Shining a light on slavery

By Kristyn Pankiw |

Kristyn PankiwWant to hear a little-known but terrifying fact?

There are 27 million slaves in the world today.

Ever watched the movie, “Taken?” It’s like that — only worse. Not just limited to sex trafficking, there are men, women and children just like us who are forced into labor trafficking every single day. They are made to work in sub-human conditions in factories, farms and shadow businesses worldwide. Over 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women, and half of them are children.

Do you have goose bumps yet?

It’s true. From Africa to India to our own state of Florida, human trafficking has become a huge and powerful industry involving millions of innocent people—children stolen from their homes, women manipulated and kidnapped, young girls in poverty given away for the hope of a better life, only to find themselves trapped inside a world they never imagined existed.

A group of Flagler students wants to do something about it.

On April 9, ENDIT904, a local expression of the international END IT organization that aims to eliminate human trafficking, will host Shine A Light on Slavery Day. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Gamache-Koger Theater, the event will kick off with a presentation by Yannie Steiger titled, “Not for Sale: A Prophet’s Response.” The presentation will be followed by a 27-hour Stand For Freedom on the West Lawn from 7 p.m. on April 9 through 10 p.m. April 10. There will be bands, speakers and interactive stations during the event as well.

Their mission is to create awareness — to shine a light, as they put it — on the reality of slavery today and engage the Flagler campus and community in the cause for freedom.

ENDIT904 was started by the newly formed student club Love146 Task Force, a division of the organization that works toward the abolition of child trafficking and exploitation. Savannah Morton, vice-president of Flagler’s Love146 Task Force, discussed how she personally became involved in the project.

After attending the Passion Conference in Atlanta, Ga., this past winter, an event that aims to unite college students in making a difference, Morton came back to campus excited to start change in her community. After learning about the formation of the Love146 Task Force, Morton quickly got involved. The group began to gain momentum on campus and realized how many other students care deeply about issues of human trafficking.

“We decided to plan an event for International Shine A Light on Slavery Day,” she explained. “And after much collaboration and a huge group effort, ENDIT904 was created.”

In addition to the event on April 9, the ENDIT904 Team has big plans for St. Augustine. The city has a rich but intimately intertwined history with slavery, one that attracts nearly 3.5 million visitors from around the world every year. Because of this, Morton and the rest of the team see the potential of St. Augustine being an active role in combating slavery both locally and abroad. They are currently working on partnerships with various organizations in order to help those enslaved.

“This is important to us,” she said. “Slavery is wrong. You know it. We all know it. As a country, we’ve officially recognized it since 1863. But so many don’t know that it still exists so largely today, even in our own state and community.”

The ENDIT904 Team wants everyone to know about the people living in the shadows — in brothels, factories, quarries and other businesses. They believe the more people who are aware, the louder our collective shout.

“One day, when we’re old and have children and grandchildren who learn in history class that there were more slaves around the world in our day than any other time in history, they will ask us if we did anything to stop it,” Morton said. “We want to be able to tell them that we did everything in our power to bring an end to it.”

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