Churches across the globe will celebrate “Amazing Grace Sunday” this Feb. 18 in an effort to draw attention to the modern-day slave trade. The event coincides with the upcoming film “Amazing Grace,” which tells the story of William Wilberforce’s efforts to end slavery in the British Empire.

“Amazing Grace Sunday” is part of the Amazing Change movement, “a campaign to carry on Wilberforce’s vision of mercy and justice,” according to the Web site. The social action project is sponsored by Bristol Bay Productions, the company behind “Amazing Grace” and other films like “Ray” and “Sahara.”

The Web site for Amazing Grace Sunday states more than 3,300 churches have registered to sing “Amazing Grace” and pray for freedom during their Feb. 18 services. Participating churches have numerous resources at their disposal, including Web site banners, videos about the movie, prayer guides and much more. Churches in all 50 states and in countries from Thailand to Panama are taking part.

Wilberforce, a Member of Parliament, helped end the British Empire’s slave trade 200 years ago. Joining him in the fight was John Newton, a slave trader-turned-abolitionist best known for penning the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

The movie, which opens Feb. 23, features Ioan Gruffudd as Wilberforce and Albert Finney as Newton. “Amazing Grace” is directed by legendary filmmaker Michael Apted (“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The World Is Not Enough”) and produced by, among others, Ken Wales. Wales is perhaps best known as executive producer of the CBS hit “Christy.”

The movie has a diverse group of partners who are supporting the film in various ways, from resource creation to movie screenings. Partners include the National Council of Churches, Sojourners, the U.S. Congress, World Relief, Focus on the Family, AsburyCollege and Seminary and more than 60 other entities.

Those associated with the film hope the “movie will become a movement,” according to a press release. The institution of slavery still exists despite many efforts to end it. An estimated 27 million men, women and children still live in slavery today, and the number of child laborers is much higher still.

“Amazing Grace Sunday” kicks off a renewal to combat slavery in its many forms. Organizers are also promoting May 20, 2007 as “Not for Sale Sunday,” an initiative of Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking Across Europe (CHASTE).

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for

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