Have you ever felt so passionate about a subject or cause that you felt you had to stand up and fight – that you could no longer be silent? One prominent figure who felt strong convictions and displayed his passion publicly for injustices that were taking place in our world was Martin Luther King. While it is apparent that King wasn’t afraid to take a stand for what he believed in, can we say the same about ourselves? Whatever the subject matter, everyone gravitates towards some type of cause – something that stirs passion within their hearts. One such matter that many people are beginning to take a stand against is the epidemic of human trafficking. In Matthew 25:40, it states: “The king will answer them, 'I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant [they seemed], you did for me.'” Wouldn’t God want us to stand up and fight for those who are being exploited and violently abused, day after day? Human trafficking is a serious matter and the problem won’t go away over night, but with many voices uniting as one and trusting that God’s power and love is standing with them, progress can be made.
Individuals and organizations from all over will soon come together on one special day to bring a voice to those who are enslaved. Recently made popular love riots have been planned all across the nation to show that communities can come together in peace and love to stand strong on a particular subject. In addition to these love riots and their crowd camaraderie, flash mobs, petitions, rallys, art shows and social media are some of the other events that will take place to celebrate Redemption Day – 11.11.11. This specifically designated day is an organized campaign designed under the umbrella of the non-profit organization Redeem The Shadows (RTS), and will highlight the epidemic of human trafficking. The goal of 11.11.11 according to RTS’ Founder and CEO, 25 year old Noel Thomas, is to “inspire our generation to fight back against human trafficking using tools relevant to them and to also create communal noise on the issue that will inspire further action from individuals, groups and organizations.” In addition, the organization hopes to “criminalize human trafficking in all 50 states and also raise funds for their first rescue home.”
Thomas knew at the age of 21 that the injustice of human trafficking was an issue he wanted to tackle. Born and raised in Florida, he grew up in a Christian home, accepted Christ at an early age and really began to take ownership of his faith during his mid-teens. “It took time for me to think outside of what my parents and church taught me and I explored Christ personally for the first time,” he shares. Coming from a long line of lawyers and showing natural talents for speech and debate in high school, Thomas surprised everyone when he finished his Bachelor’s Degree and decided to tour globally as a keyboardist in an electronic rock band with the organization Operation Mobilization. It was while he was overseas that he first heard about the issue of human trafficking. “I remember looking at this pamphlet that talked about young children, six or seven years old, being raped up to 20 times a day for profit – I had never heard anything like this before. I started to learn more and more about it, and at the time, awareness about the issue was just beginning to happen…and so I thought we could use our band as a platform to push awareness about trafficking,” he explains. “A lot of times we are confronted with issues that are hard to tackle or that grab us emotionally…and over time we forget about it or become apathetic. A passion started within me in regards to human trafficking and I had this burning desire to do something about it.”
Having gained knowledge about the issue and wanting to take action, Thomas founded Redeem The Shadows – an organization that “stands united to abolish modern day slavery through awareness, mobilization and rehabilitation of trafficked victims for the glory of Jesus Christ,” according to the organization’s website, RedeemTheShadows.org. With the contacts Thomas had made through the band and touring around the world, he was able to put a team together that journeyed to India – where all of the team members got a close up look at the dark and evil world that is human trafficking. “India was a complete eye-opener; I realized how blessed and fortunate we are as a nation. I saw families that were living in dirt, practically starving to death. We were taken into the brothel areas and watched girls as young as 11 and 12 behind iron bars and barbed wire, while men would be cutting a deal with their traffickers outside,” Thomas tells. “The most shocking story that I heard and which impacted me the most was listening to this mother who had her young son taken by traffickers. After he was in the hands of the traffickers, the son was drugged and forced to undergo a sex change operation – he is now sold as a female sex slave. I will never forget the heartbreak that this woman had endured.”
It was after the trip to India that Thomas felt God calling him to officially and legally assemble Redeem The Shadows into a non-profit organization; fundraisers, speaking engagements and events quickly began to follow. The organization’s team members have spoken in over 30 different cities in the U.S. within schools, churches and coalitions. Thomas wants to get the message out that human trafficking isn’t specific to countries overseas…that the very same evil is alive and well and happening in cities all across America. “I will never forget the faces of these young girls we saw while doing undercover research outside a brothel in Houston; they were bruised and completely emotionless. Many times these young women are lured in from other countries with the promise of a good job and stable work, usually in nail salons, massage parlors or as a nanny. Once they get to the U.S. their passports are stolen, they are forced into prostitution, raped and beat up, and many that are left unrescued die a horrible death from either a sexually transmitted disease or from physical abuse. Many never share their story or cry out for help because they cannot speak the language. Also, people don’t realize just how profitable trafficking humans really is. A consumer product gets sold once and a profit is made one time, but these victims on the other hand are being sold over and over again for sex all day long, and are a constant source of money for these trafficking rings,” explains Thomas.
Considering that human trafficking is the second largest illegal trade globally next to drug trafficking, many people ask the question, “Why isn’t something being done to help these victims?” Thomas explains that, “When our organization sat down with police they explained how lack of funding and officers makes it very difficult to arrest those who run trafficking rings. Also, officers and departments must have a rock solid case for the traffickers to actually be charged and jailed. Often, by the time officers have built their case against certain rings of traffickers, members have moved on and shuffled the girls to so many different locations that it is hard to find them again.”
Overseas, some countries have taken unique approaches to spreading awareness about traffickers in the area…and these approaches seem to be working. For instance, public shaming has helped reduce trafficking in Sweden; photographers in Amsterdam will sit outside brothels and photograph johns who use the services of these young women… their photos are then published in the local Newspapers. “People are going to have to step up and display courage to put an end to this modern day slavery,” adds Thomas. “These traffickers are so brutal in their tactics against children, we have to fight back just as hard and we have to use everything in our power to give a voice to these victims who have no voice.”
For Thomas, the famous words of Edmund Burke ring loud and clear: “Evil prevails when good men do nothing.” With this quote in mind, Redemption Day 11.11.11was birthed – and it will give everyone across the globe a chance to do something. “The mission of Redemption Day is to generate relevant awareness and create tangible action. We hope it will be a way to educate communities that slavery is happening in their own backyard. We will give them the tools to fight back. Our hope is to make people aware and to inspire them to go a step further,” Thomas states. Redemption Day is a tool that will help bring the body of Christ and communities together to hold various events and give hope to the hopeless, by spreading the word of Christ’s redeeming love.
Individuals, groups, churches, and various organizations have already jumped on board in regards to Redemption Day, each one creating a special type of event that day to bring awareness to the community around them.
If you feel led to organize a love riot, flash mob, art show, rally or other special event for Redemption Day in your area, visit Redemptionday.us for more information. To learn more about Redeem the Shadows, please visit RedeemTheShadows.org. Redeem The Shadows can also be found via Facebook and anyone interested in getting involved in Redemption Day can download the organization’s app in the app store by searching “Rday2011”.