By Jacky Tamez
The Passion 2013 conference encouraged students to raise a voice against the injustice of human trafficking.
David Hao, assistant director of Residence Life who attended the conference, said students felt God’s calling to do more after listening to speakers from various organizations, such as International Justice Mission.
The University began an IJM chapter in the spring of 2012, but activities stopped when senior members graduated. Now as awareness of sex trafficking increases on campus, a group of faculty and students has decided to resume IJM’s activities.
IJM is a global, non-profit agency seeking to end human trafficking. Gary Haugen, who spoke at the conference, established IJM in 1997.
“It takes small steps in fighting this,” said Miriam Lopez, University missionary intern and co-adviser for IJM. “A great start is educating yourself and then others about this issue.”
The need for an organization that focuses on the prevention of sex trafficking became known after more than 50 students from the University attended the Passion 2013 conference at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia Jan. 1-4. At the conference, students learned of End It, an organization dedicated to educating people about human trafficking, and its efforts to stop it.
“Unless people know about the issue, they cannot do anything about it,” Hao said. “By taking small steps and coming together as a community, God is going to enable us to do more than we can imagine.”
The main objectives of the chapter are to raise awareness about the reality of modern-day slavery, raise a voice on victims’ behalf through advocacy and prayer and to raise funds to enable IJM to bring aid to rescue victims.
Senior Uvaldo Callejas attended the conference and decided to take small steps by praying and donating to End It.
“Some people live their life without being aware of this issue,” Callejas said. “It is important to become educated and be active in the movement either by prayer, donations or spreading the word.”
Hao also said that he views IJM as a vehicle driven by the cause to stop this injustice.
“We are starting with events to spread awareness on campus,” Lopez said. “We want the students to believe in themselves and their effort.”
On Jan. 31 in Belin Chapel, IJM will co-host a screening of an anti-sex trafficking documentary, “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls” with Elijah Rising, a local non-profit organization that also focuses on the prevention of sex trafficking.
After the screening, there will also be an organization fair in McNair Hall. The organizations present will include Free the Captives, Home of Hope, Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition and Redeem Ministries. Students can connect with these non-profit organizations and find volunteer opportunities.
In the future, IJM hopes that students will take ownership of this issue and learn that they can make a difference.
“We are called to be the hands and feet of God,” Hao said. “So bring whatever you have, even if it is not much, because God will multiply.”
To learn more about IJM, students can contact either David Hao at firstname.lastname@example.org or Miriam Lopez at email@example.com.