International Justice Mission (IJM) is the largest anti-slavery organization in the world. IJM works to rescue victims of sex trafficking and forced labor and to protect those whose justice systems work against them. The IJM chapter at St. Olaf kicked off their 24-hour Freedom Fast on Nov. 8 to raise awareness about the fact that there are over 40 million people still in slavery.
The purpose of the Freedom Fast is “fundraising, prayer and advocacy,” President and Founder of the IJM chapter at St. Olaf Kara Anderson ’21 said. The goal was for each participant to donate $24 to IJM, pray 24 prayers and fast for 24 hours.
“Fasting is an intentional time to put away our own needs to think about those who are enslaved and really think about where our money is going,” Anderson said.
Over 100 IJM campus chapters took part in the Freedom Fast during the first two weeks of November. IJM hoped to raise $100,000 nationally, which would fund 13 rescue missions, helping the victims and putting the perpetrators in jail.
“It’s a huge accomplishment if we are able to raise that much money,” Anderson said, noting the dozens of people that would receive aid through their fundraising alone.
Hayley Mans ’20, who participated in the Freedom Fast, found fasting to be more of a physical than fiscal reminder of the cause.
“Whenever your stomach growls, it’s like, ‘okay, I know I’m getting my next meal at 5:30 tonight, whereas there are other people where there’s not even food around or somebody else is in control of when they’re getting their next meal,’” Mans said.
Mans quoted Anderson, saying that the participants were “standing in solidarity” with those in slavery for whom fasting isn’t a choice.
Tafari Bellete ’21, who grew up in a religion where adherents fast to show respect, also participated in the 24-hour fast.
“You go through their suffering as a way to respect God and what they’re going through and understand it better so that you can address the situation,” Bellete said. “I found [Freedom Fast] to be a really good way to express this cause.”
“Fasting is an intentional time to put away our needs to think about those who are enslaved and really think about where our money is going.” – Tafari Bellete ’21
Anderson brought the IJM chapter to St. Olaf in September, and the Freedom Fast is the first of many events that the organization will host. IJM partnered with Thursday Night Bible Study for the fast, but Anderson hopes to partner with other organizations at the College and in Northfield in the future.
“The idea of IJM is not that it will be only on St. Olaf’s campus,” Anderson said. “We really want to reach out.”
Although IJM is a Christian organization, Anderson feels strongly that the fight to end slavery belongs to everyone, regardless of their beliefs.
“[IJM] is crossing borders of all religions in order to raise awareness of this much larger issue of justice and injustice,” Anderson said. “This is a mission for everybody.”
The IJM campus chapter holds meetings every second and fourth Tuesday of the month from 5-6 p.m.