"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
- Micah 6:8

While distinguished academies of higher learning, governments, politicians, and the media, struggle to find solutions to the imminent dangers posed on the home front by senseless, aberrant acts of violence, directed at the innocent, especially, children; to the Near East and the world at large, by threat environments, be those environments terrorism, or weapons of mass destruction, to include nuclear, biological, or chemical; to the spectre of international regional destabilization; and, even to climate change; a devastating human rights war has unfolded, with precious few warriors to combat it, let alone stem the brutal injustice that is of holocaust dimensions. If there is any scourge that puts “Civilization at Risk,” it is the malignant disregard for the human rights of millions of people, who suffer slavery and  inhumane treatment, at the hands of fellow human beings. With 30 million people in slavery, today, 30 million seeds of strife have been sown, as the souls of these victims are seared beyond human recognition.

The 21st Century slave trade and concomitant prostitution need to be addressed by enlightened immigration policies and laws and by Biblical justice and mercy. If we accept that the family unit is at the core of Western Civilization, we must recognize that when a woman enters prostitution, the family unit is broken; however, when a woman is trafficked as a sex slave, the family unit is shattered.

Human trafficking cannot be combated by indifference or ignorance, but by the education of people world-wide, to awaken them to this 21st Century scourge, as well as by instilling in people world-wide, the courage and determination to stand and fight this evil, as Augustine, Wilberforce and Lincoln did, centuries ago.

© Ron D. Petitte, 2012

Encouraging a life of service-minded activism through education

As a part of the Center for Leadership Initiatives, the Justice and Mercy Initiative seeks to raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking through education, as well as practical involvement and partnership with other entities who are interested or already involved in anti-trafficking efforts.

With the mindset of the Justice and Mercy Initiative, a few Bryan College alumni have dedicated their careers to fighting human trafficking through a life of service.  Read the story of recent graduate Stepheny Petitte ('09), who is active in the fight against trafficking with the International Justice Mission. 

Who we are

Dr. Ron Petitte
Dr. Ron Petitte created the Discipline of Politics & Government for Bryan College, which he introduced over 19 years ago with the first course, Politics, Philosophy & Economics, which Dr. Petitte modeled after the Oxford University Degree program. Prior to coming to Bryan College, Dr. Petitte, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, served as an officer in the U.S. Army, retiring as a full Colonel. He served as a technical advisor for the Academy Award winning film, Patton, advising on all tank and battle sequences. His current passion is fighting human trafficking, and he strives to help fight this societal cancer by equipping students with the knowledge they need to go out and fight. Colonel Petitte has also been involved in efforts with Scotland Yard, International Justice Mission, and the U.S. State Department. Dr. Petitte may be reached at petittro@bryan.edu or 423.775.7311.


Education efforts

  • The initiative sponsors experts in the field to speak at conferences dedicated to educating students and the public about the scourge of human trafficking. This is primarily accomplished through forums such as the Center for Leadership Initiatives' Commoner Forum. The initiative also promotes education efforts by hosting seminars at Bryan College for local and regional police officers, prosecutors, and judges.
  • Beginning in 2012, Bryan College has offered courses onsite for academic credit on the social disease of human trafficking. Starting Fall of 2013, Bryan College will offer a major and minor in human trafficking within the Politics and Government Department - the first program of its kind in academia. Approved in March 2013, online courses will be offered starting in Summer 2013. Read course descriptions here
  • The initiative sponsors faculty trips to address national and international forums such as the Oxford Round Table at Oxford University and the Mid-West Political Science Association in Chicago, Illinois. 
  • The initiative sponsors research, which is to be published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, United Kingdom. 
  • The initiative is currently lending financial support to send seven students to Cambodia to learn first hand the effects of trafficking on innocent women and children. Read more about the study tour to Cambodia here

Fighting at the frontlines

  • Bryan College alums have dedicated their careers to fighting human trafficking. Bryan recently sent two graduates into the field, specifically with the International Justice Mission, one of whom has addressed the European Parliament, been a featured speaker at an international film festival, and led a fact finding mission to Mumbai, India, on behalf of the Director, IJM United Kingdom, and potential UK donors. 
  • The initiative sends students to lobby the Tennessee State Congress to pass anti-trafficking legislation. 
  • The initiative financially supports student run anti-trafficking groups, such as Students Stopping the Trafficking of Persons, as well as attendance at the International Justice Mission's Global Prayer Gathering.

Why did you decide to fight human trafficking?

To be completely honest, I was entirely naive to the issue of trafficking until I was in college. If someone had asked me 6 years ago “when did slavery end?” I would have readily answered with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War. Thankfully my ignorance ended when an investigative journalist, Christine Dolan, came to Bryan and gave a lecture on human trafficking which was completely eye-opening.

There are many forms of trafficking, but the transformative point for me was when I realized girls so much younger than myself are being bought and sold, repeatedly abused, with virtually no freedom. After becoming educated on human trafficking, I just didn't feel as if I could close my eyes to the issue, continuing with everyday life. Moreover, I began to realize how important it is for us, as Christians, to be involved in this field, following God's call to act as advocates and seek justice for the abused and defenseless. Isaiah 1:17 says to “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan and plead for the widow.” All of these factors, along with God really stirring my heart, led me to a clear decision that I wanted to enter into a career within the anti-trafficking arena. 

What are some of the groups you have worked for, and what have you done with them?

After graduating from Bryan in 2009, I served briefly with a non-profit in Nashville, Tenn., founded by Christian singer, Natalie Grant, called Abolition International (formerly The Home Foundation). The organization’s aim is to eradicate sex trafficking and exploitation both domestically and abroad. Subsequently, I received an internship with International Justice Mission (IJM)'s office in the United Kingdom to serve as their Business Operations Intern (which primarily entailed donor relations administration). IJM is a human rights organization that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.

IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems – police, courts and laws – effectively protect the poor. After my internship, I was honored to be able to join IJM's England staff team as Advancement Executive, where I currently serve. In this role, I assist in developing donors (whether individuals, churches, businesses or foundations), manage events, gather resources for our work internationally and seek to advance the cause of IJM in the UK through engaging professionals and individuals in a deeper way with IJM’s work. 

What is the most significant moment in your career fighting human trafficking?

The most influential point in my career fighting human trafficking occurred within the last few months. One of IJM's clients was only 16 when she was rescued from a brothel in Kolkata, India. After a year of healing, she and her counselors decided she was ready for a job outside of her aftercare home. Through the job, she made a new friend who ended up tricking her and selling her to another trafficker. This girl was not only trafficked into a brothel once - but twice!

Investigative leads showed she was trafficked to Mumbai, a city of 18 million. IJM investigators were determined to rescue her again but it seemed an impossible task. Although this girl was trafficked not once but twice, IJM was able to rescue her not once but twice! It was an incredible story of rescue and determination by our teams.

I tell you that story because a few months ago, I was privileged to have the opportunity to take a few supporters to see our work in India. While there, I was able to meet the above client, which was absolutely life-changing. To see her in an environment where she, and girls similar to her, are now free, receiving an education, taking sewing and cooking classes and most importantly having a healthy example of love shown to them, was extraordinary.

I cannot describe to you the tremendous mix of both profound heartache, knowing all that she had endured, and yet the extreme joy seeing her smile and thrive in a newfound life of freedom. Meeting this girl, and to see the impact of even just one life changed, confirmed to me the importance of IJM’s work and why I feel so passionate about my work. It is days like these which spur me on in the fight against trafficking, and I thank God for being able to be a part of this great work. 
Bryan College first offered courses on the issue of Human Trafficking in the Fall Semester of 2012 and has continued to grow its course offering on the subject since then. Bryan College will be offering both a minor and major option in this field of study as early as next fall as a part of the Politics and Government Department at Bryan College. Below is a brief sampling of the courses offered thus far along with ongoing and future course offerings as well.

PSGS293  Criminal Justice Seminar: Fighting Human Trafficking | Fall 2012 | 3 credit hours
Professor: Col. Ron Petitte

This course offers students the opportunity to engage in symposium and conference linked seminars that focus on the regional, national and/or international levels of the discipline, e.g. “The Criminal Justice Response to Human Trafficking” which offering linked to Bryan College’s first international conference on the subject, to a seminar on critical thought and practice. Additionally, students may have opportunities to attend conferences, symposia, and/or workshops in Government, Public Administration, Criminal Justice, and other related fields to earn appropriate credit.

PSGS491: Trafficking in Persons | 3 credit hours | Spring 2012
Professor: Col. Ron Pettite

This survey course provides a broad overview of international human trafficking based upon the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Special attention is paid to specific countries and the examination of their individual efforts, or lack thereof, to combat human trafficking within their borders.

PSGS 291 Selected Topics: Intro to Human Trafficking | Summer 2012
Professor: Ben Norquist

A survey course of domestic and international trafficking issues that focuses on the history, conditions, and impact of modern slavery, as well as the ways governments, organizations, and individuals can combat it. 

PSGS 291 Selected Topics: Domestic Human Trafficking | Summer 2012
Professor: Ben Norquist

This course offers a focused exploration of the realities of human trafficking and modern slavery in the United States. Psychological, political, economic, cultural and sociological aspects will be considered. Special attention will be given to specific political, economic and cultural approaches to abolition in the United States.

PSGS291 ST: International Human Trafficking | Spring 2013
Professor: Ben Norquist

This course will focus on international human trafficking culminating in a trip to Cambodia to gain hands on experience with how human trafficking is being combatted there. Alongside key partners in the field, Bryan College is facilitating this study group to take a close look at the realities of trafficking in Cambodia and the strategies and individuals in the movement for abolition. Participants will be enrolled in International Human Trafficking, a three-credit course meeting throughout the spring, to formally study a theology of justice and the mechanics of human trafficking with attention to supply and demand issues, vulnerability factors, and approaches to aftercare, law enforcement, and policy making.
More information can be found here