Shining God's Light on Human Trafficking
Not Today depicts daily struggles and the tragedy of human trafficking
January 11, 2012 - As human rights groups, civic organizations and Christian ministries around the world marked Human Trafficking Awareness Day Jan. 11, a group of filmmakers in Southern California were putting the finishing touches on a movie that will shine the spotlight on modern-day slavery.
One of the students at Good Shepherd High School in Hyderabad, which is supported by the Dalit Freedom Network. Proceeds from Not Today will build more schools.
by Janet Chismar
Not Today follows the fictional travels of Caden, a rich frat boy from Orange County who heads to India looking for a good time. The party ends after he meets a family of Dalits and embarks on a journey to help a father track down the daughter he sold into slavery. When Caden and the father attempt to find the girl, they travel deep into India’s flesh trade—which, sadly, is not fictional.
The Dalits, also called the untouchables, outcasts and most recently slumdogs, comprise nearly one quarter of India’s society, with population estimates of 250 million people. The term Dalit means “those who have been broken and ground down deliberately by those above them in the social hierarchy.”
According to most global research reports, the Dalits constitute the largest number of people categorized as victims of modern-day slavery.
Not Today Producer Brent Martz said one of the main goals for the film is to raise awareness of the reality of human slavery of the Dalit people as well as the tragedy of human trafficking. “When it comes to human trafficking, the Dalits are the least mentioned, yet most affected people group in the world.”
According to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, numbers reported from a conference in India on human trafficking, literally defy belief: more than 1.2 million children in India are caught up in human trafficking as child prostitutes. As many as 100 million people in India — soon to be the world’s most populous country — are involved in trafficking-related activities.
“The shocking statistics confirm what many human rights activists long have contended: that if there’s a ground zero for contemporary slavery, it is the Indian sub-continent,” writes Paul Bernish. “Grinding poverty, ancient tradition, and a religious caste system that divides society into haves and have nots (Dalits) are all contributing factors.”
During the recent Hyderabad Festival with Franklin Graham, we sat down with Joseph D’Souza, founder of The Dalit Freedom Network; Kancha Ilaiah, a professor and former head of the Department of Political Science at Osmania University in Hyderabad, and Beryl D’Souza, the medical director and anti-human trafficking director for the Dalit Freedom Network.
Ilaiah, who saw a preview of Not Today, told us the movie realistically depicts slum life in India. “Any urban slum, whether it is Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad or Calcutta, is a center for Dalits,” he explained. “The movie captures slum life and what type of day-to-day relationships exist as people migrate from rural areas to urban centers. The slums are hotbeds of trafficking.”
Beryl D’Souza said that while it is clear human trafficking is a massive problem that encompasses people from nearly all walks of life and all social backgrounds around the world, the largest group of victims in any country are the poorest and most disenfranchised.
“In India,” said D’Souza, “the demographic suffering most deeply are those positioned at the lowest rung of the nation’s social strata: the Dalits. Because of their poverty and the resulting desperation and lack of options, human trafficking is not simply a ‘problem’ Dalits face.
“It is an endemic that has swept Dalit culture in all parts of the nation and around the world. Human trafficking is destroying the lives of millions of individuals in India today.”
Beryl’s father, Joseph D’Souza, pointed out that the problems of sexual trafficking can only be effectively countered when both Christians and non-Christians are mobilized to work together.
Born into an upper-caste family, D’Souza defied family and cultural expectations when he married a Dalit woman. Working alongside Operation Mobilization India—founded by George Verwer who was saved at a Billy Graham meeting—D’Souza established 107 Dalit Education Centers that serve nearly 25,000 Dalit children.
“The best way to transform society is through education,” said D’Souza. “We need to educate the oppressed children and teach English to the Dalits.”
Not Today will raise funds to build 200 additional schools for the Dalits in the next decade through a partnership with executive producer Matthew Cork’s church. “The key to ending modern day slavery in India is education,” said Cork, who also serves as the lead pastor of Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Calif.
“This movie can inform new audiences about the issues of Dalits and human trafficking, and that’s its call,” said Joseph D’Souza.
Pastor G. Samuel, who served as the Executive Chairman for the Hyderabad Franklin Graham Festival, called Not Today “a most challenging and disturbing film, but also one that creates hope that something can be done.”
View the official trailer for the film and learn more about Not Today here »