Twenty-seven million people in the world are slaves today. To raise awareness about this, students at John Brown University are participating in a 27-hour Stand for Freedom event through the International Justice Mission.
People around the country are holding more than 500 similar events March 5-15, according to the mission’s website.
Sarah Cook, ‘09 graduate, and senior Emily Hochstetler are facilitating the stand at the University beginning on Tuesday at 10 a.m. and continuing until Wednesday at 1 p.m. They picked the area right outside of the cafeteria for its high traffic, Hochstetler said.
“Not everyone goes into Walker or other areas, but everyone has to go to the cafeteria,” she said. “We hope to get some organic involvement from those who are passing by.”
Cook emphasized that individual participants do not have to stand for the entire time. She added that they would have several things for people to be doing during the event:
1. Making signs to help attract peoples’ attention
2. Information available about the mission’s work
3. Having books from the library about slavery
4. Signing a petition to the president
5. Praying or reading Scripture
She also encouraged people who could not participate to bring food or hot drinks to those who could.
Frank Huebert, director of discipleship, is the University sponsor for the event. He said he appreciated the creativity of the mission’s event in drawing attention to “a significant need in the world.”
“It can be easy not to pay attention to the world outside of campus, our region, or the United States,” Huebert said. “At the same time, slavery probably happens here a lot more than we think.”
Huebert encouraged students to take a moment to listen to what the event participants, even if they could not participate fully by standing with the group for a while.
The point of the stand is to raise awareness, Huebert continued, but frequently such awareness does not lead to any response. He said he was thankful that the event also provided practical ways to act, such as donating money or writing a letter, even if they seem somewhat insignificant.
“It may seem like my one letter won’t make a difference,” Huebert said. “But when elected officials get lots of letters, when my one letter joins your one letter and another person’s one letter, they have to pay attention.”
“Human trafficking and slavery take a variety of forms,” Huebert added. “I am not sure what all drives it. I know one example in this area is undocumented immigrants being taken advantage of.”
He also pointed out that Oklahoma City has a reputation for high trafficking. It is the intersection of two major trafficking routes, the east-west Interstate 40 and the north-south Interstate 35.
When Cook and Hochstetler approached Huebert to serve as the necessary school sponsor for their event, he encouraged them to also contact freshman Krista Gay. Gay recently started a new on-campus ministry, Students Against Sex Slavery, which deals with similar issues.
Cook said the events staff at the University had been supportive in helping with the organizational issues. She and Hochstetler also talked to several professors about announcing the event in their classes.
Cook first became interested in the work of the International Justice Mission about a year ago, she said.
“IJM takes seriously the passages in the Bible about caring for others,” Cook explained. “They go into other countries, collect evidence and eventually lead rescue operations. Then they prosecute the owners and traffickers to set legal precedents that slavery is not tolerated. IJM also provides after-care for those who were slaves.”
Many countries have laws against slavery, Hochstetler and Cook said. They simply do not always have the bureaucracy in place to enforce those laws.
Cook had read some of the mission’s materials, but she felt as though there was not anything she could do to help. Then she found out about the Stand for Freedom event.
“As I talk to people about this, I find that I have to explain more than I expected,” Cook said. “People are not very familiar with the concept or with the work that IJM does.”
She hopes the event will help people at least come into contact with the facts about slavery worldwide.