‘Amazing Grace’ Movie Campaign Focuses on Modern Slave Trade

Post a Comment » Written on February 21st, 2007     
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CHICAGO, IL (February 21, 2007) – Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) congregations that were unable to participate in the nationwide Amazing Change campaign last Sunday are being asked to consider using the material from that initiative and sing the well-known hymn “Amazing Grace” sometime in the coming weeks.

More than 4,000 churches from different denominations indicated a willingness to participate in last weekend’s campaign and sing “Amazing Grace” in preparation for this Friday’s release of the movie Amazing Grace.

This new film tells the story of British abolitionist William Wilberforce, and seeks to heighten public awareness of the destructive and lucrative slave trade that continues throughout the world, including the United States. It is a joint project of Walden Media and the Amazing Change Campaign.

Michael Coglan, pastor of Community Covenant  Church in Kearney, Missouri, says he was “deeply impacted” by the movie, which he and other ministers were able to preview during a special screening. His congregation sang the hymn and used the related resource material.

“ ‘Amazing Grace’ is one of the most universally loved hymns in America,” notes ECC President Glenn Palmberg, who encouraged Covenant congregations to participate in the campaign. “I look forward to hundreds of Covenant churches joining together with our sisters and brothers of other church backgrounds, and sharing together in prayer for the end of all forms and expressions of slavery that still exist throughout the world, and even here at home.”

The movie, named for the hymn penned by Wilberforce’s spiritual adviser and friend, John Newton, is being released on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in England. Wilberforce was a minister in the British Parliament, and introduced his first anti-slave trade legislation in 1789, two years after his own religious conversion. He would introduce legislation nearly every year until it finally passed in 1807 – and continue the fight until slavery was finally banned across the British Empire in 1833.

The film’s production company, Walden Media (Chronicles of Narnia and Charlotte’s Web), and the Amazing Change Campaign seek to shed light on the modern slave trade, which U.S. Government sources say involves up to a million new people each year around the world and thousands across the United States.

Coglan learned more about the modern slave-trade tragedy when he attended the screening, saying, “I didn’t realize that there was that much human trafficking.”

The U.S. State Department estimates 17,500 new slaves are brought into the country each year, many of them as domestic help. The FBI estimates that as much as $10 billion exchanges hands as approximately one million individuals are traded each year, a majority of them forced into the sex industry.

Government agencies report that women and girls in the United States also are being lured into prostitution and forced to remain there. Ruth Hill, executive minister of Women Ministries, recently met with the directors of women ministries in other denominations. They have made human trafficking a primary focus in their respective ministries.

The issue was made all the more real for Hill when she learned that a 19-year-old niece of a colleague had been kidnapped after responding to an advertisement seeking a nanny in Chicago. Instead, the young woman was abducted and forced to be “a sex slave in truck stops for six years before she was found and rescued.”

“It is not something ‘out there,’ but far closer to home than we realize,” Hill says, noting that a large mall in the Midwest is considered the number one site for human trafficking in the U.S., “probably because it has such a high volume of teenage girls in one location.” Hill quotes U.S. government reports as reporting that pimps prey on girls hanging out at the mall.

According to the FBI, one of every 10 prostitutes in Nevada comes from Minnesota. No one knows how many women across the United States are forced into prostitution, but general estimates begin at several thousand, often depending on whether all prostitutes are considered slaves.

David Batstone authored the book Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade – and How We Can Fight It, which is being sold in conjunction with the national campaign. Batstone spoke at North Park Theological Seminary last fall. To read that previously published story, please see David Batstone. Copies of the book are available for purchase at the online Covenant Bookstore.

To learn more about the national campaign, visit the Amazing Change website. Resources to help congregations learn more can be downloaded at the Amazing Grace Sunday website. Churches also are encouraged to sing Chris Tomlin’s version of “Amazing Grace,” which includes a new bridge. To access a copy of Chris Tomlin’s version of “Amazing Grace,” including a new bridge, visit Worship Together.

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