Bearing Witness to Modern-Day Slavery
- 2012 May-June
Peggy Callahan co-founded Free the Slaves, one of the leading anti-slavery organizations on the planet, and set about building a movement in a world where many people still believe that Abraham Lincoln ended slavery.
Why did you start Free the Slaves?
We started Free the Slaves to end slavery. Finally. Forever. I appreciate that this sounds simplistic or perhaps naïve. It is audacious, and it is possible. The laws are in place and getting stronger. There are no huge populations defending the right to have slaves, as there were in the 1800s. And no country’s economy is dependent on slave labor. The time is right - which is good thing, because we’re impatient.
Was it hard getting people to “see” that slavery exists?
In the beginning we looked like we had lost our minds telling folks that there were more slaves today than at any other time in human history ― 27 million to be exact. Free the Slaves had great, credible research to help convince people that there was a problem. Next we began building a video library that we share freely with the media so they can help tell the story to millions of people. We wanted the public to ‘see’ the horror of slavery as well as the solutions to ending slavery..
It seems like what little awareness there is of slavery takes a backseat to funding art museums and football stadiums. With slavery touching children, women, and men worldwide, why is ending slavery still not a top priority for most people?
I think it is becoming a top priority. The media is helping make this happen. The fact that S&H is doing a story on Lisa’s amazing work with Free the Slaves means an entirely new audience will hear about slavery. CNN is doing a massive ‘Freedom Project’ that is covering slavery every day of the year. Al Jazeera has a major anti-slavery project, as does mtvU. Major motion pictures, such as Takenhave highlighted slavery ― so awareness is increasing quickly.
That’s a good thing. That being said - everyone has a role to play and can help us create a world of true freedom. There are 27 million good reasons for us all to do something and make fighting slavery a priority.
What one incident can you tell us that would explain why you keep working to free the slaves?
I have had the great honor to interview and tell the stories of people on five continents who are still in slavery or only recently freed. I get to witness the majesty of the human spirit ― to see so much light from so much darkness.
One young woman I interviewed in Cambodia had escaped sex slavery, where she was subjected to every physical and spiritual pain possible. Today, she goes undercover, returning to the brothels to help other women to freedom. When I asked her what she would say to her traffickers if she ever saw them, she said, “I would thank them for making me the strong woman I am today.” As for me, how can I not keep working to end slavery?
How to Stop Slavery Now
By Peggy Callahan
Every time humanity has taken a giant step forward―be it the civil rights movement, women’s right to vote, or the historical anti-slavery movements―it has been because people from all walks of life cared enough to stand up, speak their minds, and do something. The world needs to be changed some more. Slavery exists and it must end. You’ve now seen it with your own eyes. What is the way that YOU are going to be part of the solution?
If You Have One Minute
• Tell the next person you meet about slavery. Encourage him or her to visit freetheslaves.net for more information.
• Sign up for Free the Slaves email updates. We’ll keep you informed with inspiring, regular updates (without spam), and we’ll let you know when an email or phone call to your congressperson will make a significant difference.
• Give the gift of freedom. Make a tax-deductible donation, and know that you are helping to make the difference between slavery and freedom for another human being. You can give online at freetheslaves.net.
If You have One Day
• Host a book club or movie night. Educate your faith community, school, family, coworkers, and neighbors about modern slavery. Encourage them to become involved. See how inspired and inspiring your friends and neighbors can be. Tools are available at freetheslaves.net. Or you can buy Slavery: The Book(100 percent of proceeds donated to Free the Slaves), with Lisa Kristine’s photos (www.lisakristine.com).
• Get creative: run a marathon, organize a benefit concert, paint, fast, dance ― you name it. Raise awareness, raise funds, and raise your own sense of what is possible when your passion, skills, and conscience unite.
If You Have One Week
• Major donors to Free the Slaves are eligible to join staff for life-changing field visits to programs around the world. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
Giving for a Lifetime
• Some of you may be inspired to make ending slavery your number-one issue or even your life’s work.
• Warning: your life may become filled with meaning.