Tennessee is the focal point this week for the national and international fight against human trafficking. Events scheduled today, Friday and Saturday highlight Tennessee’s leading role in the effort.
The Tennessee General Assembly passed a resolution earlier this year, signed by Governor Haslam, that declared October 1, 2014, “IJM Day” in support of the work of International Justice Mission (IJM). State Rep. Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) led the resolution through the Tennessee legislature, and a similar resolution for Nashville was sponsored by Metro councilman Josh Stites in 2013. Both resolutions were the first of their kind in the country.
On Friday Belmont University will host a luncheon featuring U.S. Senator Bob Corker’s Chief of Staff and IJM leadership where frontline updates on the progress made, needed and planned will be shared with an audience of academic, political, business, music and student leaders from around the area.
Also, this weekend Nashville will be host to IJM’s annual student conference, NorthStar, bringing together more than 200 young abolitionists from campuses around the country.
State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), remarked about the week’s events, “Human trafficking is a grave and expanding problem, but our work in the Tennessee General Assembly garnered Tennessee a #1 ranking in 2013 from Shared Hope International for our efforts to combat human trafficking,” he continued, “I appreciate the important work that IJM is doing to end human trafficking worldwide, and also Senator Corker ensuring that Tennessee and the United States remain at the forefront on this issue.”
Nearly 30 million men, women and children are in some kind of slavery in the world today, more than at any time in history. This includes commercial sexual exploitation, forced and bonded labor, child soldiers, human trafficking and more. The illicit profits from these horrific crimes have reached $150 billion annually, quickly making it the world’s second most profitable crime, after drug trafficking.
State Representative Williams (R-Cookeville), “I am proud to have been a small part of bringing IJM Day to fruition, to raise awareness about some of the most critical challenges facing the world today. Nearly two million children are exploited through sex trafficking and one in five women will be the victim of a violent sexual crime in her lifetime. By raising awareness and getting people involved, we can work together to change this and make the world a safer place.”
Nashville City Councilman Josh Stites says, “A resolution like the one we passed in Nashville is typically symbolic, but it’s an honor to witness the effect that Nashville’s efforts last year have had on IJM and the office of Senator Corker. I was blessed to be a part of the inaugural campus chapter of IJM in the late 90s, and their work has stuck with me ever since.”
Gary Haugen, President and founder of IJM, says, “These efforts are a welcome example of American citizens recognizing the reality of this violence – raw brutality and humiliation and oppression of innocent people, and being moved to respond. Tennessee is saying it’s not tolerating a world where millions of people are held in slavery. The reason there is so much slavery in the world is because we have not mustered the political will and capacity to stop it. Tennessee is at the forefront of changing that equation on both fronts thanks to the efforts of its people, churches and elected leaders, and IJM couldn’t be more grateful for the Volunteer State’s leadership and partnership.”
International Justice Mission is a global, non-profit organization combatting slavery, sex trafficking, rape, police brutality, property grabbing and other forms of violence in nearly 20 communities throughout Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia. Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown. He is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.