International Justice Mission student chapter seeks to raise awareness about trafficking

Story and photos by Michael Cleverley

Solar panels play a big role in creating green energy and cutting down the carbon footprint, but an obscure human cost often goes unnoticed. The Uyghurs (wee-ger) are an ethnic minority group that are a target of human rights violations in China. China uses Uyghur labor to produce a variety of products, including solar panels.

The Chinese government uses reeducation camps to indoctrinate Uyghurs with government ideology. Reports released tell of women being raped by guards, and children are separated from their families. Other reports speak of forced organ harvesting. China rejects these claims saying that reeducation is the only activity going on in the camps.

The International Justice Mission (IJM) Cedarville chapter held an event on Feb. 10 highlighting the human rights abuses against the Uyghurs. They partnered with the Alexander Hamilton Society, a national nonprofit organization focused on teaching young people about foreign policy and national security to help them enter those career fields. The Alexander Hamilton Society brought in a human rights lawyer born in China. Nury Turkel, to speak on the issue.

Turkel works on behalf of the Uyghurs and raises awareness of their situation. He feels a connection to them based on what his family went through during the Cultural Revolution (1964-1976). Turkel’s parents were sent to reeducation camps, where he was born, during the Cultural Revolution. These camps were used to oppress people labeled as capitalists and intellectuals who weren’t Communist enough.

The government desires a uniform Chinese culture. It views religion as a threat undermining government authority. The Chinese government rationalizes its actions, saying they’re working to prevent terrorism. Their reasoning is that the Uyghurs are Muslim and vulnerable to radicalization. They cite previous terrorist attacks by a few Uyghur individuals as a justification for their attempts to erase Uyghur culture.

IJM works to fight against human trafficking around the world through anti-slavery operations and raising awareness of slavery’s existence in the modern world. China isn’t among these countries. IJM can only operate in countries that give them permission. This requires IJM to talk with governments and explain why human trafficking is bad because some countries don’t know.

IJM also fights against sex trafficking. On Feb. 23 the Cedarville University IJM chapter hosted a Thursday Night Live (TNL) in Stingers when they held a panel discussion with Linda Mortenson, the director of Safe Harbor House in Springfield, Ohio. Safe Harbor House is a faith-based program that takes in women recovering from substance abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and sex trafficking. They offer housing, therapy, and education to prepare the women to reenter the world.

During the discussion, Mortenson told a story about a woman who recovered in their program. She didn’t come to their program because she wanted to. She was there because she was arrested, and a judge told her she could either do more prison time or complete the Safe Harbor House program.

Originally, she didn’t view herself as being trafficked. After a while, she realized that she’d been a victim of human trafficking. Eventually, she became a Christian and graduated from the program.

One of the largest factors feeding the sex trafficking industry is pornography. Cedarville University’s Title IX office held an event on Feb. 27. They brought in anti-trafficking organization Dear Dinah to speak on sex trafficking. Mandy Reed, the founder of Dear Dinah, said that porn is the third most common form of sex trafficking. She also said that around 28,218 users watch porn every second.

Luke Roche, the Cedarville IJM events coordinator, struggled with porn during high school and that’s what caused him to start researching human trafficking.

“I was battling pornography addiction,” Roche said. “One of the biggest tools that helped me overcome that addiction was being introduced to these organizations and realizing how much in that space of pornography there’s human trafficking and slavery that goes on, whether you see it and realize it or not. I wanted to research it a lot more because I wanted to see how my actions could be influencing people in a way that I didn’t even realize.”

One of the reasons Roche speaks out against human trafficking is that many Americans don’t realize how many everyday products they buy are created with slave labor. These products include food and clothing. Roche desires to inform people about these issues so they can make decisions based on how their actions will impact other people. Specifically, he wants to help people in similar situations as he was in high school.

IJM offers multiple opportunities for people to get involved in the fight against human trafficking through partnering with them. Students help IJM by forming campus chapters.

“We partner with IJM to represent them through awareness and advocacy,” said Abbie Bowman, IJM Cedarville chapter president. “So, bringing light to the issue of human trafficking and slavery and bringing awareness to how they fight human trafficking and slavery.”

The chapters fundraise and hold awareness events. When student chapters fundraise, the money goes to IJM, which uses it for missions and to pay employee salaries. They also hold bi-weekly prayer meetings where students can pray about human trafficking. IJM sends the campus chapters a list of requests related to their work.

Awareness events held by chapters inform students about the modern-day reality of human trafficking. Chapters invite speakers to come to events and speak about issues relevant to human trafficking.

As event coordinator, Roche contacts the people co-hosting the event with them. He also reserves the rooms and equipment for the event. The rewarding part of Roche’s position is seeing events go well, students sign up on their email list or people who went to events contacting him to tell him about what they learned and how they were impacted.

“That’s ultimately why I’m involved in the organization is to help the student body, raise awareness over the topic of modern-day slavery,” Roche said.

Roche always wanted to get a job he could use for ministry but not as a missionary. He determined what he wanted to do during his time at Cedarville.

“I found out that I really enjoy politics, at least studying how it works,” he said. “And I still wanted to have an impact in the human rights space.”

Working with IJM influenced Roche and helped orient him to what career path he might take.

“That’s when I kind of came to the idea of, ‘what if I worked with an organization,’” he said. “Either the International Justice Mission, or even above them at the United Nations, the U.S. government, and the human rights department eventually.”

Roche is passionate to speak out because many Christians he’s spoken to don’t understand that slavery still exists. Roche notes that many Americans believe slavery ended when slavery of Africans was abolished in the U.S. But almost every form of slavery still exists today, including slave labor.

“I believe personally that every Christian should be informed about that and should be active in some way speaking against it,” he said.

Roche had knowledge about human trafficking before he encountered IJM. When he got involved with IJM he learned more at a professional level from people who work to fight human trafficking. Learning from their experiences helped Roche learn how to better inform people about trafficking and bring out the human element of it.

“And now having more statistics and more like this is how it affects you and how it should affect us, as Christians,” Roche said. “And then how things we do on a day-to-day basis can be impacting other people. The other aspect of it is, the more time you’re involved in organizations such as IJM, the more of a reality those problems become.”

Although constantly learning about the human trafficking situation can feel like a never-ending stream of bad news, Roche says it opens your eyes to the situations other people might be in.

“Like, hey this person I brush along at a coffee shop could also be a victim of some sort of slavery or trafficking,” he said. “So the other way it’s impacted me is just using that knowledge like how it affects the way I interact with other people because you never know, other people’s circumstances or the things that you see that might seem fine on the surface. You know, there could be other issues deep down that you just don’t see.”

No Replies to "International Justice Mission student chapter seeks to raise awareness about trafficking"

    Leave a reply

    Your email address will not be published.