Fri, Feb 8th 2019 01:00 pm
It might surprise you to learn that there are over 21 million people around the world who are victims of human trafficking - modern-day slavery. Most of us would say that slavery has been eradicated from the earth, but this is far from the truth. In fact, there are more people now who are victims of slavery than any other time in human history.
The Church has, in recent years, been on the forefront of the fight against human trafficking, hosting, for example, a conference in December of 2014 that resulted in the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery.
In addition, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has declared Feb. 8 as the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. Feb. 8 is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once Josephine was freed, she became a Canossian nun and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She was declared a saint in 2000.
Here in the U.S., the bishops have initiated a project called "Become a SHEPHERD" - Stop Human trafficking and Exploitation. Protect, Help, Empower and Restore Dignity. It is designed to educate lay and religious leaders about human trafficking from a Catholic perspective, equipping them with needed knowledge and skills to combat forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation at the local level.
Likewise, Catholic Relief Services has useful tools on the topic, including a page of "7 Things You May Not Know about Human Trafficking and 3 Ways to Help" www.crs.org/stories/stop-human-trafficking.
Among the "7 Things You May Not Know" are the following:
The definition of human trafficking: Human trafficking is the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion. At the heart of human trafficking is the traffickers' goal of exploitation and enslavement.
The causes of human trafficking are complicated: The causes of human trafficking are complex and interlinked, and include economic, social and political factors. Poverty alone does not necessarily create vulnerability to trafficking, but when combined with other factors, these can lead to a higher risk for being trafficked. Some of those other factors include: corruption, civil unrest, a weak government, lack of access to education or jobs, family disruption or dysfunction, lack of human rights, or economic disruptions.
Human trafficking is everywhere: Every continent in the world, except Antarctica, has been involved in human trafficking. In the United States, it is most prevalent in Texas, Florida, New York and California. Human trafficking is both a domestic and global crime, with victims trafficked within their own country, to neighboring countries and between continents.
Pope Francis has said: "Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity." So what can we do as Catholics to take action against human trafficking? Here are a few suggestions:
You can "turn on the light" on human trafficking by learning more. Go to https://ethicaltrade.crs.org to learn how ethical purchases help fight trafficking.
Advocate with CRS and the U.S. bishops. Join Catholics Confront Global Poverty www.confrontglobalpoverty.org to advocate for migrants and refugees - the easy targets of trafficking.
Organize an evening of reflection and information for your parish or group to increase awareness and support the victims of trafficking.
If you would like any information on any of these issues or actions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.