Stand4Freedom, an international initiative dedicated to supporting the work of IJM (International Justice Mission) regarding the slave trade, saw the first event of its kind in Scotland on Tuesday 28th April. For 24 hours a large group of students took shifts standing in Church Square in order to raise awareness of modern day slavery, sexual exploitations and other forms of violent oppression.
Event organisers were clear to iterate that this is not just a mater that affects the third world but is, in fact, a universal issue. In 2014, the Home Office reported that there were between 10,000 and 13,000 slaves living in the UK. Though this figure represents only a very small percentage of the 35.8 million slaves that IJM estimates exist in the world today, it is shocking to learn that this is a problem that persists so close to home.
During the 24-hour period, the dedicated students sold baked goods and merchandise made by survivors of human trafficking (such as bracelets, journals and bunting). The £550 raised will be donated to IJM’s on-going mission of rescuing victims; restoring survivors; bringing criminals to justice; and strengthening justice systems. The volunteers displayed genuine passion in engaging people in conversation and offering them additional information regarding the cause. They also presented the opportunity to sign a petition encouraging the UN to adopt a firmer stance towards eradicating slavery in all its forms.
This was a small-scale charity event unlike many that are usually seen in St Andrews. A series of professional-looking profile pictures shot by Alex Shaw began appearing on news feeds a couple of days before the event, garnering both interest and intrigue. A wise choice was also made by opting out of the usual cake bartering which occurs on an almost daily basis outside the library. Instead, the Stand4Freedom created a warm and friendly atmosphere by playing live music and attracting passers-by with spoken word performances.
Event organiser Joel Butcher said “We agreed at the start that if just one person was made aware of the reality of modern day slavery then it would have been worth it” and there is no doubt that they succeeded in this endeavour. Though both the fundraising and petitioning efforts were highly impressive, this group achieved something much more remarkable than this: the beginning of a transformation of attitudes.
For further information, check out http://www.ijmuk.org/SDGs
Images sourced from the STAND4FREEDOM Facebook Event Page.