As delegates of the Diocese of Atlanta gathered for their 2019 Annual Council, Roderick Bridges was honored to speak to the assembly, not as a candidate for DeKalb County judge, but as an ambassador of the International Human Trafficking Institute. His mission was to arm his audience — men and women of faith who had gathered to conduct church business, hold elections and worship together — with the power to strike a blow against human trafficking.
The annual event, held this year at the Edgar Wilson Convention Center in Macon, GA, is attended by many area church leaders and laypeople. So it’s an important platform for social justice issues, as well as matters of the business and government of local Episcopal congregations. Of course, Roderick gladly welcomed the invitation to speak to this famously compassionate crowd.
An Underground Epidemic
Roderick Bridges saw the evidence of human trafficking as an attorney and judge working criminal cases in DeKalb and Fulton counties. But he didn’t see the full impact — how it was flourishing all around us — until attending a talk given by The International Human Trafficking Institute. It was there he understood that not only the streets but our places of business and even schools are frequented by young people who are living as 21st-century slaves. Their time, their paychecks, and their bodies under the control of criminals, who keep them quiet by threatening their family, beatings, malnutrition, and narcotics.
Most of us have sat in the crowd listening to stories about the suffering of others and felt compelled to do something. For Roderick, it was more action than feeling. In fact, he would eventually come to dedicate much of his free time to bringing hope to the hopeless, and activating concerned citizens.
Curious about the facts?
See How You Can Join Roderick in Fighting Human Trafficking
The International Human Trafficking Institute, part of the Atlanta-based Civil Rights Center, gave Bridges the opportunity to take the next step. It was there he received his anti-human trafficking training and certificate, which equipped him to educate others about the unexpected ways they can help the defenseless. That was the mission that brought him to the Atlanta Diocese Meeting.
The conference room was filled with everyday people who were excited to reunite with friends, worship together, and to hear the plans of their Episcopal leadership. As expected Roderick received a warm welcome, and immediately perceived that this was a crowd of those who were uncommonly caring and motivated to help.
But as he began to relay the facts behind sex trafficking, many seemed genuinely shocked.
“Sex trafficking in DeKalb County is an industry that, statistically speaking, serves your friendly neighbor across the street. Your tennis partner’s husband, your accountant, the man who greets you as you enter the sanctuary each week.”–Roderick Bridges
It’s tough to hear that this problem hits so close to home. But once we’re informed we can do something about it — make things better. That is the hope that Bridges brings to those who invite him and the IHTI in for an educational seminar: how to identify young people who are at risk, and those who would take advantage of them.
We are fortunate to live in a community where the vast majority of people genuinely want to help their neighbors, keep an eye out for each other’s children, and speak up when we see injustice. And we are thankful to organizations like the International Human Trafficking Institue for shining the light on this and other issues, and the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta for asking the hard question: What do we have to do to bring human trafficking to an end?
If you would like to join the movement to end human trafficking in Atlanta, visit the IHTI website.