Students In Chains Make a Point

Editor’s Note:  As part of our current Patheos Book Club on Adam Taylor’s new book Mobilizing Hope: Faith-Inspired Activism for a Post-Civil Rights Generation, we invited a handful of “modern mobilizers” to share their stories of how they are mobilizing hope in their communities. Here, another inspired story from Lauren Selbert, ACT:S Advocacy & Campaign Fellow.

The chains ranged from fist-sized iron links to thumb-sized steel loops, but none of them were light. Heads bowed, students in black Human Wrong shirts stood for hours linked together in a row, weighed down by ropes of chains—a “human illustration” of modern-day slavery.

“I saw the chain and I wasn’t signed up to be part of it, but I decided to join, and I was up there for an hour,” said sophomore and InterVarsity member Viniceia Carter. “I think the chain is a really good visual to pull people in. It was amazing to see so many people so interested in an issue they had no idea about before.”

It was Wednesday, National Call-In Day for the Child Protection Compact Act (CPCA) and the third day of “Justice Week” at the University of Delaware. Students from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and World Vision ACT:S, partnering with several other campus groups, had organized a week-long Human Wrong creative activism campaign to educate students on human trafficking and inspire them to act.

“We did it to show people that Christians are about action, Christians are about justice, Christians are about love,” said Bryant Garcia, another member of InterVarsity. “These events we’ve had for Justice Week with InterVarsity have definitely helped change the view students have of Christians in general.”

As part of Justice Week, students wore their Human Wrong t-shirts every single day to raise awareness. They sold the shirts for $10 to support World Vision’s new anti-trafficking project in Bangladesh. Even by Wednesday, InterVarsity student leaders Molly Baker noted, people were asking about the shirts. “People are starting to say, ‘Hey, why are you wearing that shirt every day? What’s that about?” she said.

On Monday, InterVarsity hosted a screening of the film “At the End of Slavery,” which brought out around 200 people. “There were so many people, at the last minute we passed out buckets for donations and made $164!” said Annie Stuart, a junior and member of InterVarsity. On Tuesday, Francis Bok—an abolitionist and author who spent 10 years of his life as a slave in Sudan—came to speak, drawing an audience of 350 people. Wednesday was National Call-In Day, with stations set up around campus for students to call their Senators in support of the CPCA. Justice Week concluded with a “Break the Chains” event combining live music, dance, stories, and a “Fast for Freedom” on Thursday.

But even by Wednesday, the word was already spreading. A few approached the booths wearing their Human Wrong shirts, asking, “Is this where we make our phone calls?” Crowds of students flooding by on their way to class found their attention snagged by the strange sight of students in chains, frozen in a poignant picture of modern-day slavery. “Would you like to take two minutes to call your Senator to stop child slavery?” InterVarsity members called out.

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And many did. Over 300 calls to Senators were made at University of Delaware on Wednesday—and that’s not including the hundreds of calls made around the U.S. and logged online. From 11:30am to 4pm, World Vision Policy Advisor Jesse Eaves and intern Samantha Bender ran a live webcast from the Delaware campus on LiveStream. Bender and Eaves answered questions, posted videos, interviewed students, and reported on the ever-climbing number of calls.

“This is like a whirlwind,” one InterVarsity student said to another, amazed by the number of students clustered around the table, calling Senators from their cell phones.

It was a long day for the students standing in chains and manning the advocacy booths, but UDel’s creativity worked wonders. Students stopped, looked, asked questions—and acted to stop child slavery. “It’s a really cool feeling,” said Carter, “because you are one person, but when you come together in a group you really make a difference.”

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