By Kyra Smith-Cullen in News
April 12, 2012
Students were greeted by hundreds of white flags that decorated the lawn in front of Russell Hall on Tuesday. The flags were part of an event sponsored by New Life to promote human trafficking awareness.
Each flag shown represented 10,000 slaves in existence worldwide, bringing the amount to 27 million, with 200,000 of them being in the United States alone. Even simple things like owning Christmas tree ornaments or taking a breath mint from a restaurant means that you’ve been using things that were possibly made by slaves.
One site, Slaveryfootprint.org, allows users to enter information about what food they’ve eaten, what products are in their closet, and other possessions in order to estimate how many slaves users have ‘employed’ by buying those products. The results may shock some people.
“I was surprised,” said Amanda Adkinson, a sophomore majoring in social work and one of the event organizers. “I don’t shop that much, and I was like ‘That’s a lot of people!’”
New Life Ministries has been planning this event for months, ever since attending a Christian conference called Passion, and has been in the planning until it culminated into Tuesday’s events.
“The students attended, and they felt inspired to do something,” said Jason Ritz, campus minister of New Life.
The goal was not only to raise awareness, but to broadcast what students could do to contribute to groups that were working to free slavery internationally. Suggestions included visiting sites like 72daysforfreedom.com or do their own research on the subject.
“We can’t just sit around and do nothing,” said Adkinson. “We need to want to do something, because it’s not going to change unless we do.”
The event ended with a showing of Freedom: Indifference is not an option, which is the film that inspired the group to stage this event. The movie tells the story of three individuals who suffered through slavery until somebody helped them escape. They came from different backgrounds, but were all either forced or tricked into enslavement.
“I had goose bumps [while watching it]. It’s something that I’ve heard of before, but hadn’t realized it was like this,” said freshman Bridget Kovacs, who is majoring in chemistry.
One of the enslaved men interviewed for the film was a third generation slave who was working to pay off a debt owed by his grandfather to the owner of a rice mill.
“After seeing the movie, I felt sick knowing that so many would be trapped,” said Adkinson.