Story by Abby Siegel, News Editor
Through the END IT Movement coalition, the fifth annual ‘Shine a Light on Slavery’ Day was Thursday with the goal of bringing awareness to the estimated 20 – 45 million modern day slaves around the world.
Nonprofits such as A21, World Vision, International Justice Mission, World Relief and 12 others are part of the coalition as well.
On Feb. 23, activists are encouraged to draw a red ‘X’ on their hand and post a photo of it on social media to bring awareness of modern day slavery. Celebrities and athletes such as Ashton Kutcher and Peyton Manning participated, and President Donald Trump vowed to fight this epidemic through efforts lead by the departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
Various other fundraisers and events were held across the world to ‘shine a light’ on modern day slavery, known as human trafficking, which comes in the forms of coerced or forced work or sex.
First Baptist Church of Paducah held an event organized by college students to support local faith-based nonprofit Victory Through Grace – a free restoration home for victims of human trafficking, founded in 2012.
“A keyload of drug can only be sold once, but a person – a man, woman, child – can be sold up to thirty times a day, it depends on what the quota is,” said Carol Smith, co-founder of Victory Through Grace.
Smith said 300,000 children will be trafficked in the United States, and Nashville one of the largest hubs of sex trafficking in the United States, which she defines as “the 21st century Holocaust.”
“Our goal is that each young woman will gain self-worth and wholeness in Christ so they can become productive citizens and impact future generations,” Smith said.
Rusty Banks, pastor for Children and Activities at First Baptist Church of Paducah, said they decided to host the event after attending the Passion Conference for Christian college students in January. At the conference the END IT Movement was showcased, and since then the college ministry has wanted to do something to contribute to the cause.
At the event, graduate of the Victory Through Grace Program, Samantha Hope, shared her story of overcoming child neglect and sex trafficking.
She said her childhood involved being passed between her divorced parents – her father was an alcoholic and her mother was addicted to drugs. She began being trafficked when she became an escort online when she was in high school.
Now, it has been a year and a half since Hope said she has been freed from human trafficking. She has five months left of cosmetology school which she said she loves because she gets to make others feel beautiful.
For those wanting to help others who have been impacted by human trafficking, Hope said it is important to show kindness to them even if you disagree with their actions.
“Love people with everything you have and love them right where they are at,” Hope said.