By Wendy Griffith
CWNews.com – SNELLVILLE, Ga – How old do you have to be to change the world? Not very.
Fifteen-year-old Zach Hunter of Atlanta, Georgia is already known around the world as a modern-day abolitionist. And his passion to free people from slavery is awakening a new generation to the horrible plight of human bondage.
CBN News caught up with Zach at his high school near Atlanta.
At first glance, Zach Hunter looks like an ordinary high schooler — and he is – except that in his free time – he helps free slaves.
It all began when Zach was just 12. He’d been studying slavery from the past – but didn’t realize it was still going on today. He said, “I had been thinking that if I had lived back then, I would have done something to free the slaves, and when I found out that there was still an opportunity for me to do that. I just sort of jumped toward it.”
Greg Hunter, Zach’s father recalls, “We’d say, ‘Zach, you’re 12 – there’s really nothing you can do. You’re a bit young to try and go and free slaves, you can’t do that.’ Then one day, he came up with the idea , and he said, ‘I can raise money to free slaves.’ And we said, ‘ok, share your idea with us.’
So Zach started a campaign called “Loose Change to Loosen Chains” to raise money for groups that rescue slaves. He’s also written a new book called, “Be the Change – Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing The World.”
CBN News: Most people don’t realize that slavery still exists in the world.
Hunter: There are actually 27 million slaves in the world today – more than in the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade between here and Africa. Slavery has so many forms – it’s not just working on agricultural plantations, like slavery was mainly here in the U.S. It can be anything from rolling cigarettes, to making bricks to forced prostitution in brothels; many terrible situations.
Today, slavery often starts with a debt. For example, a poor family can’t pay for an urgent hospital visit and is forced to sell themselves or their children into slavery.
But sometimes it’s more sinister: people are told they’re getting real jobs, but instead, they find out, that they’ve been sold into slavery.
Some little children in Asia are forced to spend their days rolling little cigarettes called “beedi.” Their tiny fingers bleed from the constant work, and they’re often beaten if they don’t make their quota.
Slavery is flourishing in many parts of the world, especially Asia, Africa and the Middle East, but even here in the U.S., more than 17,000 foreign nationals are trafficked into the country every year.
Zach is often compared to another famous abolitionist – William Wilberforce, the 18th century British politician whose life inspired the new movie, “Amazing Grace.”
When the film’s producers heard about Zach, they made him a student spokesperson for their own anti-slavery campaign called “The Amazing Change.”
Last year, Zach spoke to tens of thousands of people at concerts and other events, to get the word out. And that was no small feat.
You see, Zach battled a serious anxiety disorder when he was younger – and had to overcome tremendous stage fright just to get on stage.
The first time I went up on stage in front of a couple thousand people, I was really, really nervous; I told my Mom, ‘I don’t think I can do it,’ and she said, ‘Then don’t!’ I just sort of looked at her and said, ‘But I have to.’ She said, “No, you don’t.’ So I went up anyway.”
Zach’s inspiration came from Proverbs 31, verses 8 and 9: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
“What really kept me going at that point,” Zach said, “was that I had to think that I was the voice for these people – because they can’t be their own voice. They’re not free to come and go as they please. It’s almost as though they don’t have a voice, and they need someone else to speak up for them.”
Zach recently launched “Loose Change to Loosen Chains” at his high school. The different grades will compete to raise money for organizations such as International Justice Mission and others that free slaves.
Vivian, an 11th grader, said, “We look at these things on tv and we think, ‘Oh, that’s so sad,’ but then we just go back to doing what we were doing…especially since we’re so young. But for him to like, step out and say, enough, and to come to school and have this committee and get people involved — it takes a lot of courage.”
“I had no idea that slavery was still going on,” said 11th grader Julie. “Wasn’t that back in the Civil War? I had no idea. And when I heard about it, I was so inspired – it made me want to change the world — made me want to help somebody.”
Zach says — although it may sound corny – that he’d like his generation to be known as “The Peace and Love Generation.”
“Not like the 60s, without God,” Zach said, “but maybe we could try to bring it about with God – because with God’s help, all things are possible.”
You can also sign an on-line petition to abolish modern-day slavery that will be presented to Congress, at The Amazing Change.com.