Taking a stand against slavery

Release Date: 3/13/2013

What do you think of when you hear the word "slave?" 

Many people in the U.S. may think that slaves are found only in other parts of the word - primarily in Africa, Cambodia, or Asia. Or they may associate the word with the southern U.S. cotton plantations of the 1800s, and think that slavery was ended here by the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed after the Civil War. They may be surprised to learn that there are currently millions of people being held in slavery around the world, and that the practice is still alive and well even in this country.

The End It! Movement

To learn more about the End It! Movement, visit their website, http://enditmovement.com

Some experts estimate that there are more than 200,000 people being held as slaves in the United States, and there may be as many as 27 million slaves worldwide, more than any other time in history. Tyra Omeir, a senior business administration major from Nicaragua, attended a Christian conference this past January, where she watched a presentation about the fight against slavery. She was shocked and saddened by what she learned.

"During the conference, we saw a video testimony from a young girl in Cambodia who was abused at a very young age and sold into prostitution in her early teens. As she narrated her story, she mentioned looking at herself in the mirror and contemplating death because she felt unworthy of being loved by anyone. After the video, they told us that the girl had traveled from Cambodia to be at the conference to testify to the power of God. She was rescued by one of the organizations the End It! Movement is supporting," Omeir said.

The young girl's testimony touched Omeir so deeply that she felt called to act. "There were a lot of people that didn't know there were that many slaves in the world. Many people didn't realize there are slaves right now in the United States," she said. "They don't think about the hundreds of thousands of people who are trafficked into the United States each year as forced labor or sex slaves."

After she returned to Ozarks, Omeir did act. She sought out members of Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Amnesty International, and the Psychology Club on campus to help organize a Stand for Freedom campaign here on campus. The campaign is promoted worldwide by the End It! Movement, which is dedicated to raising awareness of world-wide human trafficking.

As part of the campaign, students designed t-shirts and signs and pledged to stand outside in one hour time slots from noon on Wednesday to 3 p.m. on Thursday (27 straight hours), representing the 27 million people living in slavery or bondage.

During that time, the students held prayer groups and engaged in conversation with passersby. Omeir said that in total, 47 students took a turn standing outside the student center, logging over 147 hours of prayer and awareness for those suffering.

Omeir was one of several students who took the Stand for Freedom challenge to a higher level and stood for several hours at time. She stood for 13.5 straight hours, many of those spent in the frigid night air with temperatures barely topping 30 degrees.

"I wanted to stand for this little girl and for the millions who are still feeling alone and unworthy of love. I wanted to stand until I had at least an idea of what it felt like to wish someone would help me," she explained. "After standing for over 13 hours, I had a minimal idea of the pain she felt from standing hours waiting to be purchased. That little girl from Cambodia whose life was transformed by God's intervention inspired me to care more for those who suffer."

Standing for Freedom

Tyra Omeir (left) was one of 47 Ozarks students who took part in the Stand for Freedom campaign to raise awareness of the issue of slavery.

The Stand for Freedom campaign was more than just a demonstration, however. Omeir and the other standing students wanted to educate the campus and community.

"Stand for Freedom was our way of calling attention to this issue and engaging people in conversation about it. We want to let people know that there are 27 million slaves in the world today. It was our way of waking up the campus and community that the reality of slavery will not stop unless we do something," she said.

Omeir feels confident that the Stand for Freedom campaign opened at least a few eyes to the very real issue of slavery, both abroad and right here in America. And she added that she and her fellow students who braved the cold night air for hours on end found a renewed sense of commitment to their faith and their fellow man.

"Every person who stood out in the cold for hours did it as a response to God's commandment to love our brothers, even the ones we do not know," she said. "Our faith in Him moved us to take action. And we could not have done it without Him renewing our strength and hope."