Milligan’s International Justice Mission chapter marched in downtown Knoxville with A21 in a Walk for Freedom. The club left at six in the morning on Oct. 14 and walked in all black with hundreds of other advocates for people in slavery.
Students covered their mouths with tape and held signs with facts about slavery, one sign stating that only one percent of slaves are ever rescued.
“It was a really great experience,” Praise Gichuru, IJM’s president, said. “It was great to have everyone there walking to raise awareness.”
The walk happened during the morning of a University of Tennessee game against South Carolina. Football fans flooded into the downtown area. It was a prime time to be raising awareness on an issue like slavery. However, when game-goers passed or drove by, some booed or yelled “go home.” Many people just stared.
“It’s difficult to be in those situations where people would rather be ignorant of an issue than do anything about it,” Gichuru said. “It makes me very frustrated but also thankful for A21 for doing their job of raising awareness.”
A21 is a Christian-based nonprofit, non-governmental organization that seeks to end slavery through interacting with governments. It is currently operating in 11 different countries focusing on sexual exploitation, child soldiery, forced slave labor and bonded labor. They also use education to prevent slavery.
The Walk for Freedom was a worldwide walk. The walk in Knoxville has been organized for two years. This year another walk in Kingsport was organized. Local churches and college clubs attended the walk in Knoxville and the morning started with prayer and worship before attendees began walking in a single file line down the sidewalk. They walked for almost two miles before returning to their original area.
“Last year, people asked us what we were walking for,” Gichuru said. “This year, no one did. The environment was more tense.”
According to the A21 website, there are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today that generate an industry of around $150 billion.