This coming Sunday (September 24), thousands of churches around the world will dedicate their service to fighting modern-day slavery as part of International Justice Mission’s annual Freedom Sunday. Around 2,700 churches from 16 countries will share stories about the reality of slavery and call on their congregants to partner with IJM until all are free. The call to act on slavery will go out in 10 different languages as Christians worldwide unite to fight for more than 40 million men, women, and children who are in slavery today.
I corresponded with Mike Hogan, IJM’s national director for church mobilization, about Freedom Sunday and the evil of modern slavery.
What exactly is modern day slavery?
Most people think slavery is a thing of the past, but there are more slaves today than ever before in human history. It’s hard to grasp, but millions of men, women, and children all around the world are considered someone else’s property. Simply put, slavery is the use of lies or violence to force another person to work for little or no pay—also because there’s no one there to protect them. In many places, the laws against slavery just aren’t enforced by the police and courts so slave owners and traffickers know they can prey on the poor without fear of any consequences at all. Think what it would be like if someone picked up the phone to call 911 and either no one was there to take the call or the operators said they couldn’t help. That is the reality millions face.
What parts of the world is slavery a problem?
Slavery is an international problem stretching around the globe, but for IJM specifically, field offices are located and case work occurs in the following places: Guatemala, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, India, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines. Just because IJM doesn’t operate in a specific country does not mean slavery does not exist, but rather our knowledge and resources are best utilized in these locations.
How does IJM work to fix broken justice systems?
IJM works to protect the poor from violence by partnering with key authorities and law enforcement in the countries where we work to help fix what is broken in the criminal justice system. We do this in four ways:
- Rescue: Partnering with local authorities to find those people suffering from violence and bring them to safety.
- Restore: Collaborating with social workers to restore survivors to their community through counseling, education, and skills training.
- Restrain: Working with local police to restrain criminals, traffickers, and slave owners from hurting others.
- Repair: Helping address gaps in the systems that will protect the poor from violence long-term.
A recent operation in the Philippines involved two girls, 14 and 15 years old, rescued from cybersex trafficking. The rescue team of IJM staff, government social workers, and police from Cebu City arrested two suspects for allegedly live-streaming sexual abuse of children to foreigners who paid to watch via webcam. The children are now safe at a temporary shelter, and IJM will support them as they are placed in longer term aftercare. This is just the beginning of the “restore” stage in a lengthy process.
What is the purpose of Freedom Sunday?
From a theological perspective, Freedom Sunday carries on the tradition of God hearing the cry of his people and rising up a champion. The church is the champion of humanity. Freedom Sunday is the vehicle by which we awaken the church to slay slavery.
Practically speaking, IJM is striving to bring that theology to life. Two years ago, IJM CEO and founder Gary Haugen had a vision to empower churches to mobilize their congregations one Sunday every year to share God’s plan to end slavery to join the fight together as God’s hands and feet until all are free. What started as a pilot U.S.-based project has grown this year to have global reach with more than 2,700 churches from 16 countries in 10 different languages sharing real stories about the reality of slavery and calling on their congregants to partner with IJM.
What can local churches do to help end slavery?
While the problem of modern -ay slavery can feel overwhelming, IJM believes that the local church has the power to help end slavery, and Freedom Sunday helps unlock that power in four key ways:
- Proclaim reality: Surprisingly, many people do not know that slavery still exists. The first step to ending it is, quite simply, to make people aware of the reality of slavery and to speak boldly about our call as God's children to help in the fight.
- Promote action: Scripture is packed with examples of God's heart to seek justice for the marginalized, enslaved, and oppressed. While Freedom Sunday is the first step to learning about slavery, it cannot stop there. It must be a Sunday that leads people to action, calling people to use the gifts that God has given them—their talent, influence, and resources—to combat slavery. For some, that may be volunteering their time, and for others, that may be giving financially—whatever your means, IJM urges you to get involved.
- Unify: History shows that a unified church is unstoppable. We must come together as one church, for one purpose. What a powerful witness to the world when the church is united to end an evil like slavery rather than being united on the defense in a culture war.
- Engage: Your church can help shine a light on the injustice, and we can help. If your church is interested in participating in Freedom Sunday, IJM has planning resources, compelling media, and potential speakers and pastors all ready to serve you and your church. Visit http://www.ijm.org/get-involved/churches.
- Lastly, pray.
Is it too late for my church to participate?
While the “official” Freedom Sunday is Sunday, September 24, there are other churches that are hosting on alternative dates. It’s not the exact date that matters, but that congregants hear about God’s plan to end slavery regardless of timing.
If you are not able to make it to a church participating, please tune in on our Facebook page at 10 a.m. EST on September 24 to hear from Louie Giglio as he shares how God leads “freed people to free others.”