Abolitionist group to bring event to Immanuel Lutheran

By: Thomas Franz | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published October 7, 2015

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Michigan Abolitionist Project (MAP) will be bringing its Set Free event to Immanuel Lutheran Church Oct. 16-17 to raise awareness of human trafficking globally and locally in Macomb County.

MAP started in 2012 in Grand Rapids and moved to Macomb County in 2013. It holds several events annually through community groups, but the Immanuel Lutheran event will be the largest of its kind so far, with 15 metro Detroit churches participating and contributing.

“We want to bring together people in the community that want to build awareness to human trafficking and start driving change to address the issue in our communities,” said Kathy Maitland, executive director of MAP.

The two-day event is free, open to the public and requires no pre-registration.

It will feature live music, creative arts exhibits, expert speakers, food and the Set Free Café. The Freedom Marketplace will provide opportunities for attendees to learn more about modern slavery and to take action against it by buying ethically made products.

“I’m really excited about the marketplace because not only are they highlighting some of the unethical ways the products we so much enjoy are made, but it provides an opportunity for stores and products that are ethically made, so we can start making a difference now,” said Immanuel Lutheran Rev. Michael Heiden.

On Oct. 17, a panel discussion will feature Michigan Assistant Attorney General Kelly Carter, Vista Maria Vice President Meredith Reese, Michigan State Police Sgt. Edward Price, FBI representative Michael Glennon and therapist Joyce Hassett.

There will also be a session specifically for men that will focus on how they can help to reduce trafficking, and an empowering teenagers section will also occur.

The event is for people of all ages, but MAP’s website states that some interactive sessions are for mature audiences and parental discretion is advised.

“Obviously, this topic is not a family-friendly topic to talk about human trafficking, but much of this event is as family friendly as we can make it,” Maitland said.

Heiden said the event will provide an opportunity to educate his church’s congregation and local community members on an issue that often goes unnoticed. Being able to partner with other local churches will also make the event unique.

“If all these churches were able to partner and start this movement, that’s a lot of power, and we can provide freedom. Our God is about liberating captives from slavery, whether it’s addiction or literally slavery,” Heiden said.

Maitland said they are expecting at least 500 people to attend the event, which has been planned since January.

She added that statistics on human trafficking locally are hard to come by, but state political leaders are working on compiling data. The nature of human trafficking, Maitland said, makes it even harder to track.

“Victims don’t self-report this. Human trafficking victims are normally not going to call the police. They’ve been controlled, manipulated. They’re usually fearful of authority, so they don’t call the police, and we don’t have a good way to track it at this time,” Maitland said. “We do know it’s a problem in our state, based on research the governor and attorney general completed. There are human trafficking victims entering hospitals and shelters.”

By holding this event, Maitland said her group begins to break the cycle of trafficking victims.

“We definitely hope to make people aware of the issue. We care about prevention. That’s what we would hope would happen, that parents would become more aware and that young people would become more aware, so hopefully this would prevent young people or any person becoming prey to a trafficker,” Maitland said. “That’s ultimately what we are hoping to do, is to prevent and end trafficking.”

For more information on the event, visit avoiceforhope.org or email info@map-mi.org. Immanuel Lutheran Church & School is located at 47120 Romeo Plank Road. For more information, call the church at (586) 286-4231.

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