Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2006-02-17

A specialist in the international exploitation and abuse of women and children will speak at Samford University Thursday, March 16, at 10 a.m. in Reid Chapel.

Rev. Lauran Bethell, international ministries consultant American Baptist Churches, will speak as the 2006 Marie NeSmith Fowler Lecturer in Christianity, Women and Leadership Studies. The public is invited free of charge.

Considered one of the world's leading authorities on the problems of international sex traffic, Bethell has given testimony to the U.S. Congress, and in 2005 received the Human Rights Award from the Baptist World Alliance. The award was presented by former president Jimmy Carter, a previous recipient of the award.

Bethell, based at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, Czech Republic, travels worldwide to initiate and encourage new projects that will address the exploitation and abuse of women and children.

In 1987, she helped found the New Life Center in Chiang Mai, north Thailand, to offer young tribal women education and vocational training as alternatives to prostitution and other exploitation.

Designed to prevent the exploitation of those with high risk factors, the center also offers rehabilitation and life alternatives to women formerly in prostitution and other abusive situations. The center has been the subject of extensive news media coverage and has received international recognition and awards for its work.

Bethell was named to her current post with American Baptist Churches in 2001. In 2004, she directed the first International Consultation on Ministry with Women in Prostitution.

A California native and life-long Baptist, she holds a bachelor's degree in psychology, religion and education from the University of Redlands and a master's in divinity from American Baptist Seminary of the West. The seminary awarded her an honorary doctorate in1997 for her pioneering work with women in Southeast Asia.

The lecture series honors Hartselle resident Marie NeSmith Fowler, a Samford graduate, pharmacist and church and community leader. It supports the mission of Samford's CWLC, which provides learning opportunities for women to realize the fullest measure of their gifts in all areas of human endeavor. The inaugural lecture was presented in March, 2005.

Mrs. Fowler is a longtime member of First Baptist Church, Hartselle.