Ilie Coada of Moldova is the 2014 recipient of the Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award.
Ilia Coada founded a community center that offers after-school and summer programs, including tutoring, to more than 500 children, so that risk of trafficking is reduced for youth in the area. (Photo: BWAnet.org)
The award is given each year by the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) to an individual who has made significant and effective contributions to secure, protect, restore or preserve human rights.
The announcement was made during a meeting of the BWA executive committee in King of Prussia/Valley Forge, Penn., on March 5.
The award presentation will be at the next meeting of the BWA general council in Izmir, Turkey, in July.
Coada, a Baptist pastor, has dedicated his life and resources to preventing young girls from becoming victims of human trafficking.
He opened a shelter for vulnerable girls, many of them fresh out of orphanages, to live in and continue their education; he also provided a transition home where girls attending schools in the city may go for holidays and weekends.
Coada founded a community center that offers after-school and summer programs, including tutoring, to more than 500 children, so that risk of trafficking is reduced for youth in the area.
He instituted scholarships that enable girls at risk to attend vocational schools and university.
Coada developed greenhouses and other small businesses that offer employment to girls and women in the community so they may have paying jobs, helping them to take care of their children.
He began an eldercare program on the compound of the children's center so older adults can share meals and fellowship and spend time with the children as "adopted grandparents."
The Bethania Foundation is the vehicle through which he manages and runs his many projects.
Coada engaged in these various ministries at risk to his safety.
Some human traffickers recruit directly from orphanages, and Coada's work in these institutions has restricted their ability to recruit from the orphanages, resulting in threats on his life.
His courage rests on his belief, drawn from Christian Scripture, that "there is no fear in love" (1 John 4:18).
"Pastor Ilie meets the threats of the mafia with wisdom, wit, courage and transparency," according to the European Baptist Federation. "He knows God's call on his life and he's willing to risk everything to follow the voice of the one who loves him and who has saved him."
Even while combating human trafficking, Coada continues to pastor a local congregation and plant new churches in Moldova.
"Rev. Ilie Coada is an incredible example of a Baptist pastor who has not only preached the Word, but has also lived the Word authentically, quietly, humbly and without fanfare," said Lauran Bethell, recipient of the 2005 BWA Human Rights Award. "He has saved countless children from the worst kinds of slavery in the sex industry and has been an inspiration to me and to many others."
This news release first appeared at the Baptist World Alliance news page.