By Austin Fraley
On Tuesday, Sujo John spoke of his amazing story of surviving 9/11. But Monday night, several students gathered in the chapel to hear him speak on a slightly different topic that he is passionate about—human trafficking. John and his friends have begun a ministry called You Can Free Us (www.youcanfree.us) which focuses specifically on women trafficked in the red light district of New Delhi, India.
While stories of rescued victims of the sex slave trade pull on heartstrings, the simple statistics John gave were shocking. GB Road, the largest red light district in Delhi, is a mile and a half long, yet 37,000 sex workers/slaves are in brothels along it. In India, 2.5 million girls are prostitutes. They sell themselves for as little as $1.50, and only see one–third of that money. They see 40-70 men every single night. John, after giving some of these statistics, could only look at the audience and say, with a sigh, “That place.”
Although these numbers are horrifying, there is a hopeful side to the story. You Can Free Us has made major strides in rescuing women and children from these brothels (where they are often kept in cages or cells). They have opened two safe houses for women who want to be freed and begin a process of healing. After hearing the story of Matthew Barnett and the Dream Project, who ministered to prostitutes in Los Angeles, John and the organization enacted a program of going out to the red light district, handing out flowers to prostitutes and letting them know, “If you want to get out of here, we can get a van here in twenty minutes and take you away from this place.”
John emphasizes the fact that these women need to know that they are loved and that they are special. He says he sees himself as an evangelist, doing his best to spread Christ’s love. John has seen the Holocaust Museum in Israel, the gas chambers in Ukraine and Elmina Castle in Ghana, where not too long ago, while Africans were being sold as slaves and shipped off to different lands, a church was meeting three stories up. After all these things, John said he realized his evangelism needed to not just be with words, but with acts of love.
The movement is spreading. There was an initiative put forth to take pictures of some of the ex-prostitutes in certain modeling photos. After it had gained some momentum, the biggest fashion show in India invited them to come and gave them two hours to do whatever they wanted, a big success in India, a country where the government and a large portion of the press brags on GDP growth, while ignoring the plight of the suffering poor. This moment made people aware of a major problem in the streets.
One of the pictures was of a woman fighting a dragon, which John says was symbolic of the fighting of temptation not to go back to her old life. After being there for so long, it is sometimes hard for women to leave. John said, “The demons of our past come back to haunt us, and we have to do spiritual battle with them.” John’s message challenges listeners to overcome the spiritual battles of their own troubled past as human beings and Americans and act out against modern—day slavery.