Maryland Bishops Join Fight Against Human Trafficking

Baltimore, Md., Apr 5, 2017 / 06:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Maryland’s bishops united in voicing their concerns over the evils of human trafficking, announcing their sponsorship of a statewide initiative aimed at raising awareness of the issue.  

“The evil of human trafficking is an international, national and local scourge, and a grave violation of the dignity and freedom of all its victims,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington said in an April 3 statement.

“As people of faith, this grave injustice cries out for a response.”

According to the U.S. State Department, upwards of 800,000 victims of trafficking are brought through the U.S. borders every year. Up to 17,500 individuals are also trafficked into the country annually. Globally, the number spikes into an estimated 20 million victims, according to the International Labor Organization.

The bishops lamented that the state of Maryland also sees a number of trafficked victims, due to Interstate 95, which acts as a hub to other cities, especially with the Baltimore Washington International airport nearby.

The bishops’ statement, titled Proclaiming Liberty to Captives, highlighted the duty of Christians to “break the yoke of modern-day slavery,” by raising awareness and supporting organizations that aid victims.

Many efforts are already in place, which rescue trafficked victims and prosecute the perpetrators, such as Maryland’s Human Trafficking Task Force, who rescued almost 400 victims from trafficking in 2014.

The bishops voiced their support of these initiatives, and also announced their own sponsorship of regional trainings that will raise awareness of human trafficking around the state.

“The Catholic bishops in Maryland pledge to devote the resources of the Church to support, unify and expand these efforts wherever possible,” the bishops stated.

“To assist in those efforts, the Catholic Church will sponsor regional trainings throughout the state beginning in the spring of 2017, at which we will bring together national, state and local experts who will provide participants with effective tools for combating human trafficking in our local communities.”

As many victims are not aware of their own captivity, the bishops underscored the importance of these new training programs that would help individuals recognize and identify the signs of a trafficked victim.

 

To read the full story on Catholic News Agency: Click Here

Holy See: ‘Migration Crisis, Human Trafficking A Crisis Of Humanity’

Msgr. Janusz Urbańczyk, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) - RV
Msgr. Janusz Urbańczyk, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – RV
 
(Vatican Radio)  The Vatican’s permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Msgr. Janusz Urbańczyk, has addressed three separate panels at the “17th Alliance against Trafficking in Persons Conference”.

The focus of the conference is on trafficking in children and is taking place in Vienna.

Msgr. Urbańczyk addressed the panels on “Human Trafficking Threats for Children in Crisis”, “Towards Effective Child Protection Systems to Fight Human Trafficking”, and “Looking forward: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation”.

At the heart of the Holy See’s message was a call to view the current migration crisis as a “crisis of humanity”.

“The Holy See wishes to reiterate once again that the current crisis of migrant and refugee flow is primarily, in the words of Pope Francis, a crisis of humanity. As such, it is vital that all actors recognise that above all ‘Migrants are not a danger, they are in danger’”.

Msgr. Urbańczyk also urged enhanced cooperation between governments and non-governmental organizations, as well as with members of the private sector.

“It is of great urgency to strengthen cooperation and coordination with NGOs that work in the areas of concern and know the context of poverty and vulnerability where situations of exploitation very often arise. It is also opportune to cooperate with the private sector, in particular with national and local companies, as well as with multinationals, so that they may adopt rigorous and law-abiding behavior.”

Pope Francis on Monday sent a message to the conference: click here to see it.

Please find below the three separate statements:

STATEMENT BY MSGR. JANUSZ URBAŃCZYK, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE HOLY SEE, AT THE 17TH ALLIANCE AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS CONFERENCE “TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS AND THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD”

To read the full story on Vatican Radio: 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

Us Senator Sees Vatican As Partner In Fight Against Modern-Day Slavery

ROME- United States Senator Bob Corker was in Rome this week to meet Vatican officials, including Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, discussing a possible partnership between the U.S. and the Holy See in dealing with human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

“We see the Vatican, the Holy See, as a great partner in this effort. I know the pope has spoken about it on several opportunities,” the Republican senator from Tennessee told reporters on Friday.

The meeting between Corker and Vatican officials took place on the same day President Donald Trump pledged to work on “solving the human trafficking epidemic, which is what it is,” calling it “a priority for my administration.”

Trump was speaking at a Session on Domestic and International Human Trafficking, held at the White House on Thursday.

Corker is also the Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee, and late last year he was rumored to be a candidate for Trump’s Secretary of State.

As Corker pointed out on Friday, there’s an estimated 27 million people today living in slavery, more than at any time in the world’s history. An estimated 24 percent of the total are in sexual servitude, with 76 percent of them in hard labor.

“The awareness of this is obviously growing, there are many people around the world working diligently,” Corker said.

As an illegal industry, the human trafficking is among the most profitable, comparable to drug and gun trafficking.

“There are so many people around the world working towards [the end of slavery], but there’s yet to be an international effort to bring all of that together, like the international community did with PEPFAR and dealing with the global AIDS issue,” Corker said.

PEPFAR is the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a governmental initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world launched under President George W. Bush.

To read the full story by Inés San Martín on Crux: Click Here

 

March Monthly Reflection

The Tenth Station – Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments (John 19:23-24)

by Jeanne Christensen, RSM

Contemplation

During Lent this year, I was asked to reflect on the tenth station – Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments (John 19:23-24). While it is not the Lenten season, I encourage you to become acquainted with Daia, who is so representative of women who are trafficked.

The name we know her by is Daia, but that isn’t her birth name. When Daia was twelve she ran away from home and her mother’s current abusive boyfriend. Within two days on the streets, a young and fun-loving older boy promised her a safe place to stay, food and a chance to be a just-discovered model. Daia thought, “a dream come true.” It became a nightmare of posing for pornographic images and being sold for sex by the boy who made false promises. She, like Jesus, was stripped of her clothing, humiliated and exposed to harsh, unforgiving eyes.

This terrible trauma lasted for many months, until one night she was left for dead in a motel room – beaten for not “meeting expectations” and bringing a good return on the boy’s “investment.” She survived and with help from a small, local organization dedicated to helping victims of trafficking, found her way to healing and recovery. Now she is clothed, praised for her strength to rebuild her life, and the eyes looking at her express pride and encouragement.

Personal Reflection

Daia and so many other women and young girls like her live in your city, maybe even in your neighborhood. You may have seen one of them in your hospital’s emergency department or at the truck stop on the Interstate. She may even be a student in your high school or university. When you see a woman or young girl you suspect is being trafficked, stripped of her dignity, what can you do? You can respond with compassion, being careful to not put her at risk and you can call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888. They will give you safe, accurate information. If it is an emergency situation, call local law enforcement. Whatever you do, don’t look away or remain silent. Mercy requires this of us.

Prayer

Blessed are they who have survived for they will show us courage and hope, dare us to see clearly and to be their voice.

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

Eradicate Human Trafficking Once And For All!

Pope Francis on human trafficking - photo: Radio Vaticana

\Statement on the occasion of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking  

On the occasion of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, 8 February, Caritas Europa casts the spotlight on the global tragedy of trafficking in human beings. This scourge affects millions people in the world and generates billions of euros for criminal groups. 

“I was 12 when a friend of the family visited my parents. She said that she knew people in Paris who were about to be parents and they were looking for a teenager who could take care of the baby. They promised that I will be paid and receive an education. I felt I was dreaming. I was on my way to France to study,” told Olivia, who was trafficked and abused as a domestic slave for 9 years in Paris. 

Caritas organisations from across Europe work daily with victims of trafficking like Olivia. But neither Caritas nor civil society alone can seriously challenge the global indifference that feeds trafficking in human beings. Caritas Europa thus calls on European states and the European Union to fully ratify and implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. And to do their outmost to tackle the root causes of trafficking.

To read the full story from Caritas Europa: Click Here

Vatican Meeting Calls Organ Trafficking A Crime Against Humanity

Vatican City – Nearly 80 doctors, law enforcement and health officials from around the world vowed to fulfill the directive of Pope Francis to combat human trafficking and organ trafficking in all their condemnable forms.

View of Saint Peter's square at the Vatican (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi / MANILA BULLETIN)
View of Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi / MANILA BULLETIN)

After a conference on organ trafficking at the Vatican, participants signed this week a statement agreeing to unite in fighting the crime of organ trafficking, submitting 11 proposals for implementation by healthcare and law enforcement professionals around the world.

The creation of the statement was one of the main objectives of the Summit on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Participants in the summit gave reports on the issue and how it is currently being combated in their respective countries.

“We the undersigned pledge our commitment to combat these illicit and immoral practices,” the statement, published Feb. 9, reads.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only about 10 percent – or 120,000 – of the estimated 1 million organ transplants needed are performed each year. This data was presented to Pope Francis in 2014, and is an example of the demand for organs creating, in large part, the drive for illegal trafficking.

To read the full story by CNA/EWTN News on Manila Bulletin: 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.