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Jim Jacobson, President of Christian Freedom International, Renews His Challenge to Cease All Support of Slave Redemption Programs in Sudan Immediately

Jim Jacobson, President of Christian Freedom International, Renews His Challenge to Cease All Support of Slave Redemption Programs in Sudan Immediately

Business and Lifestyle Editors


Story Featured on CBS “Sixty Minutes II,” May 15, 2002

Jim Jacobson, President of Christian Freedom International, an international Christian aid organization, renews his challenge to anyone who supports redeeming slaves to “end slavery, not buy slaves” in Sudan.

International objections to slave redemption programs in Sudan grow, as evidence mounts of corruption and violence related to the slave economy Western dollars fuel. Most recently, reports in The Washington Post, The Irish Times, and on CBS 60 Minutes II showcased how Western donations offered to redeem slaves instead bankrolled purchases by militant Muslims of weapons, munitions, and luxurious lifestyles safely outside the terror-torn communities of southern Sudan. Award-winning articles in the Atlantic Monthly and Denver Post as early as 1998 have detailed the facts Jacobson continues to bring to light.

Jacobson was the first and only leader of any Christian or humanitarian aid group to denounce slave redemption. He did so in 1999, after conducting a three week on-the-ground investigation.

Upon return from his fact-finding investigation, Jacobson, a former advocate of slave redemption, offered to refund donations to his organization earmarked for slave redemption. As a result, Christian Freedom International lost almost 20 percent of its revenue. “The financial hit was devastating, but we owe our donors the truth,” Jacobson says.

Since 1999, Jacobson has repeatedly asserted the same objection to slave redemption: “Whenever you bring the U.S. dollar into an impoverished setting, you will radically affect the local economy,” Jacobson has been warning. “In Sudan, you will find as many slaves as your dollars can buy. That is no way to end slavery!”

“The hard fact is, at this very moment, in southern Sudan, the policy of slave redemption is sustaining a market in human beings,” Jacobson says. “Just as if we’re talking about a commodity market for pork bellies or the spot price for crude oil, we know that human beings are going for $35 to $50 a head, depending on local market conditions, like the size of the group being redeemed. And while we have undoubtedly freed some slaves, we are even now creating incentives to take slaves — and incentives to fake slave status in order to obtain hard currency in a country where $100 dollars is the equivalent of 100 days’ worth of work.”

As Jacobson points out, “That realization led my organization to renounce the practice of slave redemption — and to ask every group active in Sudan to look hard at a practice that perpetuates the very evil we mean to combat.”

Some media investigations have highlighted how slave redemption is a lucrative business not just for the Sudanese. International aid groups quickly became dependent on revenues generated by uniquely generous slave redemption donations. These groups and their leaders gained favor among international media and, at times, famous Hollywood celebrities. “Perhaps the temptation of fame and fortune blinded them. Who knows?” Jacobson says. “All I know is that, as early as 1998, it was absolutely impossible to participate in a slave redemption without being struck by how the slave trade had become ‘big business.’ Either leaders of international aid groups failed to see the corruption and violence — or, sadly, chose not to reveal the truth to their donors.”

When asked what he thinks about the next steps, Jacobson answers, “You cannot redeem slaves and end slavery at the same time. If you buy slaves, you fuel the slave trade you seek to end. You must make a choice. Christian Freedom International made that choice, stopped redeeming slaves, and is working through both official and unofficial channels to rescue slaves without paying ransom and to call on the government in Khartoum to abolish slavery publicly and call for the immediate emancipation of all slaves in Sudan.”

Video Available Upon Request

To request an interview with Jim Jacobson, call Teresa Hartnett at 703/998-0412.

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