Eugene Cho

Why we should support #EndItMovement and why we must ask these critical questions about modern slavery.

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There are approximately 27,000,000 – 30,0000 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

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It appears I brought a little Seattle to the NYC. Drizzle fest. 24 hour gathering with a small group of leaders from around the country. Learning. Listening. Asking hard questions. Head exploding. Heart trying to have hope. As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it.

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