NFS News Archive Freedom Sunday
In the United States, we eat tomatoes, strawberries, and blueberries that may have been harvested by slaves. We wear clothing and use technology that comes from places where slavery is producing consumer goods. Seventy percent of the world’s chocolate comes from a region where there’s slave labor. And this brings me back to the matter of personal righteousness versus social righteousness: we can’t say that we love Jesus and that we’re going to follow God while not caring about the economics surrounding our lives or about how we live our lives. The good news is that when we make a stand, a handful of people become an army of people one day at a time, one issue at a time. If everybody stops eating slave-harvested chocolate, the people who sell that chocolate are going to change their ways because they want to make money. And so while we all contribute to modern-day slavery, we all have an incredible opportunity to change it.
Over 5,000 faith communities in more than 100 different countries used worship as a catalyst to transform the world on February 26, participating in Not For Sale’s most powerful global celebration of freedom to date. “This was our biggest year ever,” noted President and Co-Founder David Batstone, who spent Freedom Sunday preaching to over 600 people at Jesus Reigns in the Philippines.
Following on the heels of Freedom Sunday, Mark Wexler, Executive Director and Co-founder of Not For Sale, will present at Spring Arbor on February 29, followed by Kevin Austin, Director of the Abolitionist Faith Community, from March 7-9. In 2012, Not For Sale seeks to engage communities around the United States and the world, equipping individuals with innovative and practical solutions, and empowering them to work against the prevalence of modern-day slavery in their own backyards.
Retreating from the world’s problems is not an option for a person committed to following a God that calls for the “chains of injustice” to be untied (Isaiah 58). Sacrificing comfort, stability, and security in order to actively serve others was Jesus’ mission statement. With the Bible containing almost 2,000 passages pertaining to social justice, there is no rationalization for the Christian church’s apathy.
On February 26th, freedom will ring from Bangkok to Managua, Austin to Sydney as thousands of churches around the world mobilize their congregations to take action towards “setting the captives free.” Through a day of collective fasting and prayer Freedom Sunday will rally religious devotees to join the global fight to end slavery in our lifetimes. “Worship is the catalyst for action,” claims Rev. Kevin Austin, Director of the Abolitionist Faith Community, “It empowers the worshiper to move out beyond awareness to action.”
“Christian life is not a life divided between times for action and times for contemplation. No. Real social action is a way of contemplation, and real contemplation is the core of social action. . . The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it.”
This is the vision of Not For Sale’s Freedom Sunday campaign. What is the best way to defeat the evil driving modern-day slavery? Worship. Not sit in the church and soak it up worship; not singing in the car on the way to the mall worship; but hope-infused, prayer-filled, smart activism worship.
More than 4,000 churches in 100 countries have already responded to this call to action by registering for Freedom Sunday on February 26, 2012. The message they seek to disseminate is clear: Set the captives free … by praying, fasting, and giving for freedom. Manifested within this global celebration of freedom is the potential for churches to become further engaged in the movement to end human trafficking. Freedom Sunday can transcend the framework of a one-day event and serve as a transformative learning experience for churches to become long-term “agents of redemption.”
My own human rights agency, Not For Sale, is convinced as well that people of faith have a unique, vital role to play beyond the ending of forced labor. It’s not enough to extract an individual from bondage. Once people are set free from a rug loom, a rice mill, a brothel, then what? If we do not shift our cultural values and generate new economic and political options, modern-day slavery will continue to thrive. In other words, we have to move upstream to identify the root problems for slavery and create effective solutions.