Walk around on almost any college campus and you’re likely to encounter several student organizations promoting their effort to raise awareness and make a change in our society. Whether they lure you in with the free food, catchy music or bright brochures, many have noble causes, and deserve your attention and participation.
In early January, students gathered at a conference in Atlanta, Ga., to discuss one such cause and become a part of Passion 2012, a movement to raise awareness and funds that has inspired more than 40,000 students from 31 countries to make global changes by beginning with their own community.
This year’s conference was heavily focused on helping those who cannot rise up and speak for themselves: victims of human trafficking. The conference is intended to shed light on this often overlooked issue, help the voices of victims of human trafficking become heard, and highlight success stories of past victims who have been able to overcome the challenges they faced. Conference participants are encouraged to make donations to the cause, and the funds raised at the events are then distributed to victims of human trafficking all over the country.
The founder of Passion Louie Giglio is deeply concerned for global issues like human exploitation. As a pastor of a church in Atlanta, he has met victims of trafficking in his own town.
“We have people in our city that are a part of this crazy world we live in that are exploited on different levels,” Giglio said. “We have a church in a part of Atlanta where there are high concentrations of [so-called] adult businesses. Those folks would come to our gatherings, and I’d meet people both local and abroad.”
Giglio said although we often hear these stories of oppression, people tend to think that the incidents must be occurring in places like India or on the border of Nepal.
“But in every city in the world there’s some kind of human exploitation going on; in every small town and every big town,” Giglio said. “We need an awakening. It’s a human problem. We want to take advantage of people because of our brokenness.”
With 27 million victims of human trafficking in the world, Giglio said tackling a problem with such vastness might seem overwhelming.
Giglio believes this underground issue is more complex because people may be focused on their own tasks of life.
“I think the general rule of life is each of us are preoccupied by the things we care about: where am I going to eat, who to hang out with, who updated their Facebook status, at what time is Hunger Games playing?” he joked. “It takes looking out to understand that there’s a world outside of what we think is important.”
His faith and love for humanity helped him realize that there are no insignificant people in the world. “You can start looking out into the world that society has marginalized, whether it is ethnically or racially or for financial reasons and you think, wow, those people matter to God, they should matter to me.” And the Passion movement was derived from this very same realization.
Reflecting on his youth, Louie said people grow up thinking they have to “sort of wait in life”, but they don’t have to. He said it’s not about getting a degree or landing the perfect job. Rather, it’s about wanting to do something right here and right now.
Giglio believes the best way to impact change is to just “live it out” and start making a difference. The first step to making this difference, however, is to get informed.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how many college students didn’t know [about trafficking], but left and said ‘Oh my gosh, this actually happens where I live.’”Giglio said.
But the most important element, Giglio believes, is to have a heart full of activism that goes beyond buying Toms shoes or buying a T-shirt from your favorite good-doing organization. “[Activism] involves taking hands to the plow, becoming a magnet,” he said, “and that’s the kind of activism we hope to inspire at our Passion conferences.” After attending the conferences, Giglio hopes that students will find ways to get active in their own communities to shed light on this issue, and help make a change.
He also hopes that people are careful that the fight for freedom doesn’t become a fad--a temporary way of having people think they are making a change. Eradicating human trafficking and slavery completely is a dauntingly challenging task, and though it will be a difficult journey, Giglio is confident that we need to continue to “dig our heels into this issue.”
Photo courtesy of 13wmaz.com.