By Eron Henry
A Baptist pastor in Moldova who has worked tirelessly against human trafficking and the sex trade in his country received the Baptist World Alliance’s Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award July 9.
Ilie Coada was presented the award during the BWA’s Annual Gathering in Izmir, Turkey, being held July 6-12.
The human rights award is given annually for significant and effective activities to secure, protect, restore or preserve human rights as stated in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other declarations on human rights.
Coada established the Bethania Christian Relief Association to manage and run his various projects, opened a shelter for vulnerable girls, many fresh out of orphanages, to reside and to continue their education, and founded a community and children’s center that offers after-school and summer programs, including tutoring, to more than 500 children.
He began an elder-care program on the compound of the children’s center so senior adults can share meals and fellowship with children as adopted grandparents, instituted scholarships that enable girls at risk to attend vocational school and university, and developed greenhouses and other small businesses that offer employment to girls and women.
“We know that our entire ministry belongs to God,” Coada said on receiving the award. “I only knew that I wanted to serve my Lord. He gave me a wife that supports me in what I do and a wonderful team to work with.”
A citation read at the presentation described Coada as “a man of wisdom, wit, courage and transparency” and “an inspiration to other human rights advocates, workers and activists.” He was lauded for his “exemplary pioneering and sacrificial ministry securing and protecting the rights and freedom of children in Moldova.”
He “risked everything to follow the voice of the One who loves and saved him” and “saved countless children from the worst kinds of sex slavery,” the BWA citation read. He engaged in his various ministries “despite threats on his life and person from sex traffickers.”
In addition to his advocacy and programmatic activities against human trafficking and the sex trade, Coada is a pastor who has planted a number of Baptist churches. He “preaches and lives the Word authentically,” according to the BWA.
During the communist era, when Moldova was part of the Soviet Union, Coada “surrendered career and other opportunities … to retain authentic Christian commitment, refusing to renounce his faith,” the BWA observed.