May 28, 2020
The fight against human trafficking has never been easy, but since the global spread of the novel coronavirus, matters have become more challenging.
Fight4Freedom, a Christian organization that advocates for and supports survivors of human trafficking (a “survivor” is a person who has experienced or is currently experiencing human trafficking or exploitation), has encountered a number of obstacles because of the pandemic. The current restrictions regarding in-person interactions have necessarily changed the ways in which workers and volunteers can interact with and provide support to survivors. Another problem is that the virus prevented the organization from holding its annual Freedom Fighters Conference, its main event of the year and an important means of sharing information.
The challenges, however, have not stopped Fight4Freedom from carrying out its mission. Emma (Witmer) Elshaw, a 2014 graduate from Emmanuel’s Bachelor of Theology in Intercultural Studies program and currently an employee of Fight4Freedom, has taken on a modified role as part of the necessary adaptations. She works in event support, and her role normally involves co-ordinating volunteers for the conference and seeking out support from businesses. Recently she has found other ways to keep people informed and connected with Fight4Freedom. This year, instead of holding the usual conference, the organization offered a free online event on April 24 featuring speaker Daniel Gilman, who talked about people’s value in God’s eyes and the relationship between human trafficking and pornography. Fight4Freedom has already begun planning for next year’s conference, to be held in April.
In addition to this planning, Elshaw has been doing some writing for the education branch of the organization. This task is not entirely new to her. When she was a student at Emmanuel, she had an interest in the issue of human trafficking and wrote an essay on systemic slavery. Now in her current role, she is using this same passion to research important topics and distribute information to others. She is currently working on a series of three blog posts that offer parents tips on talking to teens about internet safety.
Emma Elshaw’s husband, Steve Elshaw, works as the event coordinator of Fight4Freedom. He has also had to adapt to the current circumstances and has been assisting the education branch by writing curriculum.
Those who work directly with survivors have not let the restrictions stop them either. Emma Elshaw says that they “have been keeping in touch with survivors, providing physical, mental, and emotional support for them.” The main difference is that meetings are now held through digital communication services.
The resolve the Elshaws and Fight4Freedom show in advocating for the survivors of human trafficking fits in with what appears to be an important trend in evangelical Christianity. In recent years there has been an increase in awareness about the issue, and many evangelicals have gone to great lengths to help those who have been affected. Last September, a number of Emmanuel students participated in the Walk4Freedom, a prayer walk coordinated by Walk4 Freedom. As reported in an Emmanuel Bible College article, this event was a success, with a large increase in the number of walkers.
However, Elshaw believes that raising awareness is still important. When asked what people need to hear most, she responded that human trafficking is real and happens everywhere, not just overseas.
The featured photograph shows Steve and Emma Elshaw.