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Published: Saturday, 2/20/2010

Churches stand against slavery

The Rev. Cheri Holdridge of the Village Church will participate in Freedom Sunday. The Rev. Cheri Holdridge of the Village Church will participate in Freedom Sunday.

Until the Rev. Cheri Holdridge heard author David Batstone speak several years ago about modern-day slavery and human trafficking, she didn't realize the scope of the problem.

“I thought it was a terrible but tiny thing,” she said.

The more the United Methodist minister learned, however, the more she realized that human trafficking and slavery are widespread today.

“As I heard David talking, I realized it was worse than I thought,” Ms. Holdridge said. “And I thought it was something that my church may get involved in someday.”

At the time, her new church, the Village Church, was just in the planning stages. It opened in October, a joint project of the United Methodist and United Church of Christ denominations, in the former Colony shopping center in West Toledo.

Then, two weeks ago, Ms. Holdridge read an article in The Blade reporting that a national panel had ranked Toledo as the fourth-worst city in the United States in terms of human trafficking.

Tomorrow, the Village Church will join other faith groups around the world in taking a stand against human trafficking and sex slavery by participating in the first-ever Freedom Sunday.

The goal is to motivate the world's faith communities to pray about and preach against slavery.

Ms. Holdridge recalled how Mr. Batstone, in his talk at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church near Dayton, said Thai peasants had been selling their children to traffickers because they needed the money.

Mr. Batstone, author of Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade — And How We Can Fight It, said a Thai woman named Kru Nam had been raising funds to buy the children and save them from the traffickers. The name of the orphanage Kru Nam founded was the Village.

“I just burst into tears,” Ms. Holdridge said, “because I already knew that was going to be the name of my church.”

She is working with Second Chance, a local program overseen by Toledo Area Ministries that seeks to combat modern-day slavery, and the program's director, Mary Schmidbauer.

“Freedom Sunday is mostly an awareness thing. We're trying to draw attention to the issue,” Ms. Holdridge said. “We'll take up an offering and give most of it to Second Chance and part of it to Not For Sale.”

The Village Church meets at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at 3992 Monroe St. More information is available online at villageohio.org.

— David Yonke

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