Why All Faiths Can Unite To End Modern Slavery

(CNN)Slavery — turning human beings into property used up for profit — is a heinous offense repugnant to all faith communities.

 
This was captured beautifully in the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders, representing Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists. The Declaration calls modern slavery a crime against humanity.
The concepts of empathy for our fellow human beings, and the obligation to respect the rights and dignity of others, are themes found in all the world’s major faith traditions. Many of history’s great civil rights advancements have been started and nurtured by religious leaders and activists. This is also true of the anti-slavery movement. Ending slavery unites all faiths and no twisting of texts can obscure that fact. That is why faith leaders are at the forefront of the effort to eradicate modern slavery.
Maurice Middleberg, executive director, Free the Slaves

 
Shockingly, slavery persists at a massive scale. The most conservative estimate places the number of slaves at 21 million; there are estimates of as high as 36 million. And slavery is a big business — the International Labor Organization estimates that the profits from slavery are $150 billion a year.
About a fifth of slavery is sex slavery, but most slavery consists of forced labor in seemingly ordinary businesses — farms, mines, stone quarries, fishing boats, construction and brick kilns. The majority of slaves are women and girls; about a quarter of all slaves are children.
Slavery stems from vulnerability. Overwhelmingly, slaves come from the poorest, most stigmatized and most marginalized communities in the poorest countries in the world. Slavery exists in every country and traffickers unfailingly prey upon those who are the most defenseless.
Religious faith and the debasement of human beings cannot be reconciled. That is why people and communities of faith are mobilizing and must continue to lead a shared effort to end slavery once and for all. The following is a quick look at faith voices raised against slavery.

Christianity

Christian abolitionism took root in the 17th century. In England, prominent Anglicans joined forces with Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and other faith groups to form the world’s first anti-slavery movement. Together, they forged a moral consensus to ban the trans-Atlantic slave trade and then outlaw slavery itself throughout the British Empire. Today, Christians worldwide regard slavery as immoral and unjust. “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society,” says Pope Francis. “It is a crime against humanity.”
· The epistles of St. Paul condemned slave traders and called for slaves to be treated as “brethren.”
· Quakers believed that everyone, including African-American slaves, was “equal in the sight of God.”
· Men and women of faith often led slave revolts on colonial plantations, and many revolts occurred during Christian festivals.
· In the 1800s Quakers and other religious groups assisted the Underground Railroad, helping thousands of slaves to escape southern states in the U.S.

Islam

Muslim voices have called for the abolition of slavery since ancient times. The Quran teaches that all people are equal, like the teeth in a comb. The Prophet Muhammad declared: “There are three categories of people against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgment. Of these three, one is he who enslave a free man, then sells him and eats this money.”
· Sura 90 in the Quran states that the righteous path involves “the freeing of slaves.”
 
To read the full story by Maurice Middleberg, on CNN: Click Here

Australian Archbishop Speaks About Helping Human Trafficking Victim

Australian archbishop speaks about helping human trafficking victim
In this file photo, Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney delivers a homily in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. (Credit: Giovanni Portelli/CNS, The Catholic Weekly.)

The Australian state of New South Wales is investigating the extent of human trafficking within their borders. On Tuesday, the Archbishop of Sydney told the story of the time a person trapped in slavery approached him for help in the suburbs of Sydney.

ROME – The Archbishop of Sydney has personal experience of what the modern slave trade can look like in an affluent western country like Australia.

When he was a parish priest ten years ago in the Sydney suburb of Watson Bay, now-Archbishop Anthony Fisher was approached by a South American nanny who had found herself trapped: Her passport had been taken away, she hadn’t been paid, nor was she even allowed to leave the home in which she worked without permission.

Fisher told the story of this encounter on Tuesday to a parliamentary inquiry into human trafficking in the Australian state of New South Wales.

The inquiry was set up in November by the state parliament to investigate how law enforcement agencies respond to human trafficking, including slavery and slavery-like practices such as forced labour.

Fisher told the committee how he helped the woman escape after contacting police and the church’s welfare agency.

Although most people assume modern slavery is something that only exists in developing countries, thousands of people in the developed world live in slave-like conditions.

The most visible are those trafficked into the sex industry; but many are also working in construction, agriculture, food processing, and as domestic help.

The New South Wales inquiry has heard from several Catholic organizations which advocate against slavery.

One of these, the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH), told the inquiry most of the people affected are immigrants, who have been lied to by traffickers, and are unable to go to the authorities because they fear being sent to a detention center for illegal immigrants.

“They are deceived about the working conditions in Australia, especially with regard to the rate of pay and hours of work and are often forced to work beyond their visa conditions,” the ACRATH submission reads. “In removing the workers to immigration detention it is the people who have had a crime committed against them that are being penalized.”

ACRATH noted that in Australia, there are no national licensing requirements for labor hire businesses, making it easy for a person to set up such a business to traffic people into Australia for the purposes of exploitation and then shut up the company and disappear if law enforcement starts to investigate.

To read the full story on Crux: Click Here

Catholic Relief Services’ Turn on the Light Campaign

Launched earlier in 2017 under the umbrella of Catholics Confront Global Poverty, Catholic Relief Services’ Turn on the Light campaign calls on Catholics and people of goodwill across the U.S. to spend their consumer dollars on ethically produced and traded products while pressing government leaders to strengthen and enforce anti-trafficking laws.

CRS has fought human trafficking and helped its victims with more than 145 projects worldwide since 2000. Their work connects directly to the lived realities of those served and acts as the foundation for developing and supporting policies and procedures to fight trafficking.

Poverty, civil unrest, violence, lack of education lust for power, greed are all contributing factors in making individuals vulnerable to trafficking.  The causes of human trafficking are complex and interlinked, so strategies to combat it must address both supply and demand.   Worldwide, human trafficking is a $150 billion enterprise; and it is illegal in every country in the world.

Throughout the world, especially in poor countries, adults and children are lured away from their homes and families with false promises of legitimate work or education.  They end up in mines, fields, factories, farms, construction sites, homes, hotels, brothels, restaurants and workrooms, with low or no pay and terrible working and living conditions.  Nearly all are victims of violence while enslaved. 

Many of the goods produced or grown are sold in the U.S.  CRS wants to raise awareness of human trafficking in labor and asks people to use their voices and their purchasing power to combat it.

Catholic Relief Services’ Turn on the Light campaign urges people to contact their Senators and Representatives to advocate for key anti-trafficking legislation and to purchase a ‘Turn on the Light’ soy candle made by women who have recently resettled in the U.S. from refugee camps. Proceeds will support CRS’ work combating human trafficking and promoting ethical trade practices.

To learn more, visit Catholics Confront Global Poverty and watch the ‘Turn on the Light’ campaign video on CRS’ YouTube channel.

For additional information visit Catholic Relief Services:  Click Here

How The White House Can Join The Fight Against Human Trafficking

You never forget the stories.

Teenagers tricked into forced prostitution. Men who travel halfway around the world for a good job, only to be deceived into forced labor.  Advocates who spend their entire lives fighting to help survivors.

Human trafficking is a terrible stain on our society. As I said earlier this year, it’s an issue that many of us hear about, but don’t fully understand.

Attaching names to the stories can help. Kayla suffered years of abuse from her trafficker, being forced from location to location. At 29, she returned to her home country of Romania, but couldn’t read or write. Today, with the care of specialists and volunteers, she’s thriving.

Harold came to the U.S. on a visa to work at an Indian restaurant in Ohio. But Harold and his family were treated like slaves and needed help from law enforcement and non-profit organizations to escape. Harold is now a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

Kayla and Harold are now making big strides in life, but they couldn’t have done it alone.  They needed help.

At a recent White House meeting with President Trump, I and others in the anti-trafficking field sought to strengthen efforts to provide that help and stop human trafficking. Participants included leaders from the International Justice Mission, the Human Trafficking Institute and Hope 4 Justice, as well as survivors themselves. I was joined by the head of United Way’s Center on Human Trafficking and Slavery, Mara Vanderslice Kelly.

At the meeting, the President committed to putting the full weight and force of his administration behind anti-trafficking efforts. He called it “an epidemic.” Now, it’s time to turn words into action.

To read the full story from Brian Gallagher of United Way: Click Here

Creighton Study Of Backpage.Com Finds Signs Of Human Trafficking Throughout Nebraska

Each month in Nebraska, on just one website, about 900 people are advertised for commercial sex.

That’s according to a new report by the Human Trafficking Initiative, which shows that the commercial sex industry touches all parts of the state, from Scottsbluff to neighborhoods in west Omaha.

The research, conducted through the Heider College of Business at Creighton University, looked at Backpage, a classified advertising website that features ads for “escorts.” According to the report, Backpage accounts for 80 percent of online commercial sex advertising. The report’s findings come from nearly a year of examining data from Backpage advertisements across the state.

Findings of the “Nebraska’s Commercial Sex Market” report will be presented at a hearing Thursday for Legislative Bill 289, a measure introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks that would raise penalties for sex trafficking.

Terry Clark, co-director of the Human Trafficking Initiative, said the report is just a start.

Read the full story by Mark Klecker on Omaha World-Herald: Click Here

Indian Nun Says Enough To Children Victims Of Human Trafficking

Sister Gracy Rodrigues, an Indian nun and member of the Asian Movement of Women Religious Against Human Trafficking, will not be idle before the cry of children victims of human trafficking. In an essay, Rodrigues calls on everyone to put an end to this modern day form of slavery.

Indian nun says enough to children victims of human trafficking
(Credit: Imagens Evangélicas via Flickr.)

MUMBAI, India – Every two minutes, a child is prepared for sexual exploitation.

For Sister Gracy Rodrigues, an Indian nun with the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity (the Canossians), the calls for help by children who are victims of human trafficking can no longer be ignored.

“Today in every corner of the society and the country we hear the cry of the children, ‘I am not safe’,” Rodrigues wrote in an essay titled ‘Children they are, not slaves.’

Rodrigues is a member of the Asian Movement of Women Religious Against Human Trafficking (AMRAT), a network of 52 religious congregations who collaborate to find solutions and put an end to this modern-day form of slavery and exploitation.

AMRAT wishes to fight this evil by creating awareness. “From awareness to prayer, from prayer to solidarity and from solidarity to concrete action, until slavery and trafficking are terminated,” Rodrigues writes.

Pope Francis insisted on the need to collaborate and fight what he called a “crime against humanity,” while speaking to members of RENATE – Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation on November 7, 2016.

Francis also made the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, on February 8, the World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking.

Speaking at the occurrence this Wednesday, the pope urged governments to give “voice to our younger brothers and sisters who have been wounded in their dignity. All efforts must be made to eradicate this shameful and intolerable crime.”

In one such effort, Rodrigues took part in a rescue mission. When she arrived to the “stinking, polluted, dark” place where three children were kept, she was catapulted in a situation that she would never forget.

“They were treated as slaves. They pleaded and cried before us to be taken away, for they were beaten, burnt, kicked, cheated and looted by the pimp owners,” Rodrigues writes. “This experience has left a mark in my heart which will always move me towards justice and love for the less fortunate, the forgotten, the lost, the least and the unknown.”

An estimated 200 million children today are child laborers and Unicef estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. “They are trafficked for sexual exploitation, pornography production, forced marriage, illegal adoption, forced labour, and to become child soldiers,” Rodrigues writes.

To read the full story by Nirmala Carvalho on Crux: Click Here

An Invitation To Pray For The Victims Of Human Trafficking

Caritas organisations and supporters are invited to pray for the child and adolescent victims of human trafficking on 8th February.

This day marks the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking on which Caritas joins with the Vatican and a variety of religious orders to remember children who have been trafficked and reflect on how we can help them.

Trafficking Prayer Day
Caritas in Italy provides cooking courses, a prevention practice to keep migrants safe and out of human traffickers. Photo by Stefano Schirato for Caritas

Caritas president Cardinal Luis Tagle has urged us all first and foremost to have compassion for the victims of trafficking. He said in a recent homily, “The mercy of Jesus is on families, on mothers and parents losing their children to violence, to vices, to human trafficking, to new forms of slavery, children who are being kidnapped, sold to prostitution, their body parts harvested in an international business of body parts.”

To read the full story from Caritas International: Click Here

Collaboration Boosts Sisters’ Anti-Trafficking Efforts

A woman code-named “Blessing,” a Nigerian victim of human trafficking, was working as a prostitute on the streets of Italy in the fall when police arrested her and took her to a detention camp because she had no documents.

Italian sisters who belong to an anti-trafficking group called Slaves No More visit this detention camp every Saturday and encourage the young women to come to them for assistance upon their release from the camp. While at the camp, the Italian sisters gave Blessing the contact information for St. Louis Sr. Patricia Ebegbulem, director of Bakhita Villa, a safe house in Lagos, Nigeria.

On Oct. 12, Blessing learned she was to be unexpectedly deported that day. She managed to get word to the Italian sisters, who called Ebegbulem. The next morning, Sisters of St. Louis met Blessing at the cargo section of the Lagos airport. There were about 40 deported women and 60 deported men in the plane.

Ebegbulem took Blessing to Bakhita Villa, where she still lives, receiving counseling, taking computer classes, and building the skills she will need for a productive life. In 2016, the Bakhita Villa sisters rescued nine victims, including Blessing.

Looking back on my 14 years in community leadership and five years of working with anti-trafficking groups at the United Nations, I think the work against trafficking and the support of its victims are the most powerful issues that unite women religious today. It is all of “one piece” with issues of migration, violence against women and children, and many of the other social justice ministries we pursue.

According to the U.N., there are 2.4 million trafficking victims worldwide at any given time. However, exact numbers are difficult to find because trafficking is “chameleon-like” and overlaps with forced marriage, migration and other social phenomena. Sometimes people don’t even know they are trafficked.

(GSR graphic / Toni-Ann Ortiz)

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime recently published its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons for 2016. In the preface to this report, Yury Fedotov, executive director of the office, said, “Perhaps the most worrying development is that the movement of refugees and migrants, the largest seen since World War II, has arguably intensified since 2014. … Within these massive migratory movements, are vulnerable children, women and men who can be easily exploited by smugglers and traffickers.”

The report states that in 2014, while most victims of trafficking were still female (71 percent), the percentage of trafficked men and boys had risen in the last 10 years.

This year, the focus is on children who are exploited through trafficking. The United Nations estimates that almost one in every three victims of trafficking is a child; UNICEF reported that 30 million children have been sexually exploited over the last 30 years.

Talitha Kum at the jubilee celebration for the International Union of Superiors General (Courtesy of Talitha Kum-Rome)

Long before trafficking became widely known as a “popular cause,” sisters were forming local, national and international networks against trafficking. In the 1990s, they began integrating their networks. In 1998, the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) agreed to initiate “greater collaborative efforts against trafficking in persons.”

They studied the issue, produced training materials for member congregations, and developed more joint efforts against trafficking. A training program developed in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration led to regional networks being established in Italy, Albania, Nigeria, Romania, Thailand, Brazil, Portugal, Philippines and South Africa, according to the UISG website on anti-trafficking efforts.

In 2009, UISG created an organization called Talitha Kum (from Mark 5:41, when Jesus says, “Little girl, get up”) to serve as “the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking, with a representative at the UISG,” according to the Talitha Kum website. Talitha Kum continues to provide training courses and materials, to set up new networks, and to collaborate with other organizations working against trafficking in persons. There are 17 regional Talitha Kum member networks in more than 70 countries and on five continents.

The sisters’ regional and national organizations provide a supportive network for many smaller groups and ministries of sisters already engaged in a variety of anti-trafficking activities. One example of how the networks resulted in stronger advocacy groups is the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, which has allied with the Australian government and receives government funding for its activities against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

“One of the most positive results of our work … is the breadth and depth of collaboration that is now taking place,” said Humility of Mary Sr. Anne Victory, a member of the national U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking working in the Cleveland area.

An anti-trafficking protest in South Africa (Courtesy of Kadir Van Lohuizen (NOOR))

“What started as a collaborative effort of seven religious congregations in the area to raise awareness through education and advocacy,” Victory wrote in an email to GSR, “has extended to a wide variety of social service providers, health care systems, law enforcement, the courts and others who share in awareness-raising and also address the real needs of victims along with efforts to prevent this crime.”

There have been some positive international gains, such as the adoption of the U.N. Agenda for Sustainable Development, with some goals and targets directed at trafficking in persons. In 2016, the U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants produced a groundbreaking New York Declaration that addresses the consequences of large movements of refugees and migrants.

The U.N. has taken many steps to bring attention to the crime of trafficking in persons and designated July 30 as the U.N. World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The Vatican also has been actively working against human trafficking: Pope Francis dedicated his message for the World Day of Peace 2015 to this theme, making it a priority of international diplomacy for the Holy See.

The pope has spoken about trafficking to international religious and church leaders, diplomats, police chiefs and mayors, social scientists and scholars, judges, and various conferences throughout the world. And he has not just been talking. He has hosted conferences, spearheaded the 2014 Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery, and catalyzed the creation of the Santa Marta Group, which brings together Catholic leaders and international law enforcement officials to battle trafficking.

(GSR graphic / Pam Hackenmiller)

Anti-trafficking days are also observed in the United States. In 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration designated Feb. 8 as an annual day of prayer for survivors and victims of human trafficking. Former President Barack Obama designated January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and the U.S. National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is observed annually on Jan. 11.

To read the full article by Michele Morek, OSU, on Global Sisters Report: Click Here

Michele Morek, OSU, is a member of the Board of Directors for US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking.

New U.N. Role Needed To Fight Human Trafficking In Conflict: Experts

Refugees and migrants cross the Old Sava Bridge heading in the direction of the Croatian border, in Belgrade, Serbia November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Refugees and migrants cross the Old Sava Bridge heading in the direction of the Croatian border, in Belgrade, Serbia November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – People displaced by war across the world are at heightened risk of human trafficking due to gaps in the United Nations’ response, campaigners said on Monday, calling for the creation of a new U.N. office to fight modern slavery.

Nearly 46 million people around the world are living as slaves, forced to work in factories, mines and farms, sold for sex, trapped in debt bondage or born into servitude, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index by rights group Walk Free Foundation.

Refugees are considered particularly vulnerable as poverty, insecurity and the necessity to flee war push them in the arms of traffickers who often operate with impunity in conflict areas.

Almost half of migrants traveling to Italy from North Africa said they were forced to work against their will along the way, mainly in lawless Libya, a survey by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published last month found.

The U.N.’s response to trafficking amid the global refugee crisis has been fragmented, according to a report by Freedom Fund, an international initiative to fight slavery.

Several agencies, including the U.N.’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have taken steps to tackle different forms of trafficking, but with little coordination, the Freedom Fund said.

 To read the full story by Umberto Bacchi on Reuters: Click Here