Eugene Cho

Why we should support #EndItMovement and why we must ask these critical questions about human trafficking.

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There are approximately 27,000,000 – 40,000,000 million slaves in various forms all around the world. Human beings. People. Women, men, and children. We can’t mince words: It’s wrong and evil. For this reason, I’m sharing my support for ‪#‎EndItMovement‬. It sickens me to even have such a day or movement for this purpose but such is the reality of our world.

But for those that don’t know about #EndItMovement, here’s a summation:

…Join us and other Freedom Fighters from around the world as we SHINE A LIGHT ON SLAVERY. Draw a RED X on your hand. Tell your world that slavery still exists and YOU WON’T STAND FOR IT. Just use your influence any way you can to help us carry the message of FREEDOM so even more people know. Let’s make this SHINE A LIGHT ON SLAVERY DAY even brighter than ever.

I support it and thus, I’ve taken the time to place an X on my hand…and to join with others in proclaiming that I don’t want this to be just merely a gesture, a red mark, a one time action…

I deeply appreciate Louie and Shelly Giglio – the founders of the Passion Movement and the instigators of the #EndItMovement. While it would be inaccurate to say that I know them personally, I’ve met Louis on couple brief occasions including at a meeting at the White House on the matter of human trafficking. He was also generous to write an endorsement for my book, Overrated: Are We More in Love With the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?

Since organizations, leaders, and influentials have done such a good job in bringing the issues of human trafficking to the view of the larger mainstream, it’s especially important to highlight not just that “Human trafficking is wrong” but the critical discussion of “How we engage this justice work…”

The “How” is as important as the “What”…

Because I’ve been reading and hearing some comments and thoughts that have made me cringe a little, I’d like to humbly offer some random and quick thoughts – confessing that I don’t clearly know it all. In fact, you should run away as fast as possible from those that advertise that they know it all. What I have learned is that doing justice work is important but it’s even more important that we do it with integrity, transparency, and dignity – rather than a skewed perspective to feed our own personal savior complexes.

Here goes:

1. Why our heart and motivation matters.

For us as Christians, our theology matters. Meaning, what motivates, moves, and stirs us to do what we do.

Simply, our God is just and God loves justice. Justice is not an accessory God puts on and off like a trendy wardrobe. Justice reflects the character of God and thus, justice must reflect the people of God.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s critical and important work to be done. There is grave injustice to fight and justice to be pursued. There’s hard work and tenacity required…

But let’s not be afraid to ask the important questions of “Why” and “How” we engage all this important work – whatever we may be convicted of. Anything less than makes us vulnerable to being one-hit wonders rather than compelling us to the long, arduous, and tenacious marathon of justice.

2. Why we can’t reduce people into projects.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-36 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery.

Egregious. Painful. Reality.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects. Mutuality. Reciprocity. Dignity. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor.

3. Why human trafficking is complex.

To reduce it to simple terms, or simple problems, or simple solutions…cause harmful consequences. While we can all agree that it is sinful, egregious, evil, and wrong…there are many nuances and complexities. It would serve all of us to grow deep in the awareness not just of the larger issue but the nuances and complexities.

When people speak of human trafficking, they tend to be ‘attracted’ to the issue of sexual exploitation. Dare I say it, that topic has become trendy.

Clearly, it’s evil and egregious. But to reduce the entire issue of human trafficking into one form is not helpful. Because the mission is to fight the entire injustice of slavery. And if that’s the commitment, we have to not only combat sexual exploitation but engage in issues of forced labor, commercial exploitation in tourism, land rights and power abuses, organized crime networks, cultural and economic realities, etc.

4. Why awareness matters.

An X mark isn’t going to eradicate slavery.

Wouldn’t it be great if it was that easy?

But for those who are critical and even cynical about the #EndItMovement, I can’t think of any substantive actions that have ever occurred without a groundswell of awareness.

Awareness, in itself, is action but we must make sure that it isn’t the totality of our action. Awareness though can lead to action. Awareness can lead to advocacy. Awareness can lead to generosity. Awareness can lead to mobilization.

But we have to make sure awareness does not dwindle to atrophy.

5. Why our language and methodology matters.

Let’s be honest. We often want to appear to be the liberators, the heroes, the saviors…

If we’re not careful, we’ll fall into our Messianic or savior complex. This is still a growing edge for me (as I would assume it would be for others) but maintaining the human dignity of those living in oppression is absolutely critical. Some even more random thoughts:

a) Let’s be careful with the stories we share. Don’t fabricate. Don’t exploit those that we’re “helping” by using them beyond what should be ethical, dignified, etc.
b) Let’s be careful with the photos we take, distribute, and even lavish around on our merchandise. Let’s remember: These are human beings. Girls and boys. Women and men. Do we want photos of our kids on peoples’ t-shirts?

6. Why transparency matters.

There’s something disgusting about engaging in the work of justice…unjustly.

And this can especially happen when people fail to follow through on their commitment to transparency.

Please: Don’t fabricate. Don’t lie. Don’t make up stories to enhance more emotional tugging (translation: $).

Please: Make sure all your financial are front and center so that it’s easily accessible and understandable.

Please: Don’t glamorize the work or beautify it. Anytime someone paints the work of justice – including human trafficking and development – as perfect, beautiful, and without challenges and complexities and mistakes…Run. And run fast. Something is not right.

7. Why we can’t forget the small on-the-ground NGOs and CBOs.

The #EndItMovement has enormous momentum. It’s brilliant. It’s also encouraging to see numerous large and ginormous NGOs like IJM, Love146, World Relief, World Vision, Not For Sale, etc. as part of their “coalition.”

We should always celebration collaboration.

As we celebrate their work, it’s especially critical that we highlight the work of small NGOs and CBOs (community based organizations) that simply don’t get the attention. They don’t have the budget, the people power, the marketing fund, the celebrity endorsements…but their work is incredibly important, too.

The truth is many of these larger NGOs work actually through some small CBOs/NGOs on the ground – without this being widely known.

And then…there are just many small NGOs and CBOs that are tirelessly working on the ground. In speaking with some of them, they’ve honestly shared their frustrations with such kinds of movements because there’s no room and acknowledgement of their work – especially CBOs led by local indigenous leaders. The bigger orgs continue to get funding, mass marketing, endorsement, invitations, and support…and then, there’s the small, little, puny orgs that keep plugging away.

Let me pause for a moment here and say that if represent one of these small orgs: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your commitment. Your tenacity. Your perseverance. Thank you.

Clearly, there’s room for both…but I hope you’ll take time to learn and support smaller orgs as well. We need small, medium, large, and ginormous orgs… But, this is one reason why One Day’s Wages and our Human Trafficking Fund attempts to work with smaller organizations that most folks have never heard of.

8. Why solutions are not in isolation.

Oh, this is too complex to discuss in a bullet point but, much of the injustice in our world is not an isolation in itself. For example, you can’t talk about issues of poverty without issues of education.  Or water. Or access. Or gender inequality.

Such is the case with human trafficking and slavery and if this is the case, solutions aren’t in a vacuum by themselves.

Painful and true story: I met a guy once who reveled in “freeing” girls caught in sexual exploitation (especially in brothels).

It made for a great story and testimony and fundraising. The dark truth he encountered was that many of these girls were back in brothels or some form of exploitation because there was nothing for them to live into. No jobs. No stream of income. No sustenance. No community to come alongside them with care and rehabilitation. But, he confessed he couldn’t share that part of the story…because it would impact…fundraising.

As glamorous as it sounds to “rescue slaves”, we have to see the bigger picture about jobs, aftercare, economics, counseling, education, access to health care, cultural stigmatization … which explains why collaboration is so important.

So much more to share but thought I’d share these quick thoughts for now. Would love to hear from others.

What do you think?
What am I missing?
What else can we be learning?

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16 Responses

  1. Well said. You bring up a good point- most people recognize large NGOs but not smaller ones, myself included. I’m very familiar with IJM and Not for Sale but am not familiar with locally run NGOs; thanks for this post.

  2. Kristi Blackwell says:

    My church is partnering with the Well House, our local NGO to reabolish slavery in Birmingham, AL.

  3. Ben says:

    The how and why questions are probably the most important questions Christians today can ask. Frankly, the most passionate person I have ever met about social justice and trafficking is God. I clearly see His character in Amos as He judges those who sell entire communities. The God of the Bible is so passionate and emotional about social justice and He has His reasons that are rooted in His trinitarian character. As I seek to be conformed to His image and to bear His image, I seek justice and seek to share with other brothers and sisters in Christ why we should AND shouldn’t care about justice. Eugene, I’d love to talk more. You blessed me at the Justice Conference in Philly last year. Praying for you!

  4. […] just interested in reading more about it, you should absolutely, definitely, 100% for sure read this post by Eugene Cho. It’s amazing, thorough, humble, and right-on. Go read it right […]

  5. Jonathan D. says:

    Dont be slacktivists! That’s what people call us!! STEP UP! DO SOMETHING!!

  6. […] Why we should support #EndItMovement and why we must ask good, critical questions about fighting sl… […]

  7. Reblogged this on Excerpts of Imagination and commented:
    Good insight on the fight to end slavery.

  8. […] I was raising awareness but I was also learning. As Eugene Cho says, “Let’s be honest. Fighting slavery has become trendy.” Man, are we pathetic. But he’s right. Clean water is another thing that’s […]

  9. […] Why we should support #EndItMovement and why we must ask good, critical questions about fighting sl… […]

  10. Trine. says:

    Being the descendant of a nation which has been enslaved and further treated with all manner injustices and indignities; racism, police brutality, poor communities and schools, excessive imprisonment, lawless court systems which let murderers like George Zimmerman off, and gentrification just to name a few, I still have a heart and cringe to learn of this human trafficking.

  11. […] I always love Eugene’s thoughts! […]

  12. Reblogged this on myfullemptynest and commented:
    On the #EnditMovement and why it matters. By Eugene Cho

  13. hlee83 says:

    Reblogged this on Second Crossing and commented:
    I dig justice, anti-trafficking, and PE.

  14. […] (Today’s guest blogger is Eugene Cho. Eugene is the lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle. He is also the founder and director of One Day’s Wages, a movement to alleviate poverty worldwide. This post is excerpted from Eugene’s blog. You can read the post in it’s entirety here.) […]

  15. Jessica Haase says:

    Hmmm…. Not sure what to make of Love146 as large or ginormous. They are a very small, nimble and grassroots NGO. *But* I am so in agreement that ODW supports great Orgs and loved your support of Love146 here!! https://www.onedayswages.org/community/blog/2012/02/providing-hope-girls-rescued-human-trafficking-love146

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One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Thanks for your prayers. 
I have numerous stories to share but for now, the following came up in every conversation with Iraqi/Syrian refugees:

1 Have tea with us. Or coffee. Or juice. Or something with lots of sugar in it. Or better yet, all of the above.
2 We want peace. We want security. 
3 We hate ISIS. 
4 We just want to go home.
5 Please don't forget us.

Please don't forget them... Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.

#mountrainier
#seattle
#northwestisbest

my tweets

  • Boom. Final fishing trip. Grateful. A nice way to end my 3 month sabbatical. #catchandrelease twitter.com/i/web/status/9… || 20 hours ago
  • Christians: May we be guided by the Scriptures that remind us, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" and not, "Seek first the kingdom of America." || 21 hours ago
  • Every convo with Iraqi/Syrian refugees included: 1 Have tea with us 2 We want peace 3 We hate ISIS 4 We want to go home 5 Don't forget us || 3 days ago
  • Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan to assess @OneDaysWages' partnerships & to film mini-documentary on refugee crisis. So many emotions. || 3 days ago
  • Pray for Mexico. For those mourning loved ones. For those fighting for life - even under rubbles. For rescue workers. Lord, in your mercy. || 3 days ago
  • Don't underestimate what God can do through you. God has a very long history of using foolish and broken people for His purposes and glory. || 6 days ago