Students on campus stood in Speakers Circle from noon Thursday to 3 p.m. Friday to join a nationwide protest of human trafficking.
Stand for Freedom, an event sponsored by the International Justice Mission, is meant to raise awareness of modern-day slavery.
“It’s not something we want to be silent about, we need to put an end to human trafficking and free the 27 million people enslaved around the world,” said Linnea Hardin, co-founder of Mizzou Stand for Freedom.
The movement aimed to raise $2,700 in donations and acquire 1,000 signatures on a national petition to be given to President Barack Obama.
“We are petitioning our country to allocate funds to free more and more people,” graduate student Ashley Warfield said.
Mizzou Stand for Freedom aimed to have 270 students stand in Speakers Circle over the course of 27 hours to raise awareness on campus of human trafficking. The $2,700 in donations, 270 people and 27 hours represent IJM’s estimation of 27 million people held in slavery.
IJM is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression, according to the IJM website.
The organization works with local law enforcement agencies to rescue victims of modern slavery and prosecute the offenders of human trafficking. IJM also provides services for the victims, which include schooling, counseling and financial compensation.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the stresses we face here, but when you step back, our problems are so minute compared to those of the victims of human trafficking,” Hardin said. “We’re really blessed to have the freedom that we do.”
Hardin and MU students Jill Bushery, Erin Burris and Corey Bunch attended the Christian conference “Passion” in Atlanta. At the conference, they learned about human trafficking and the movement to stop it.
At the conference, IJM President Gary Haugen gave a speech about the injustice occurring throughout the world today, Bushery said.
“I was shocked that there are still 27 million people that are slaves today,” she said. “That’s more than any other time in history. And I thought, I have this freedom and I want to use my freedom to fight for freedom for others.”
Mizzou Stand for Freedom received funding from Missio Dei, Sigma Phi Lambda sorority, Grace Bible Church on Blue Ridge and other religious organizations on campus and in Columbia. Donations will be accepted until March 31 and can be given online.
Students and volunteers across the country, and even in Hong Kong, stood throughout the night in protest, Linnea said.
“Even though it will be uncomfortable and tedious it will remind me of how privileged I am,” she said. “Their hardships are so much worse. This is a small portion of the suffering they go through.”