SALT LAKE CITY — Elly Risman's bright smile shined as the tiny Indonesian woman took her place on the stage Wednesday at The Lighted Candle Society's annual awards dinner.
She wore a set of pearls and a formal burgundy headscarf, carefully adorned with gems, and thanked the crowd for their hugs, prayers, small gifts and bouquets of flowers, as the society honored her sacrifice and personal risk combating the growing impact of pornography.
In return, she offered a handmade Indonesian bookmark to each guest, a token of gratitude prepared by Risman and the women she works with.
"Distinguished audience, good evening," she said, reading carefully the speech she had prepared in English. "Standing here as one of the recipients of the Guardian of Light Award from The Lighted Candle Society proves to me that God really does exist."
The Lighted Candle Society is a nonprofit group working worldwide to combat the spread of pornography and sexually explicit materials.
For 15 years, Risman and a growing group of Muslim women have travelled back and forth between the Indonesia's thousands of islands working to educate parents and educators about protecting young children from pornography. She called it "a tsunami that hit the world and Indonesia as well."
Through the years, Risman said technological advancements have made sexually explicit materials more available to younger audiences through a growing number of mediums, and sexual violence has increased in the country's 33 provinces.
"The most dangerous (challenge) right now is that apparently everyone in the country — which includes the government, the legislature and the people — are not aware that they are in danger due to low awareness about the dangers of pornography on adults, children, families and marriages," she said.
Risman thanked The Lighted Candle Society for the materials it has provided through the years to support volunteer efforts by the growing group in Indonesia, and she recalled a trip to Utah in 2009 for a seminar with the society.
"Let us hold our hands together to face this monstrous challenge," Risman told the crowd. "Let's save our children. For in saving one life, you have saved humanity."
The evening's keynote speaker, Rabbi Averick Moshi, thanked the society for inviting him, an Orthodox Jew, to speak to a primarily Christian crowd as they honored a Muslim woman.
"There must be something very important we have in common that would make such a gathering possible," he said.
Moshi recounted a recent trip to do research at a public library in a suburb bordering Chicago. Upon entering a large room full of computers, he was shocked to see a man unabashedly viewing pornography.
"I was stunned and instinctively looked to the service desk where the people in charge of the room were sitting, and I quickly realized how naive my reaction was because no one really cared," he said. "This has happened several times since. What was most shocking was the man's nonchalant attitude, not a care in the world, not the slightest apprehension anyone would say a word to him."
Moshi spoke about the inherent goodness in each individual that must combat animalistic drives, as well as the sociological and spiritual importance of the family.
Wednesday's event was co-sponsored by Kim and Jennifer Bertin, the George and Delores Dore Eccles Foundation and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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