In the early hours of this morning Just Love Liverpool completed their 24 hour Stand For Freedom. This event was done with the support of IJM (International Justice Mission). It is about raising awareness for the 40+ million people still trapped in slavery today.
The event began at 8am on Church Street before moving to a house of some of the JLL team to worship, pray and reflect on the current crisis. This lasted until 8am this morning.
Due to our university studies everybody took shifts. I spent 2:30-5pm on Church Street and for two of these hours I was holding a sign which read ‘How many high street shops use slave labour?’ and later on one which read ‘Stand 4 Freedom’. We wore gafatape on our mouths and fake tattoos which had a bar code and ‘slave’ written below it which Sophia designed. We wanted to send a powerful message that modern slavery has got to end.
We asked people to sign a pledge to end modern slavery. This included pledging to only drink Fairtrade tea and/or coffee for one month.
The reaction from people walking by was incredible. They were reading the signs and coming up to talk to us. Some took pictures and afterwards a gentleman encouraged us by saying “keep up the good work”. Raising awareness really can make a difference. Many people did not understand the scale of the crisis and that it was happening right here in Liverpool.
Some appeared uncomfortable and the thoughts were loud and clear: “why are they doing that?” “what help will that do?”. One man came up and told us that charities were corrupt and “standing in the cold holding signs like that” will not make a difference and he basically felt sorry for us. Tee, in charge of the JLL Personal Stream, explained that we were students, volunteers, and Just Love UK is a Christian charity that began with students recognising the need to rise up and stand against human rights violations. She quoted a figure of the number of slaves which have been set free through charities like IJM and people who do raise awareness.
Interestingly when we asked “how many people do you think are in slavery today?” many people replied “we all are, we’re slaves to the system”. When Tee asked one woman to elaborate she said “our parents sign a birth certificate and then the government own us”. She also said that this is why we need to be standing up like we were. We need to be showing the government what is right and we need to be one voice together. I loved this. But this was a complete contrast to what the gentleman I mentioned earlier said. Some people may have felt uncomfortable but some of these people were nodding their heads in solidarity with us.
Whenever someone gave us the response “Slave to the system”, the guys I was with would explain how we were raising awareness for the slaves who make our clothes, the women trapped in prostitution…
One woman told us how she had nearly been trafficked in India. Another how she had nearly been led into prostitution and knows people who are trapped and wants to help them.
Slavery still exists. Standing up for 24 hours doesn’t solve the crisis, but it can open people’s eyes to it and inspire people to stand up too.
| My time with Just Love is coming to an end now as I graduate this summer and Poppy will be taking over the Social Media. It was amazing to be part of this event and I can’t wait to see what Just Love Liverpool will do in the next year.