he spoke recently at Grace Church, in Southern Pines.
Riley, who lives with his wife, Julie, in Boulder, Colo., is the founder and president of "iEmpathize" (iE), an international child advocacy and media nonprofit with a mission "to eradicate child exploitation while engaging culture in creative solutions."
The group (www.iempathize.org) focuses on the U.S. and Mexico by involvement in "prevention, restoration and intervention mixed with advocacy."
"We want to eradicate this stuff," Riley said about human trafficking. "Disen-gaging and apathy are not 'the heart of God.'"
He defined "empathy" as "walking in someone else's shoes" or as "taking a walk with that person."
Describing "empathetic distress" that takes place in a baby nursery, Riley said, "When one baby cries, the others begin to cry. They don't know why."
Sympathy is passive; empathy goes further, he noted.
He told of a young girl in Guatemala who saw her father kill her mother and then kill himself.
"Her uncle began selling her for sex," Riley said. He added that when two men, together, sexually abused the girl, she fought them, escaped and found her way to a safe house in Mexico City. No legislation against human trafficking existed in Mexico until three years ago, he noted.
"If we don't step in, criminal enterprises get to do what they want," Riley said. "It's a criminal problem, first, and a culture problem, second."
The essence of the Gospel is really about empathy, Riley said.
"When we were in a bad way, the word became flesh and dwelled among us," he said. "God built us to be sympathetic beings. When we become insulated and focused on ourselves, God's kingdom gets stifled out. In our American church culture, we insulate ourselves from the problems of the world. ... Instances of injustice are all around us. Google 'human trafficking in N.C.,' and stories will come up - right here in our ZIP code."
He said that comfort we receive from God should be passed on to other people.
"Empathy requires a first step," Riley said, adding, "We can turn off the TV, but the victim of injustice never gets to look away."
Riley said his mother, a math teacher, told him, "If you don't look at the problem, you're never going to solve it."
"The only way to address darkness is to step into it and bring light to it," he said. "It may require something radical of us to fulfill a reasonable request."
Referring to Martin Luther King's work in the Civil Rights Movement, Riley said, "He [King] asked for reasonable requests but was willing to pay a radical price."
Steve Crain lives in Southern Pines.
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