January 6th, 2013
07:28 AM ET

College students raise funds to fight slavery

By Jordan Hultine, CNN

Atlanta (CNN)–More than 60,000 young Christians packed the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for worship and inspiration at the Passion 2013 conference that wrapped up on Friday. They came together from 56 countries and 2,300 universities, according to organizers, “to shine a light on modern-day slavery.”

“We believe when you fill a dome full of people who say they follow Jesus, there should be some tangible action,” said Bryson Vogeltanz, chief steward of Passion’s freedom initiative. That tangible action came in the form of tens of thousands of towels and socks donated by conference-goers to be handed out at local homeless shelters in the weeks following the conference.

Vogeltanz and his team also wanted a global initiative. They focused on four key goals, which they called awake, prevent, rescue and restore. They identified 19 nonprofit organizations working around the world to eradicate modern-day slavery and human trafficking. The organizations were showcased during the conference and students and volunteers had the opportunity to donate money to the cause.

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The United Nations estimates 27 million people are entrapped in modern-day slavery at any given time around the world in a market valued at $32 billion.

Last year, Hagar International was one of the recipients of those donations. Hagar helps women and children recovering from horrific abuse and human trafficking in Cambodia, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

“We have been able to serve children who have been released from egregious abuse of being trafficked for sex, both boys and girls, in Cambodia,” said Jane Tafel of Hagar. “Those children have a new life now because of Passion 2012.” Tafel returned to the conference this year for the organization and was anxiously waiting to hear final donation numbers.

Wellspring Living, an organization that provides restorative services for girls who have been trafficked or suffered sexual abuse, said it was able to open a new transition facility as a result of the gifts that conference-goers gave last year, according to president and CEO Mary Frances Bowley.

Read More: The new Christian abolition movement

“This generation has the potential not just to end slavery, they have the potential to do anything,” Vogeltanz said. “Jesus was the original abolitionist. We’re just following what he’s already done in our lives for us," he said, referring to the Christian belief that Jesus saved all mankind from slavery and sin.

Students spent each day of the four-day conference participating in “community group” learning sessions and praise and worship led by well-known Christian musicians like Chris Tomlin.

An Atlanta-based pastor, Louie Giglio, started Passion in 1997. The goal, he said, was to see college students around the world “awaken to the reality of an omnipotent and glorious Creator.” Since then, organizers said, millions of students have joined the movement at Passion events around the world.

Sarah Stone is a college student from Atlanta who came to Passion with her church group. She said she came looking for a way to live her faith more fully. “Christianity is not just about saying a prayer and going to church on Sunday, it’s about living for Christ with every single thing you do,” Stone said.

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Belmont University student William Dodd said it’s inspiring to be surrounded by so many other college students who are gathered for the same purpose, and he is leaving with a desire to “get in the fight to end (slavery). God made us powerful creatures with a really big voice.”

“It’s inspiring to see a generation so engaged and looking out of themselves and looking at things like slavery and actually committing to making people aware of it - and it’s only the beginning,” said Jolie, who declined to give her last name, a conference volunteer who traveled from Australia to be a part of the Passion.

Passion organizers said the students gave $3,170,639 in support of their freedom initiative. Beyond fund-raising, organizers said, the goal was to shine a light on a worldwide problem and to inspire action.

Ramses Prashad, a college student from Orlando, Florida, said he has no other choice but to make a change when he gets home. “I can’t say that I didn’t know and say I wasn’t aware, so I have no other choice but to raise awareness and to do as much as I can for the cause and for the people.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (801 Responses)
  1. Jamie

    Funny, since the Hebrew Bible is OK with slavery.

    I'm a liberal Christian, and I'm very glad these young people are rising above a flawed work written by humans to fight a real issue. God Bless.

    January 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Vannais268

      The Hebrew Bible was never "okay"with slavery. God did not create anyone for slavery, but when He created us, He gave us freewill. Slavery was already an issue when the latter of the Hebrew Bible was written. Slavery is a sin, but if God just came in and took it all away, it would be interfering with our freewill. Its just like with kids, you dont want them to do something, but since you know theyre going to do it anyway, you give them instructions, not so much to encourage the task, but to keep them out of as much trouble as possible.

      January 9, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
  2. YouGottaPretendtobeReligious

    But then who will do all the nasty,hard things I don't want to do?

    Plus,slavery is a shure way that everyone knows where they rank in the world

    January 8, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Steve Jobbs

      true,I like my I-pads cheap.So what if acouple if chineeze kill themselves from over-working.There are so many of 'em.Thatcountry is too overpopulated anyway

      January 8, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
  3. Barb

    Anytime people gather to try and improve the lives of humanity as a whole, we need to applaud, encourage and support with whatever means we have! Save all you issues with "religion" or religious traditions" that disappointed you.
    They disappointed Jesus as well....
    Just stand up for "just causes." Don't worry if the person next to you is Atheist, Agnostic, Jewish,Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or a myriad of other beliefs. Just be grateful you have found some "common ground"; humanity.

    January 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  4. so sad.

    This article should be called "college students raise funds to fight slavery by using technology that is produced using slave labor while wearing clothes made with slave labor and none of them recognize the irony in it because they are having fun." Yay!

    January 8, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • friend

      I wonder what YOU are doing to end slavery? it must be something very good that maybe us Christians should consider.

      January 8, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • so sad.

      If you noticed, friend, I made no specific reference to the students being Christians. Simply made the observation that using slave labor to end slave labor is kind of funny. I've done a little bit but not enough to merit any praise. I simply think that big campaigns (christian or otherwise) that seem to make a carnival fundraiser out of issues rather than sponser a serious discussion of our own complicity are rediculous.

      January 8, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Jacob

      A lot of the conference was also about awareness. Many of the students had no idea that slave labor was used in the things you mentioned, but they're choosing to try and end it from this day forward. There's a great resource that was shared that can be used to make sure your dollar does not go to companies that use slave labor. Here's the site: http://slaveryfootprint.org

      January 9, 2013 at 12:37 am |
  5. Jack

    Niknak, this is a group of Christians that are doing something about slavery. I think you are looking for the non-Christian groups that are filling stadiums and raising money to end slavery.

    January 8, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • Barb

      Well said Jack! I'm just so encouraged to see the young Christians doing something for the downtrodden instead of what many of their elders have been doing which is; fighting good healthcare for everyone and caring for the poor and suffering in our world. We have become so respectable and such an integral part of our fallen culture that we can barely be distinguished from those we are supposed to be setting an example of love, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation for. This is such a just cause that every decent human being should be fighting against the trafficking of humanity!

      January 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Wornall

      Yes. God bless, Jack.

      January 8, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • Denise

      Christians have centuries of their killing of others and their deception to make up for, so get on it.

      January 8, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  6. Bob

    Not exactly our best and brightest. There are many secular groups making real strides against human slavery. Religion only serves to confuse the issues. It's us humans that want slavery to end, not gods.

    January 7, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • middle man

      Do just because they are religious that does not mean they are stupid. I am not religious and can clearly tell that they are more intelligent than you. Put your ideology aside and applaud those that are doing something.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sweetie, you wouldn't know smart from sh!t.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Ken Margo


      January 7, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
  7. middle man

    Too bad kids like these did not exist in America before the mid to late 1960's.

    The Christians were here the whole time so I suppose there has to be a "hippy" influence here. Groovy God way to see the enlightened.

    January 7, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • student515

      Yes, only if there had been people inspired to lead the charge for abolition before the 1960s, say for instance, during the 1860s! Oh, wait...

      January 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  8. Dave in SC

    Too bad these guys weren't around in 1860. 600,000 Americans died over this same issue.

    January 7, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • Zandigra

      Right because there never were any Christians in America who were opposed to slavery. Bet you got all A's in US History at your government run school.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
  9. Skeptic

    Other than raise awareness, what do these people, or for that matter anyone else, actually do to stop trafficking and abuse?

    January 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Saraswati

      You need to look at each organization they donate to individually. The most common activity is providing a safe alternative for escape, which dents the finances of these organizations (and of course helps the escapees). Other organizations raise awareness among the groups targeted, as many are tricked by scams promising jobs.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • middle man

      What do you do? It could be your sister or daughter, and you would still do nothing, I guess.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • Skeptic

      They should spend at least doe of ther money on law enforcement.

      January 8, 2013 at 6:54 am |
  10. Lou

    Issues in the Garden

    Genesis 1:31 God was pleased with his creation.
    Genesis 6:5-6 God was not pleased with his creation.
    Which raises the question, how can an omnipotent, omniscient God create something he’s not pleased with?

    Genesis 2:3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
    An omnipotent being required…rest?

    Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
    God placed temptation in the direct path of his two naïve children and allowed them to be tempted by the serpent (Genesis 3: 1-7), resulting in a single mistake that would contaminate hundreds of billions with a sin nature worthy of eternal torture?

    Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, ’You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?"
    A talking snake. Enough said.

    January 7, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • Dave in SC

      What's your point? You yourself are a talking blob of cells. How did that happen?

      January 7, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The cells divided and differentiated. Do YOU have a point?

      January 7, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • middle man

      TED WILLIAMS is the greatest left-fielder of all time and you are no Ted Williams..............BACK TO THE DUGOUT!

      January 7, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
  11. fsmgroupie

    love me ,whorship me ,sing songs of praise to me and beg for forgiveness of me or I'll burn your flesh in a lake of fire for billions and trillions of years---the ultimate slavery--

    January 7, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • End Religion


      January 7, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • kenneth

      The world would be better without Religitards

      January 7, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @kenneth, nice way to add insulting the mentally disabled to the mix.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • End Religion

      Like honeybees, Religitards are very important to the ecology.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  12. Lou

    MATTHEW 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Jesus endorses the ma-ss mur-der, ra-pe, slav-ery, tort-ure and inc-est written about in the Old Testament.

    January 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Seriously?

      You don't even know what that verse means.

      January 8, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • fintastic

      It means exactly what it says....

      January 9, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  13. End Religion

    The bible very clearly instructs that slavery is good and expected of its adherents. I find it wonderful that these college students are standing up for free thought and proudly showing their atheism by fighting back against the ultimate oppressive slave master, god and his semi-retarded son jeebus.

    January 7, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • ahren

      "clearly" you're an idiot.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • LVguest

      @End Religion, you hit the nail right on the head! The bible is a horror story of abuse, from its support of slavery to discrimination, child abuse, woman abuse, even animal abuse; and now these good, moral 'Christians' are busy patting themselves on the back for opposing slavery in other countries when they were front and center in the fight to oppose civil rights right here at home!

      January 7, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • EndSlavery

      Where does it say in the Bible that slavery is "good and expected of its adherents"?

      January 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • middle man

      Obviously yo are not religious..... well neither am I..........with that said I found a lot of religious are too extreme......and a lot of non-religious people are too extreme as well. Hypocrisy is rampant.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • End Religion

      This endearing passage indoctrinates christian cultists into accepting slavery because their slaves are supposed to "serve them as they would christ." Sounds like slavery is a pretty sweet deal for cultists, eh? If god didn't think it was good and proper, why would he instruct the slave on how to treat the cultist?

      "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ." (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

      There are several helpful passages which instruct christian cultists in the proper way to handle their slaves – even their own daughters! Why give instructions unless a cultist is expected to own slaves? God wants to be sure you're fully prepped for human subjugation. How thoughtful of him!

      "When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property." (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

      "When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment." (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

      January 7, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • truly......

      Ephesians 6:5 – that took me 20 sec to pull up..

      January 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • truly......


      sorry man – i should have known you were on it:)

      January 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • End Religion

      truly... no worries, friend. The more, the merry. Glad to see your addition.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Actually, if I really believed that my slave master was an all powerfull god capable of giving me an eternity of bliss or misery I'd toe the line and get the good life (or death). I don't think focussing on the slavery aspect works...if you believe the story is real it wouldn't make sense to throw off such a slavemaster, and since you're promised a pleasant eternity, he/she doesn't look all that bad.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      That may be the case for some people but a dictator is a dictator and does not deserve respect just because he is powerfull.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • truly......


      the Bible's Heaven was designed to make an ignorant mass of people work themselves to death, serve as cannon fodder in armies and serve the rich and powerful with a minimum of rebellion.

      as for the Bliss of heaven.... read the Bible...then tell me how blissful that eternity would be:)

      January 7, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Cheese, deserving or not if a dictator was really all powerful, he'd get my respect and I'd advise others to give it as well. The fact I don't believe such a dictator exists (and believe it incompatible with most ideas of "all good) means I don'thave to worry about it. But for those who believe he does I think marching along like good soldiers makes sense.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
    • Saraswati


      The Christian religion evolved from more primitive religions which emerged spontaneously to fill psychological needs. It was only in later periods of development that leaders did any designing, but if you look at the history, most leaders were themselves believers. Certainly they manipulated the meaning to suit their needs, but I don't know that it was generally done consiously. Most people pick beliefs, or interpretations of beliefs, that bolster their egos and strength. To really get the full psychological benefit of adopting a belief that gives you worth and power, you have to believe it yourself. Everyone does this...nothing particularly evil about it.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • truly......

      I assure you Saraswati, the leaders in any religion are as Atheistic as i am.... particularly the ones that claim devine revelation (from the rise of civilization to the present day, that hasnt changed). No, they may not have had math, biology, or chemistry – but figuring out how to con and control? that they knew as well then as now.

      About the need for recognition and power..... not everyone operates under those rules. I for one, am fairly confident in my abilities, but more importantly, I dont have a problem relying on others' expertise when neccesary. Best groups if worked with are the ones where there is no ' leader' (maybe a spokesman), just people who bring their knowlege to the table.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • lee webber

      why is it that you feel the need to talk about how you are so much smarter than us idotic Christians

      January 8, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • truly....


      Nowhere did i claim to be smarter than believers...far from it...as Sam Harris said, you can be so well educated, intelligent enough to build a nuclear weapon... and still prescribe to 2000 year old dogma. He is right..I, myself will go a little further, after somebody has spent time in society, and experienced humanity and get at least basic history down...deep down ALL of us know religion is a con.

      A scam is a scam, You demand respect for believing in a fairy tale.... the religious try and shove prayer down our childrens' throats in schools- They tried to have our science text books alteredwith varying degrees of success in the southern states... If it seems that im talking down to you, im sorry, but the religious have more than earned it... we ve taken centuries of abuse at the hands of believers... we ve had enough, we (you, me , everyone) cant aford you delusions and scams any longer.

      January 8, 2013 at 2:02 am |
  14. Ken Margo

    Finally religion is doing something we all can agree with. Religion should stay out of personal issues and deal with issues everybody has the same feelings towards.

    January 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Zandigra

      Good thing Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't feel that way or else black folks might still be riding in the back of the bus.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Bob

      "Good thing Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't feel that way or else black folks might still be riding in the back of the bus."

      Now ask yourself why MLK had to get involved in the first place?

      January 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Zandigra

      I don't have to ask myself that question. Besides, my asnwer to that question is irrelevant. I know the answer as does anyone who has ever read any of Dr. King's writings. His faith is what motivated him to get involved.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, nonsense. Lots of other men and women had plenty of faith and didn't become activists.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @zandigra.................Civil rights is a not a personal issue. It's a rights issue.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Zandigra

      Yes, ken, just like the right to life.....the most basic and fundamental of all rights

      January 8, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  15. ldm1

    Wow, Christians actually acting like Christians. Any more of this just might restore my faith in religion.

    January 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Stank-eye

      I doubt it, your snide remarks make it pretty clear where you stand.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • All Thinking Men Are Atheists

      actually, if they were "real" xians, they would be endorsing slavery, since the bible condones it. instead, these deluded children are spreading secular values, which hammers home the point that secular values and not biblical values are the ones we must pursue.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  16. niknak

    Then the first thing they should do is get off their knees, and unshackle their minds from religion.

    January 7, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  17. Don't Believe in Bigfoot, Explain Patrick Ewing

    Slavery is hilarious.

    January 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • John A

      There are two types: physical and spiritual

      January 7, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • EndSlavery

      I am not so sure you would think slavery was funny if someone you knew was enslaved. It is not very funny to think about little girls getting beaten while I sleep because they did not sleep with enough men.

      January 7, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  18. MashaSobaka

    Let's hope they break with previous ministries' tradition of "Worship Jesus or we won't help you."

    January 7, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Zandigra

      Care to name which ministries to which you refer or you doing the typical liberal broad brush painting when it comes to the world's 2+ billion Christians?

      January 7, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • niknak

      So you put being a non believer in the democratic group Legend of Zenga?

      January 7, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Stank-eye

      Glad to see you are more than willing to partake of their resources just not the love that is required to offer them to you without expectation.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • All Thinking Men Are Atheists

      whose ministry? I recall jesus calling all to become fishers of men. most sects interpret that as requiring xians to proselytize ad nauseum. just because your luke warm sect doesn't enforce this mandate doesn't mean most fail to do so. perhaps you aren't a real xian. then again, if you believe this myth then who cares.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  19. JesusJr

    McDonalds fights obesity
    Pepsi fights Diabetes
    Christians fight Slavery
    What's next Repubs fight The Rich?

    Religion on its way out! Thank God.

    January 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • dah dah dah doooo

      what will i do with all my baby jesus christmas ornaments?

      January 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • JJ

      The same thing you do with your Santa Claus ornaments. Do you throw those out because the big guy is also fictitious?

      January 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • RayJ

      Yeah its a good thing slavery will actually be eradicated by that big group of people down the street who were inspired by atheism.
      Is it really so important for you to be anti-christian that you can't even try to find common ground over something like this?

      January 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • niknak

      We are not anti xtian Rainman.
      We are anti religion, of all kinds.

      Why can't these guys try to end slavery without the religious part attached to it?

      January 7, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • EndSlavery

      niknak- maybe the question is more like why can you not see past the religion to the 3 million dollars that was raised to fight this cause? Does it really matter what motivated the college students to do it? They are not saying you have to believe in God all they are saying is that they are doing is because if their beliefs.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  20. dah dah dah doooo

    there's no better definition of slavery than... the systematic separation of children from their parents .. oooo .. no... we do this every day to men in america...

    January 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      What you just described might pass as a definition for kidnapping, but certainly not slavery. Do you understand what slavery is?

      January 7, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I've got to agree with Masha Sobaka. Not even bothering to understand what a horror slavery really is is not only lazy but disrespectful to all those who have suffered. If you have an agenda to push on custody arrangements find an appropriate forum.

      January 7, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.