In January 2012, Dustin Hsu’s worldview forever changed after crossing paths with people from International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation and slavery. “Hearing stories of families working countless hours in brick factories and young girls routinely raped and sold for sex affected me like nothing before,” said Hsu, recalling the encounter at Passion, a Christian conference at the Georgia Dome for college students. Hsu went on to establish the International Justice Mission’s chapter at Georgia Tech where he is a senior majoring in industrial engineering. Earlier this month, he and other students stood for 27 straight hours as part of “Stand for Freedom,” a national student-led movement created by International Justice Mission to draw attention to the estimated 27 million people enslaved in the world today.
Q: What do people need to understand about slavery and human trafficking?
A: That it still exists. Although slavery today doesn’t look exactly like slavery during the 1800s, it is just as heinous and equivalent in its wickedness.
Q: Can college students really make a difference?
A: It’s easy for people to discount college students but we’re sometimes the only ones crazy enough to believe we can change the world — and I truly think we can. In June 2012, International Justice Mission and Passion delivered a petition to the White House signed by more than 73,000 people — the majority of them college students — asking President Obama to start taking steps to end modern-day slavery. Just months later, he responded by giving the longest presidential speech on slavery since President Lincoln and recommitted the U.S. to lead the fight to end slavery.
Q: Do your fellow students know that Atlanta is a hotbed of human trafficking?
A: Unfortunately, I think the majority of Tech students have no idea. Sex trafficking is the most abhorrent form of slavery today. It robs its victims of their dignity and puts them through unimaginable physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual abuse. As a result, it’s not an easy subject to talk about.
Q: How did the “Stand for Freedom” event go?
A: Over the past two weeks, more than 400 colleges from around the country, including nearly 20 colleges throughout Georgia, hosted events on their campuses. At Georgia Tech, we created a world map mural with real stories from people formerly trapped in slavery, a freedom mural people could sign, and a photo booth where people could take pictures with signs that signified that they were taking a stand. We collected over 1,200 signatures for a petition asking President Obama to follow through with initiatives and programs that will make freedom real for the enslaved around the world. We raised over $1,600 to support International Justice Freedom. Anyone can continue to sigbn the petition by visiting freedomcommons.ijm.org.
Q: Is this work something you will continue to pursue past graduation?
A: While I may not be working for the International Justice Mission after I graduate, there are still many ways to support their work through awareness, prayer, financial giving and advocacy. There are also many amazing organizations combatting the sex trafficking industry here in Atlanta that I will be getting more involved with.
The Sunday conversation is edited for length and clarity. Writer Ann Hardie can be reached by email at email@example.com.