How Do You Honor And Cherish Freedom?

By Sister Carol Davis, OP

On the 4th of July in the United States we celebrate Independence Day. In 1776 John Adams wrote an historic letter to his wife Abigail telling her that from one end of this continent to the other there would be future annual celebrations, shows and parades celebrating what he called a “Day of Deliverance.” He recognized the blood and toil of beginning this new nation and he also saw light and glory in the forward movement.

We have much to rejoice about and also much toil ahead because there are millions awaiting their personal day of deliverance from the trauma of human trafficking. Future generations are counting on us too. Each one of us can make a difference.

In her book Stolen, Katariina (Kat) Rosenblatt, Phd, http://www.thereishopeforme.org/ writes about her personal experience of being a survivor of sex trafficking, her escape and subsequent work with American children. She notes some of the significant vulnerability factors that lead to recruitment of American children.

  • abuse at home normalizes maltreatment
  • economic disadvantages – single parent home being of higher risk
  • alcohol and drug abuse in home normalizes that experience/lifestyle
  • seeking a father figure to fill a “daddy hole”

Kat said to me one time when I asked her what I should tell people who want to help prevent human trafficking, “If you see something, say something.”

I am part of a coalition working against human trafficking in my local region and we are noting which kids in schools are “couch surfing” because of some of the reasons that Kat lists in her book. I would add that gay and lesbian kids are sometimes kicked out of their home when they identify their sexual orientation and disclose to family. All of these kids are just one extended family member, neighbor, friend, couch away from homelessness. Within 72 hours of being on the streets, they will be approached by a pimp and are therefore at high risk for survival sex or being trafficked. Those who buy commercial sex are committing a crime. By definition, no one under age can consent to sex with an adult.

Is there a child in your life who needs safe love and care, can you offer it? For example, check out Girls, Inc. When you refer someone to Alcoholics Anonymous or help a woman call a shelter so that she might leave a domestic violence situation, you could be providing a barrier to human trafficking. The more you pay attention, the more you will see the connections and realize that you can make a difference.

Consciousness grows. And we need to grow it worldwide. To that end, in 2013 the United Nations adopted a resolution declaring July 30th the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. What will you do to increase awareness? Check out the prayer service on our website: Click Here

Let us celebrate where we can and continue to respond to the call to hope and freedom. Let us continue to carry the light from the Source of all love and light.

The Spirit of God is upon me,
for the Exalted One has anointed me:
God has sent me to bring good news to those who are poor;
to heal broken hearts;
to proclaim release to those held captive.

-Isaiah 61:1

June, 2017 Monthly Reflection

Are We Living Too Fast?

By Sister Jean Schafer SDS

Summer time! For some of us around the country that season is long in coming and often too short. For most of us we want to make the most of summer: enjoy a bit more leisure, travel, read a good book, wear those new summer clothes we bought during the spring sale – our ‘summer wish list’ goes on.

What we probably do not include in that list, however, is a growing consciousness of our role in stopping or furthering the ‘fast fashion’ industry’s exploitation of both the producers and consumers of cheap clothing. To become conscious of our role in this global web of overproduction, human trafficking and environmental pollution is a challenging learning curve. Caring and courageous people are taking up that challenge. By reading further you may sense an invitation to get involved, as well!

What Is ‘Fast Fashion’?

A brief definition: “Fast fashion is the quick turnover of trendy, cheaply-made clothing that often ends up in landfill.” The tradition of introducing new fashion lines on a seasonal basis is eroding as some fast-fashion retailers introduce new products multiple times in a single week.

Three major components link us into that reality and its exploitative outcomes.

  • Trendy clothing: The retail industry has convinced the consumer through slick advertising that a new fashion is on the shelves and s/he has to buy it before it goes out of style. Thus, consumers are conditioned to visit retail stores often and succumb to purchase something trendy, whether needed or not.
  • Quick and cheaply made: Those who sew the clothing are forced to work long hours for very low wages under unhealthy conditions, so the retailer can offer us the cheap price that satisfies our expectation of ‘affordable’. Workers have few or no rights and most are caught in labor trafficking because they lack voice or options for better jobs.
  • Landfill destinations: Because cheaply-made clothing does not last and because we did not pay much to own them, it is easy to toss out the ‘outmoded’ and buy the ‘new trendy’ replacement. Yes, we recycle, but thrift stores eventually resort to landfills to keep their racks full of ‘trendy’ clothes.

If you are ready for the challenge, let’s explore more deeply a few of the real facts and trends behind these components of the ‘fast fashion’ phenomenon.

The world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. Clothing consumption has increased 500% in the US in just the last couple of decades. Roughly 98% of clothing sold in America are actually made overseas, compared to 5% in 1960. Meanwhile, the global fashion industry earns about $3 trillion per year.

What the ‘Fast Fashion’ industry won’t tell you:

  • The fashion industry is designed to make you feel “out of trend” after one week.
  • ‘Discounts’ aren’t really discounts.
  • There are hazardous chemicals, including lead in your clothing.
  • Clothing is designed to fall apart.
  • Beading and sequins may be an indication of child labor.

There are about 40 million garment workers in the world today; 85% of them are women. On average, only 0.5 to 3% of the cost of production for the average item of clothing goes to the worker who made it – i.e., 30 cents of a shirt costing $10 to make. Then there are also workplace abuses: wage theft (not paying overtime, violating minimum wage laws), lack of building safety, and underage employees, some as young as 11 years old.

The average hourly wage for garment workers:

Bangladesh  $0.24

Cambodia      $0.45

Pakistan        $0.52

Vietnam         $0.53

China              $1.26

What ‘Fast Fashion’ Retailers Earn:

  • GAP’s CEO Arthur Peck’s annual compensation: $3,510,000; Reported accumulated compensation: $30,468,880
  • Hennes & Mauritz is Europe’s largest fashion retailer. H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson’s net worth: $3,000,000,000. He is grandson of H&M’s founder. The Persson family’s worth: $26,000,000,000. (They own 36% shares in H&M.)

What Does ‘Fast’ Look Like?

Farfetch.com announced that it would now be delivering Gucci in 90 minutes in 10 major cities around the world. *F90 delivery is available from store to door in the following cities: London, Paris, Madrid, Milan, New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Dubai, Tokyo, São Paulo.

Environmental Impact of ‘Fast Fashion’

  • Apparel accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil.
  • It takes up to 700 gallons of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single t­-shirt.
  • Cotton production is now responsible for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use.
  • We churn out clothes at an alarming rate — Americans now buy five ­times as much clothing as they did in 1980.
  • Pesticide-infused cotton fields in Texas and India coincide with high incidences of cancer deaths of farmers.
  • Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world’s polyester fiber, which is now the most commonly used fiber in our clothing. But it takes more than 200 years to decompose.
  • In the US alone, 12.8 million tons of clothing are sent to landfills each year (about 87 lbs of clothing per person every year). Massive landfills in developing countries, such as Haiti, give off poisonous gases and seep deadly chemicals into the waterways and oceans, as the synthetic materials rot.
  • Textiles use 25% of chemicals produced worldwide, many of which are dumped into the environment after use. This water pollution coincides with a massive rise in local cancer and birth defects, especially among children.
  • In 2014, the US produced 35.4 million tons of containerboard, a large proportion of which becomes disposable packaging used in e­-commerce.

Global Response to Tragedy

On April 24, 2013, 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured when the 8-storey Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Workers said the building was unsafe. Yet managers forced them in and locked the doors.

Rana Plaza
Nne victim’s future.

 

This date was also when a Fashion Revolution was born and many people rallied to do something to right this terrible wrong.

“The old notion of a ‘good buy’ is that it is cheap and makes you look thin. A renewed notion: a ‘good buy’ for us as Catholics has ethical content. How was it sourced? How does it care for creation? How were the workers treated in the making of this garment? How were they paid?” (The Human Thread Campaign.org: Five Reasons)

What Can We Do?

View the documentary: The True Cost.

This 2015 documentary film directed by Andrew Morgan focuses on fast fashion. Morgan examines the garment industry and links it to consumerism, mass media, globalization, capitalism, structural poverty, oppression, and human trafficking. The documentary is a collage of several interviews with environmentalists, garment workers, factory owners, and people organizing fair trade companies or promoting sustainable clothing production. (True Cost Movie Website)

Take the Pledge to become a responsible consumer and educate yourself on the true cost of fashion:

  • I pledge to be a responsible consumer and remain aware of the environmental and human effects of the fast fashion industry.
  • Buy clothes made with sustainable fibers (recycled polyester, organic cotton).
  • Ask the brands you buy from how their clothes are made—tweet at them or ask retailers when you are in stores about where, how, and who makes their clothing.
  • Recycle clothes at thrift stores, vintage stores, or donation locations.
  • Participate in clothing-swap meet-ups—it’s fun.
  • Buy what you need, not always what you want.
  • Participate in “slow fashion.”
  • Buy clothes you love, that last, and that have an exceptional warranty policy to help you mend them over time.
  • Wash your jeans less.

Search the Internet for information on the harms of ‘fast fashion’:

Search the Internet for information on ways people and companies are working to counter ‘fast fashion’:

General Resources:

In his Message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis wrote: “As individuals, we have grown comfortable with certain lifestyles shaped by a distorted culture of prosperity and a ‘disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary’ (Laudato Si’, 123), and we are participants in a system that ‘has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature.’ Let us repent of the harm we are doing to our common home.”

May Monthly Reflection

What Does It Mean to be Safe?

by Sister Kathleen Bryant, RSC

Neurologists say that our brains are always scanning for information, for danger, for distraction like a vacuum cleaner! The stressful lives that we lead are not healthy for our brains. We all need time and space to just be, and to awaken to our safety and well-being. One of the meditations designed by Dr. Rick Hanson, helps us to rewire our brains so that we can be more mindful and contemplative. I use this meditation with a diverse population and ask them for an image that makes them feel safe. In silence and as one of the steps they sit still with that image and it has effects on the body and their wellbeing. You can view powerpoint slides of his meditations and neuroplasticity of the brain here.

What does this have to do with human trafficking? After rescue and during rehabilitation, how do we help our survivors experience safety?  How safe can they be if they are living in the same city as their trafficker? How do we help with their healing process by creating safety “zones” in their lives? I have used this meditation practice with women and it helps cultivate a sense of safety and peace.

One of the most effective programs for trauma healing that I have ever experienced provides protocols for helping people get to a safety zone. Pat Cane, Founder and CEO of Capacitar trains people to use these healing protocols with survivors of trauma and violence. Using a rich menu of tai chi, fingerholding meditation, acupressure, pal dan gum, tapping, and more, the survivor is equipped and empowered to be part of her or his own healing process.  All you need is your breath and your body.  You can view the emergency kit at on capacitar.org  in several different languages. Look at the home page for stories of work with trauma survivors globally as well as efforts to nurture peace is some very violent parts of the world.

Safety has been foremost on my mind because of a recent tragedy in which three girls were shot, or executed, on Easter Sunday night at an orphanage in a nearby country by a cartel. They had been victims of trafficking and the cartels controlled the market. No photos or places can be disclosed with reverence and protection of those who loved them. However, this story will give you an understanding of the total control and lack of any safety these girls experience here.

At a FADICA gathering in February this year, a few of us were asked to speak about human trafficking and the border between California and Mexico.  Little did we know at the time that some of the stories we shared of escape, healing and support would have such a brutal ending.  The most recent girl was rescued was one year old. Did the traffickers want her for child porn or for her organs? This is the reality we deal with and pray for an end to this unspeakable exploitation. 

I thought of all the effort that went into helping these young girls with rehabilitation—medical and emotional—surgeries and therapy, and yet one shot ended it all.  We wrestle with systemic change when we work for justice. We advocate, meet with government officials, march, educate and try to prevent.  How can we imagine possible ways to go to the source of this trafficking enterprise and find ways to diffuse their power? There is no true healing if the survivor does not feel safe. These executions sent a clear message about who is in control. 

As people of faith we believe that good does defeat evil, that Light can penetrate any darkness. In this Easter season, how can we nurture faith in the transformative power of suffering and death that ends in new life? I struggle as I see their faces and know their stories. It impels us into further action with the powers that be. Our contemplative lives, if authentic, impel us into social action. Otherwise, we sit in impotent silence.

April, 2017 Reflection

Human Trafficking Survivors: Leaving Their Tombs Behind

by Sister Maryann Mueller, CSSF

As we celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we may be reminded of another Gospel story where Jesus affected the resurrection of a little girl, the twelve year old daughter of Jairus. In Mark’s Gospel we read:

He took along the child’s father and mother
and those who were with him
and entered the room where the child was.
He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,
which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around.
At that they were utterly astounded.

The phrase Talitha Kum is the name of the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons. The expression enfleshes the transformative power embodied in the daily earthly resurrections experienced by survivors wounded by human trafficking. Each time a survivor is able to hear the words “I say to you arise!” and leaves the “tomb” of a past which may drain them of life they give witness to the lesson of the resurrected Christ from which flows the strength of the human spirit.

Catholic Sisters throughout the United States and the world offer various services which help survivors arise from their unimaginable “tombs.”   Sisters provide shelter and safe housing to survivors. They are engaged with basic life skills training and with ensuring that survivors know their legal rights. Sisters assist these men and women with work skills training and help them to reintegrate into society.

One avenue that has empowered survivors of trafficking to leave the tombs of the past and rebuild their lives is businesses that train and hire survivors of trafficking. Organizations listed on the resource section of this website work with survivors of trafficking to obtain job skills and help them earn a sustainable income. Survivors may learn to make and sell candles, soap and fragrances, jewelry, bags and other gifts.  Several companies will help survivors with education, or will use proceeds to subsidize vocational programs for them. Some of these companies also hire those at risk for trafficking or donate a portion of their profits to organizations that combat human trafficking. Each purchase from any of these businesses help support and provide former victims of trafficking with the tools and opportunities to leave the tombs of their past, to “arise,” and to astound us all with the tenacity of the human spirit.

To visit our resource section: 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.

February Monthly Reflection

St. Josephine Bakhita: A Saint For Our Time

By the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center

During the month of February, we commemorate St. Josephine Bakhita, who has come to be known as a symbol of hope for Catholics in the anti-human trafficking movement. St. Josephine was sold into slavery as a young girl in her home country of Sudan, but later in life she escaped and became a Canossian sister in Italy.

St. Josephine Bakhita’s story, although occurring over one hundred years ago, reflects some of the same realities that many human trafficking victims face today. There are so many untold stories of individuals trapped in situations of exploitation through force, fraud, or coercion. We have a tendency in doing this work to lump these stories together into statistics and data in an effort to convey to people the how human trafficking reaches every corner of the earth, every industry, gender, and age group. St. Josephine reminds us that behind these statistics are nearly 21 million individual stories of suffering.

St. Josephine reminds us of a man we work with who for years was exploited right here in the United States at a sandwich shop and was then apprehended by U.S. immigration officials for being undocumented. I think of his resilience in advocating for himself and obtaining legal residency and using his voice to shed light on the issue of human trafficking that occurs right here in our backyard.

St. Josephine reminds us of the service providers who work 12 hour days to assist in providing for human trafficking survivors’ basic needs after escaping exploitation. This type of dedication can only be brought out through immense compassion and hope.

St. Josephine reminds us of the people overseas who are exploited making the products we in the western world could not imagine our lives without. Cell phones, clothing, shoes, jewelry, and other products have a higher cost than just the money we pay for them, a cost paid in the suffering of those who are not paid a fair wage, work long hours, and do not have access to safety equipment.

So, to commemorate these stories, we invite you to honor St. Josephine on her Feast Day, February 8th, and to hold in your heart all victims of human trafficking in three ways:

  1. Gather your family, religious community, and friends to say the prayer of St. Josephine Bakhita (below).
  2. Choose one of the US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking’s Educational Modules to study and reflect upon.
  3. Contact your Members of Congress by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and urge them to continue the work to end human trafficking globally.

As people of faith, we have a long legacy of commemorating those who have gone before us to pave the way for justice. So on February 8th, let us continue the work to end human trafficking and celebrate how far we’ve come.

St. Josephine Bakhita, you were sold into slavery as a child
and endured untold hardship and suffering.
Once liberated from your physical enslavement,
you found true redemption in your encounter with
Christ and his Church.

O St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a
state of slavery;
Intercede with God on their behalf
so that they will be released from their chains
of captivity.

Those whom man enslaves, let God set free.
Provide comfort to survivors of slavery
and let them look to you as an example of hope
and faith.

Help all survivors find healing from their wounds.
We ask for your prayers and intercessions for
those enslaved among us.

Amen

 

Prayer: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services

 

The Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center is a member organization of the US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking. IPJC is sponsored by 21 religious communities and works for justice in the church and in the world through education, advocacy and organizing.

November Monthly Reflection

Do my actions and beliefs reflect Redemption?

by Sister Sally Duffy, S.C.

A pattern of behaviors and conditions exist at the intersection of many issues, such as human trafficking, immigration and the need to migrate for asylees and refugees, poverty and inequity, domestic violence, treatment of prisoners and the racial disparity in our criminal justice system, and care for creation. Whenever a person of our global home is denied their God-given dignity and shared membership in our society there is control, manipulation, violence, demeaning words and acts, isolation, intimidation, exploitation and abuse of power.

Patterns exist in all our lives and reflect the fundamental direction of our lives in relationship to God and our neighbor. Do our norms, behaviors and patterns reflect God’s life and love and demand right relationship or do they diminish, harm, deny life and collude in injustice?

When we advocate for justice, for right relationship and shared membership, can we help others to see the pattern and the intersection of the issues? As Catholic Sisters, we are pro-birth and pro-life about the seamless garment of life. We need to give voice and visibility to people who are kept victimized, living in the shadows and living in inhumane and punitive situations. Whenever possible, we need to empower and share power so victims of injustice can speak and be visible.

sunsethandsModern day slavery, whether it is labor or sex trafficking, is so profitable regardless of the economic system. All issues that victimize, marginalize, isolate, keep people vulnerable, disempower, strip dignity and keep people on crosses are sinful because of our turning away from God’s love and seeking reliance in false gods. In this Year of Mercy, we must ask for God’s help and guidance to participate in patterns of behavior and conditions that reflect our fundamental direction as individuals, as a country, and as the People of God.

Will we end modern day slavery and minimize the circumstances by working for comprehensive immigration reform and integration, restorative justice and ending the death penalty and move in the direction of an ecological conversion? Will we provide just wages and benefits so all children and families can thrive and maximize their potential? Can we minimize events and circumstances where people are treated as a product or a commodity to be sold or traded or exploited?

SC Ministry Foundation promotes the mission and ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. As a public grantmaking organization, we have partnered with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center (OJPC) for over a decade. We congratulate and express our gratitude to OJPC, especially Sasha Appatova, for working with “Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Heather Russell to set up a special court to address the needs of human trafficking survivors, many who were forced into prostitution. Often, these survivors are required by their traffickers to commit crimes, including prostitution, thefts and drug offenses. The special court allows survivors who have been convicted of crimes their traffickers forced them to commit to get their convictions expunged from their records.” (2015 Annual Report of OJPC) The Women Victims of Violence project of OJPC helps survivors of human trafficking with criminal records and women who were incarcerated because of crimes against their abusers. OJPC is working to increase the number of courts that provide Safe Harbor Expungements for survivors.

In this Year of Mercy, may our actions and beliefs reflect Redemption. May we pray and continue our efforts to take victims of human trafficking and all victims down from their crosses.

Sister Sally Duffy S.C. is the Executive Director of the SC Ministry

Foundation and a member of the USCSAHT Board of Directors.

October Monthly Reflection

Pray, Love, Act

by Carol Davis, OP

Globally, there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking, with hundreds of thousands in the USA, per the International Labor Organization. Human trafficking occurs in every state and in Washington, DC. There is no single profile, no single way traffickers recruit. There is no single group being targeted; they come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, documented and undocumented. They are women, men, children.

When I think of the women I’ve had the privilege to accompany on part of their healing journey, there are some similarities. They carry shame, they desire healing, the light in their souls still shines or at least the embers are glowing. The pain is visceral and so is their courage. When they share their stories I feel sad, pained, angered, and grieved. I also feel deep gratitude for the privilege of being able to support a survivor on her journey of healing, speaking her truth, struggling to choose life. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed.

I remember the prayer of that amazing abolitionist, dreamer, and underground railroad leader who was born in the late 19th century. Harriet Tubman prayed: “I’m going to hold steady on You, an’ You’ve got to see me through.” I pray for the victims and survivors. I pray for myself and those who work for freedom. I pray also for the perpetrators.

It seems to me that the freedom is needed for all – the survivors and, yes, for the perpetrators. There are so many who do not remember who they are, who have lost their way, who have no idea of the holiness, the grace that is in their very soul at birth. If a person knew who they were as a son or daughter of the Divine, they could not commit such atrocities as enslaving another.

Pope Francis tells us that “Every state of life leads to holiness, always”, but only if we are open to the grace of God’s gift.  “First, we must bear in mind that holiness is not something that we can procure for ourselves or obtain with our quality and our skills. Holiness is gifted to us by the Lord Jesus, when He takes us up with Him and clothes us in Himself . . .” (Vatican Radio, 9/11/14)

The gifts are at times squandered and there are those who barricade themselves against the gifts of grace. Even there, we must not lose hope. We must continue to pray for the wounded survivors of human trafficking and for the perpetrators.

There are those who have been so wounded they struggle to remember who they are. I’ve been asked by more than one survivor if God could still love her after all that she had been through, the rapes, the prostitution, the drug use and sales, the violence. I want to say to every survivor, “You are made in the image and likeness of the Divine. Yes, you are loved, you are loveable, you are holy”. I also know that my words will ring hollow if I do not live love. We know that faith without works is dead. (see James 3:14ff)

How are you being called to stretch out yourself in love for the sake of the Gospel?

Do Good.

And good will come to

you.

Harriet Tubman reminds us to hold steady to God. Pope Francis reminds us of the universal call to holiness that is pure gift from God. To what action does God’s love impel you today? Is there one thing you can do? Will it be a personal prayer for survivors? Will you take action to get a prayer for an end to human trafficking read from the pulpit in your church or diocese? Will you call your congressional representative and request that they take action? Will you take the time to peruse the US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking website for more ideas?

The prophet Micah challenges us: (6:8)

You have been told oh my people what is good,

   to act justly,

       to love tenderly,

           to walk humbly with your God.

September Monthly Reflection

Who Is God For Victims And Survivors Of Human Trafficking?

By Jeanne Christensen, RSM

As persons of faith, our prayer calls us to respond to the needs of the world and our response in ministry leads us back to God. We are called to integrate contemplation and action. Who is God for each of us?

Who is God for victims and survivors of human trafficking? How does their endurance of daily repeated physical, emotional, and sexual abuses shape their image of God?   The trauma which trafficking survivors experience is very complex and complicated. How do we help victims understand the love of God and that they are spiritual beings worthy of being loved by God?

Ponder these questions for a few moments.

Here is what some of the exploited women served through The Justice Project’s Willow Tree in Kansas City said about God:

  • God is my protector
  • God is good all of the time
  • God is REAL love…not fake love
  • God always found me when I was lost
  • God is a spirit who always loves me when nobody did
  • I used to think God was punishing me but now I know I just didn’t let him help me
  • Without God, I would be dead

Which of these descriptions of God most strikes you? Why?

Prayer handsConversation with the women also brought out that they don’t like the God-name “higher power” because it’s too abusive. They might consider “deeper power.” Their Native American transgendered person talked about the native belief that God is everywhere, takes all forms, has many names and is in all of us. The belief that God is always with them, but that they have the choice of what to do was voiced by almost everyone. The overall belief is that God is a loving God, but that God is very capable of, in their term, “kickin’ your ass”.

What do these women’s reflections about God say to you?

As so often happens, these victims and survivors amaze us and we receive more than we ever give. We have no idea or experience of the horrendous treatment they survive, so we are amazed at their courage in making the transition out.   To fully respond to our calling for ministry with them, we must simply walk with them until we understand. It is a slow and arduous journey – let us begin!

And, let us pray:

Compassionate, tender God, you desire that all might have fullness of life and you invite us to care for all persons you have created.  God, we know you are present and we are in awe of your grace which strengthens us as we hear the call to confront the tragic reality of human trafficking. May we respond as You would. AMEN.

Source: Sister Jeanne Christensen, RSM (Justice Advocate – Human Trafficking, Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community, North Kansas City, MO) and the women of The Justice Project’s Willow Tree in Kansas City, Missouri USA. To learn more, visit http://www.thejusticeprojectkc.org.

 

August Monthly Reflection

Collaboration: Ending Human Trafficking by Working Together

by Anne Victory, HM

Peace&Justice_final design_xlarge
Artist: Frankie Dutil, CSJ. Used with permission, Region VII Justice Promoters.

Work on the issue of human trafficking can be taxing, even overwhelming at times for so many reasons. The complexity of the crime, the extent to which it pervades our society, the ways in which we are all unknowingly complicit, the myriad faces of victims across the world and within our own neighborhoods all contribute to a sense of “It’s just too big! There’s no way that I can make a difference.” Often we’re left feeling sad and powerless in the face of such a monstrous issue that damages millions of lives each year for the sake of others’ economic gain.

As I examine what seems to make the difference for organizations and individuals who persevere in their efforts to engage with this issue, I find that one of the key factors for success is one word—collaboration. Collaboration these days seems “trendy,” but effectively collaborating is really a process, a journey, and certainly a challenge.

I have come to know that true collaboration on this issue requires a number of elements. The first is a selfless and generous heart. Such a stance demands recognition that no one has all of the resources, knowledge and skills to address such a complex crime alone, so I and others need to share what we each can bring to the table willing to share and to have our views influenced by the gifts of others.

The focus of collaboration needs to be on the mission: what are we trying to accomplish? Agreeing on a common mission requires clarity of purpose and challenging of assumptions for the sake of those we are serving. It’s not my agenda or that of my organization that counts—it is our shared agenda that brings about the best results for the sake of those victimized by human trafficking. A broad vision of ending human trafficking is ambitious, but it is certainly essential to keep us focused on a world free of modern-day slavery.

I have also learned that collaboration takes time, is often a bit “messy,” and is always full of energy. Even when I might prefer to “just get it done,” the results of any project are so much more effective if I allow and even encourage the spirited exchange of ideas and the tangents that seem on the surface to be time-wasters. In the end, serving victims with compassion, preventing the crime, reducing the demand, and addressing the root causes of vulnerability can only be accomplished through creative approaches and ideas offered by generous sharing for the sake of the whole, the mission. These energetic conversations often result in new possibilities that would not have been considered without the “chaos.”

Lastly, effective collaboration calls for networking with sometimes “uncommon” partners, inviting them to bring their unique gifts and resources to the table for the sake of the whole. As St. Paul reminds us, “There are different gifts but the same Spirit; there are different ministries but the same Lord; there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in everyone.” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Those whom we may never have considered as partners may be just the ones whose gifts are needed to address some aspect of this crime: making a connection with a community business or agency whose resources have the potential to carry the mission to a new level, weaving that safety net for victims, expanding awareness within the community, beginning to change systems to lessen factors that leave people so vulnerable to this abuse.

So collaboration is certainly not for the faint of heart! It’s well worth it, though, to begin to make a real difference in the quest to create a slave-free world. Let’s keep learning, sharing, creating, risking, and encouraging one another on this journey!