Dordt College News

Justice Week helps students see child slavery up close

August 17, 2011

Dordt’s Justice Matters club has an ambitious mission: to raise awareness of injustices in the world and to promote student action.

To help achieve this goal, the club hosts an annual Justice Week each spring.

This year, from April 11-15, the Justice Matters club partnered with the library for the first time, combining Justice Week with National Library Week to help raise awareness of issues affecting children: literacy, human trafficking, AIDS, and local immigration.

Presentations and information abotu the plight of chidlren around the world were plentiful on campus during the week of April 11-15. The presentation on modern day slavery by Melissa Brisbin frmo The Center to Restore Trafficked and Exploited Children in Cedar Rapids had an especially powerful effect on studetnts who attended.Club leaders organized a whole week of activities and presentations. Club sponsor and social work professor Abby Foreman, explains, “We want people to be able to learn about issues here and around the world and give them tangible ways to get involved.”

Approximately 70 students wore orange T-shirts imprinted with the word “Orphan.” The goal was to raise awareness that one in 20 children in sub-Saharan Africa are orphaned by AIDS.

Junior Jeni Kanis, a social work major and a leader in the Justice Matters club, explains, “The T-shirts helped students gain ownership of the issue of AIDS orphans. It got them personally involved by having to explain what their shirts represented.”

Students were also encouraged to write letters to their senators or representatives about issues raised throughout the week.

One of the main events of the week was a presentation by Melissa Brisbin from The Center to Restore Trafficked and Exploited Children (CRTEC), based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The organization seeks to educate and mobilize people to fight against modern day slavery. Brisbin is the Child Services Director at CRTEC, and she works directly with young people who have been involved in human trafficking.

Brisbin explained that there are currently between 27 and 30 million slaves worldwide, and human trafficking occurs just as much in the United States as in other countries. Trafficking is currently on the rise in Midwest states. Using the internet, traffickers often use technology to “sell” or “target” potential or already captured slaves. Although kidnapping is a common method to acquire slaves, traffickers also lure young people by building up their hopes and promising happiness. The additional use of coercion and brutality can handicap these children mentally and emotionally, making it impossible for them to even consider leaving.

Although Brisbin discussed many dark topics, she ultimately revealed the hope that is possible through Christ. “When you bring light into the darkness, the darkness flees,” explained Brisbin. She told many stories of broken and abused young people who found a new hope in the power and healing of Christ. Brisbin encouraged her listeners to be advocates for modern day slaves and to bring this crime out of the darkness.

Kanis remarks, “We often hear about trafficking in Thailand or other faraway places, but this helped to raise awareness that it happens here too. Students responded very positively to this presentation.”

Students also had opportunities to be involved in light-hearted activities. Because of this year’s partnership between the library and Justice Matters, the library’s annual paper airplane contest helped to raise awareness about worldwide literacy: each sheet of paper displayed the literacy rates of various countries.

“The partnership with the library raised the visibility of the week’s events,” notes Foreman. The Justice Matters club hopes to build on this partnership next year.

The response to Justice Week was encouraging. Students showed increased interest in the Justice Matters club and concern for various justice issues.

“Part of our calling as Christians is to seek justice and bring redemption,” Kanis explains. “We need to speak for those who don’t have a voice instead of looking the other way.”


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