What is the END IT Movement? Today is 'Shine a Light on Slavery Day'

Maybe you've seen a celebrity, pastor, politician, or friend with a red X on their hand and wondered what it's all about.

The red X is part of the "END IT Movement" to shine a light on modern-day slavery, and Thursday marks the seventh annual "Shine a Light on Slavery Day," where hundreds of thousands of people use their voice and platform to speak for those in slavery who can't speak for themselves.

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“Modern slavery is as vast and as brutal as it has ever been, but one thing is new: we now know how to stop it for good," Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission CEO and keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast, told the audience Thursday morning. Haugen, wearing a red X pin, pointed to the END IT Movement started by students at Passion Conference seven years ago.

President Donald Trump listens as Gary Haugen, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of International Justice Mission, speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump listens as Gary Haugen, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of International Justice Mission, speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

"You are truly doing the Lord's work," President Trump said at the breakfast about Haugen and IJM "rescuing people from the bondage of human trafficking." He added: "and as you know our administration is doing everything we can to make your work easier...Together, we will end the scourge of modern-day slavery."

On Tuesday night, Trump highlighted victims of sex trafficking and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who've rescued them at the U.S.-Mexico border during his State of the Union address. Trump recognized ICE agent, Elvin Hernandez, for his work catching 80 traffickers, saving more than 150 victims - including 45 minors - and reuniting 19 children with their mothers.

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This came just two days before Super Bowl LIII, one of the largest hubs for human trafficking. This year the FBI arrested 169 people and rescued 18 victims in an 11-day anti-sex trafficking sting in the very city where the END IT Movement began seven years ago. Several leaders banded together in 2013 in Atlanta as part of the Passion Conference and realized that "most of the world knew nothing about the largest human rights issue of its time."

Celebrities and athletes like Carrie Underwood and Mike Fisher, Ashton Kutcher, Peyton Manning, Kristen Bell, Sophia Bush, Tony Hawk, and others.

Celebrities and athletes like Carrie Underwood and Mike Fisher, Ashton Kutcher, Peyton Manning, Kristen Bell, Sophia Bush, Tony Hawk, and others.

It is estimated that there are more than 40 million people trapped in human trafficking globally, with more than 70 percent of them being female, and one in four a child, according to the most recent statistics.

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The END IT Movement defines slavery as "one person completely controlling another person, using violence or the threat of violence to maintain that control. Human-trafficking, the modern-day slave trade, refers to the illegal trade of human beings through abduction, the use of threat or force, deception, fraud, or 'sale' for the purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labor."

"It's messy. It's uncomfortable. It's horrifying in a lot of ways," Brittany Jones, who is part of Passion City Church and the END IT Movement, told NowThis. "But when you do scratch the surface and begin to understand that this is happening to real people, people like us, then it's almost impossible to do nothing."

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Awareness is the first step in preventing and reporting potential trafficking activity.

"The END IT Movement has built a global network of Freedom Fighters from all walks of life who are inspiring people to raise their voices and advocate for action in the fight against slavery," said Jenni Brown, END IT Movement campaign director. "With the momentum we've garnered year after year, we continue to see awareness of these inhumane crimes grow. This awareness leads to action where we continue to witness laws changing, bills being passed, and more resources becoming available to not only shine a light on slavery, but also put an end to it."

People participate in "Shine a Light on Slavery Day" by marking a red X on their hand.

People participate in "Shine a Light on Slavery Day" by marking a red X on their hand. (End It Movement)

The END IT Movement has joined with 16 partner organizations -- like A21, The Exodus Road, Not For Sale, Free the Slaves, and IJM -- that are focused on a different step of the journey to freedom: "on the ground, in the streets, busting down doors, manning hotlines, prosecuting traffickers, freeing people."

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Theresa Flores, a trafficking survivor, created Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (SOAP), which trains hotels how to report and identify signs of sex trafficking. The group hands out bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number. SOAP visited 170 hotels in Atlanta this year for the Super Bowl.

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The END IT Movement is committed to fighting trafficking until the number of men, women, and children suffering in silence goes from 40 million to zero, they say.