September Monthly Reflection

A prayer for the ones left behind

By Michele Morek, OSU

On May 25, International Missing Children’s Day, I was reading a Prayer for Missing Children by Jane Deren (Education for Justice) when I was struck by a thunderbolt of conscience.

It was a lovely prayer, praying for missing children, including those kidnapped, trafficked, lost as refugees, or lost in conflicts. But it did not only pray for the children. It remembered the suffering parents or other loved ones, comparing their anguish to the suffering of Mary and Joseph when they lost their son on a trip to Jerusalem. (Luke 2:42)

It made me realize—with some shock and shame—that while I often think of and pray for people who are trafficked or kidnapped, I rarely go deeper and think of the others affected: the parents, spouses, friends, and wider community.

I had reason to feel guilty, because I should know better. My friend and sister in religious life was kidnapped, and I know firsthand the sorrow and panic of those left behind: community, friends, classmates and family. Not only the immediate worry and pain, but the pain which persists for years as we witness the continuing suffering of our loved one—manifest in PTSD, nightmares and flashbacks—or if they are still missing, imagine what they might be going through and wonder if they are still alive.

A doctor with expertise in dealing with kidnapping and torture victims came for a healing session with my religious congregation, and explained that a kidnapper / trafficker / torturer does not only hurt a single victim, but victimizes the whole community of family, friends, or religious congregation.

Think of a mother’s anguish, fleeing from war and violence, as she suddenly realizes that a child is no longer with her. Think of a father’s pain when a child is kidnapped or trafficked, as he takes on an additional burden of guilt.

Now imagine the silent suffering of a family living in extreme poverty, who may have sold the child to traffickers in order to feed the rest of the family, or so that the child’s life would be “improved.”

When we pray for trafficked persons, let us remember to pray for those left behind, and to pray that somehow the world might learn how to address the extreme inequality that leads to poverty and violence.

Further Study:

Read Luke 2:42 and imagine how it would look in modern-day headlines.

Check this resource for nonprofit organizations seeking to provide support services for families with missing members. In addition, many states have their own agencies providing support services for such families.

Michele Morek OSU

 

Racine Dominicans Continue To Fight Human Trafficking

RACINE COUNTY — Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a series of bills in support of efforts to combat human trafficking.
But anti-trafficking efforts have been active for years in Racine County, and much of its history starts with Racine’s very own Dominican sisters.
“The Racine Dominicans were instrumental in shining a spotlight on human trafficking early on in Racine when many of us, including myself, were not even aware of the issue,” said Karri Hemmig, founder and executive director of Fight to End Exploitation.

Sixteen years in the making

In 2001, 1 million Catholic sisters from around the world gathered in Rome and vowed to address “insistently, and at every level, the abuse and sexual exploitation of women and children, with particular attention to human trafficking.”
The Dominicans took the declaration to heart, helping to spur human trafficking efforts in Racine County.
“This (human trafficking) kept coming up like a bad penny,” said Sister Ruth Schaaf, who was working as a parish nurse and had an office at St. Luke’s Hospital at the time. She also chaired the Racine Dominicans’ society focus group.
“Somebody said, ‘How do we know we haven’t seen a victim?’” Schaaf said. “That was an eye opener because we began to say, ‘Yeah, what would be some red flags?’”

Seeking knowledge

The sisters read a “Look Beneath the Surface” pamphlet issued by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking campaign, which informed them of the red flags to look for in potential trafficking victims.

To read the full story by Alyssa Mauk on The Journal Times: Click Here

The Worldwide Debate About Sex Work: Morality Meets Reality

The streets of Pattaya, Thailand, one of the centers of sex tourism (GSR photo / Gail DeGeorge)
 

Public debate on prostitution can be tough, passionate, even angry.

Advocates for differing views cannot even agree on shared language: Those who defend their way of making a living as sex workers embrace their identity, while those, like Catholic sisters, who decry the term “sex work” as demeaning, argue that there can be no dignity in a relationship where sex is exchanged for money.

“I think all prostitution represents violence against women,” said Sr. Winifred Doherty, who represents the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd at the United Nations.

The passion Doherty and others bring to the topic has been on display during the last year at the U.N., where space for debate about social topics is frequently honored. The topic of prostitution was addressed at several U.N. forums during the March meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women.

And inevitably, the U.N.’s upcoming World Day against Trafficking in Persons on July 30 may prompt debate. The commemoration was designated by U.N. member states beginning in 2013 as necessary to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

To read the full story by Chris on Global Sisters Report: Click Here

August Monthly Reflection

Traffik 2017: A New Art Exhibit about Human Trafficking

Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA

On May 11-12, 2017 Mayo Clinic-Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, WI held its 20th annual conference on Child Maltreatment with support from the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, Coulee Region Child Abuse Prevention Task Force, Family & Children’s Center – Stepping Stones, the La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery, and Viterbo University Art Department. This nationally recognized conference addresses strategies that multidisciplinary teams can use to intervene when child maltreatment is reported, collaborate with community and family to protect children, and ensure justice for child victims of abuse/neglect.

This year the conference devoted a full day to human trafficking. Speakers addressed national and state legislation, human trafficking in a globalized context, assisting victims, and suppression of demand on the part of law enforcement. A special feature of the conference was a nationally juried art exhibit organized and presented by the Viterbo University Art Department, entitled Traffik 2017. The goal was to create a space for artists to express themselves, and for others to dwell among works that have been highly considered, in the context of this issue. The call to artists invited submission of works with an implication for introspection on the theme, the issues that surround it or its effects, and to explore broader interpretations of issues that it raises, such as oppression, illicit economies, invisibility, innocence, social justice and others. (http://www.viterbo.edu/art-department/traffik-2017-call-artists)

Image by Margaret Miller, Viterbo Art Alumni 2014

Viterbo University received some 50 entries from artists all over the United States and one from Austria. Since the call was open to anyone 18 years of age and older, entries represented the full spectrum of working artists, from high school and college students, to university professors, to professional and amateur working artists. The jury selected 28 pieces for the show.

A sampling from the exhibit is shown here with the permission of the artists. Their own words describe their creations.

Barbed Wire with Butterfly #2

By Daniel Stokes

Terra Cotta

I have chosen to describe the theme by illustrating the contrast embodied by my subject matter, butterflies and barbed wire. The butterfly representing the fragile, the harmless, the beautiful. All those precious things of this world that are vulnerable by their very nature including men, women, and children.

Barbed wire, whose sole purpose for existence is to inflict pain, as a symbol of the methods and attitudes of those who in service of greed would control, imprison, even enslave the weak and innocent through threats of violence, to whom human beings are nothing more than mere property to be bought, sold, and ultimately destroyed.

Dark Cities

by Anna Lucille Strunk (Lucy)

Acrylic

The top half of the painting shows Americans going about their everyday lives. The blue background reflects a calm and cool world, where there is nothing to be concerned about. The white figures are the everyday people, going about their lives in the cities and towns. The small size and white color represents how most people don’t think outside of their little worlds, and how they believe everything is right and pure.

The lower portion portrays the suffering of people and children taken by the calamity of human trafficking. The red background represents the burning pain and suffering experienced by these individuals. The hunched, black figures are those who have been taken and sold into slavery. They are a larger size than the white figures above because the problem of human trafficking is larger than we think it is. The bent over posture is for the treacherous work they are put through, and how they are sold to people who make things that we use every day, being put in a position that, in an unfortunate way, supports our country.

The black city and Empire State Building that rests over the bottom half of the painting represent the United States being ignorant or ignoring the issue. Our “perfect” little world has horrible and tragic happenings occurring beneath it.

Selling

Rick Carraway

Acrylic on canvas

In painting Selling, I wanted to capture the commerce of selling oneself to survive, and probably not by choice. The Swedish government has found that much of the vast profit generated by the global prostitution industry goes into the pockets of human traffickers. The Swedish government said, “International trafficking in human beings could not flourish but for the existence of local prostitution markets where men are willing and able to buy and sell women and children for sexual exploitation.”

 

This image was not submitted to the exhibit, but represents in a survivor’s own efforts how art can be helpful in the struggle toward healing and freedom.

Survivor Woman

By KN (survivor)

Acrylic mixed with other mediums

Most of the symbolism is in the side where the face is dark or shaded. It represents either the side of us we don’t know or the side we want to be unknown. The side that makes it look as if the wind is blowing to me represents how we are constantly changing. I also think the earthy colors are grounding.

“KN” affirms that art is another way to convey the message from the survivor. Art therapy opens up areas that have been blocked and helps the individual get at the pain from another angle. It functions like a castle with different doors where one can enter the memories and work with them. The doors can be closed again and issues can be put away when the survivor is not working on them. For her, the castle concept is a way to contain the reality so that it cannot have a continuously destructive influence on her life.

Art is frequently used in healing modalities for survivors of human trafficking. It also provides an entry for understanding more clearly the reality of this criminal activity which engulfs our world. Viewers at the Traffik 2017 art exhibit found it profoundly meaningful.

The obvious benefit of the Mayo Clinic-Franciscan Healthcare Child Maltreatment Conference was not only the knowledge conveyed in a variety of ways, but the collaboration among social institutions that is essential to making a contribution to ending modern slavery in the 21st century. Mayo Clinic-Franciscan Healthcare and Viterbo University are sponsored ministries of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse. The author of this article convened and continues to chair the La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery.

Traffik 2017 will be on display at the Viterbo University Art Gallery from August 30-September 29, 2017. For more information, Department Chairwoman Sherri Lisota, can be contacted at sjlisota@viterbo.edu.

 

DMST Chart Offers Visual Tool to Explain Community Response Needed to Combat Trafficking

by Emily Anderson

A chart has been developed to offer an overview of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) in the U.S., depicting the infrastructure needed for an effective response network to rescue victims and rehabilitate survivors successfully.

Stories of survivors of sex trafficking contain many similar components which led to their escape/rescue and healing. The vast majority of survivors had the best chance of successfully leaving “the life” when there was a multi-tiered, collaborative response network in place to help them once they were able to leave their traffickers.

From left to right, the chart outlines the influencers surrounding at-risk youth; what the public can do in terms of awareness and prevention; how an exploited victim could have a crisis event and cross over into the service system and those potential points of interaction; and the elements needed to provide for a successful recovery and re-entry into the community.

Begin at the orange circle that says “At-Risk Youth” on the left and follow the arrows from there. You can see what the general public can do to help at-risk youth and victims in the large gray circle on the left.

For the exploited victim, it is extremely difficult to get out of the life. Trapped by fear, bound by their trauma bond, and powerless over their situations, it will usually take some sort of crisis event for them to break through the boundaries their trafficker has instilled and come into contact with the service system.

They can come into contact at various points, such as law enforcement, medical professionals, the child welfare system, social service organizations, a teacher or counselor, or possibly a family member or friend. Wherever they are in a position where they may be able to seek help, it’s critical to have immediate crisis counseling, and then a route to a safe house, in order to help them.

Immediate crisis counseling is needed because of the extreme trauma they have endured. They sometimes do not even think they are victims, and have not escaped their attacker willingly; often, they have been brought into the service system due to a medical emergency or an arrest. Ideally, this crisis counseling would happen before any extensive interviews are done, as early interviews can result in retraumatization, and the victim may shut down completely and/or run right back into the hands of their traffickers. In fact, a victim will come into contact with the service system and/or try to escape their situation
 times (meaning they return to their traffickers six times), before they actually successfully are able to finally leave the life.

After immediate crisis counseling, the second biggest need of a victim is a safe place to stay, where they are protected from their traffickers. Victims often end up in juvenile detention programs which are too rigid and unforgiving, and/or foster homes which are not prepared for traumatized victims. Sexual assault crisis centers and homeless shelters for youth also can offer temporary safe housing to victims, but they are not always equipped to meet the complex needs of a human trafficking survivor.

An ideal safe house location is one in which they will be provided a wide range of services that are individualized, trauma-informed, culturally sensitive and age appropriate. They also need the option to stay long term, as their healing process is complex.

In addition to their basic needs of shelter, food, and clothing, many need medical attention, in particular for past abuse, STDs and possible pregnancies. Mental health consequences of the life often include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, eating disorders, chronic pain, and other physical and emotional manifestations of significant and extended trauma. Counseling by a therapist trained in helping victims of trafficking is imperative to the healing process.

Mentoring is a huge part of the recovery process as well. Victims need to develop a relationship with someone they can trust; someone who can convince them that they truly care about them. Mentoring is even more successful if a survivor can be involved. Having those shared experiences helps victims realize that what happened is not their fault, and that they do have worth and value, and can live a happy, productive life.

In addition, they will likely need legal counsel and advocacy; drug/alcohol rehabilitation, spiritual guidance, child care and skills training to prepare them to re-enter the community.

There are a handful of safe houses in the U.S. to address this need. However, they have minimal capacity. The positive news is that as awareness of human trafficking continues to rise, more organizations which serve these survivors are able to raise funding needed to set up safe houses in their areas.

As more victims are able to leave the life and more survivors share their stories, we will be able to use their input and feedback to enhance and expand tools like this chart—to create even stronger, more prepared response networks to end human trafficking.

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

Sisters’ Collaborative Rack Card Effort Raises Awareness at Tourist Destinations in Wisconsin

by Emily Anderson

 

Five congregations of women religious collaborated to develop a rack card to spread awareness about human trafficking in Wisconsin. 10,000 rack cards were printed and are being distributed to 825+ rack locations at travel stops such as convenience stores, truck plazas, and other tourism destinations across Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

The rack card, which measures 4” x 9” and is printed in color front and back, shares the fact that human trafficking happens everywhere, and asks tourists to help end this crime in Wisconsin by becoming aware, learning more, and reporting suspicious activity as they travel, through two smartphone apps, Redlight Traffic and TraffickCam. It also shares the “red flag” signs of human trafficking in potential victims and shares significant statistics about human trafficking.

The Congregations of women religious who participated include the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother (Oshkosh, Wis.), the Holy Cross Sisters (Merrill, Wis.), the Servants of Mary (Ladysmith, Wis.), the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis (Stevens Point, Wis.) and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross (Green Bay, Wis.). With 5 Congregations participating, the cost to each was approximately $300 for this initiative.

The rack locations are serviced every other week, and the cards will be replenished by drivers for one year, beginning in June, 2017. If all 10,000 cards are distributed prior to the year-end date, the Congregations will consider printing more rack cards.

Design of the card was done by the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and printing and distribution were handled through 5 Star Marketing, Tomahawk, Wis.

 

Dominican Sister Of Peace Brings Hope To Trafficked Women

Sister Nadine Buchanan, OP, provides comfort, dignity and love

Columbus, OH – “Honey, are you hungry?” These words are often heard by a teenage girl on the streets of Columbus, OH. She is dirty and hungry, and despite the fact that she will be with as many as 10 men today, she is alone and unloved. But to Sister Nadine Buchanan, OP, this girl is an angel in disguise – and those simple words open a door to hope and love.

Sr. Nadine began her mission to the victims of human trafficking in Columbus, OH in 2009. It was a way to, as she says, “put flesh” to one of her Congregation’s commitments: to promote justice for the marginalized, especially women and children. Over eight years, her ministry has moved from cooking meals with and for survivors, to the courtroom to help those in recovery, to the streets. Today, she works with women who are still in the grip of a life of sexual slavery.

“I started this part of my work with human trafficking about two years ago, when I offered to help my friend and mentor, April Thacker,” Sr. Nadine says. “April was trafficked for 15 years, and now works to help others survive and leave that life. She was taking food and personal items to women on the street during the holiday season. From the very first time I went out with April, I was taken by the sadness and suffering on their faces – and now, I can’t do enough for these women.”

Sr. Nadine has grown her street ministry from holiday visits to several trips a week to the lower west side of Columbus. Driving slowly past boarded up storefronts and homes she calls out to the women that she meets, “Are you hungry, honey?” Once the conversation has started, Sr. Nadine opens her trunk to offer coats, clothing, blankets and hygiene items, accompanied by a caring smile and a warm hug.

She returns to the Congregation’s Motherhouse with an empty car and a dogged determination to go out again. “My heart is heavy with what my eyes have seen. It keeps me close to God because I need His grace and the prayers of my Sisters and friends to continue this ministry. It’s not easy – this work draws me out of my comfort zone. But these young ladies need to know someone cares and has compassion for them. In the name of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, this ministry brings that to them.”

“These girls have nothing,” Sr. Nadine continues. “No food, no home, no fresh clothes– not one person that they can trust. I just want to sow hope and trust – to be a friendly face that they can count on, and the person that they can always believe.”

Sr. Nadine’s ministry began in a therapeutic justice program in Franklin County, OH. CATCH Court, which stands for Changing Actions To Change Habits, was founded by the Honorable Judge Paul Herbert. CATCH Court is a treatment-oriented, non-adversarial program for re-arrested prostitutes who are victims of human trafficking. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and drug addiction. The program helps them to escape the sex trade and heal the emotional scars left behind.

Sr. Nadine is often the first face a woman sees when she enters the CATCH Court program, since she is one of several volunteers who pick up women at Franklin County Jail. She drives the woman to a rehabilitation center or supervised housing; each woman will also attend weekly sessions of CATCH Court, where Sr. Nadine sits in to provide support. During her transport, Sr. Nadine gives each woman clean clothes, a meal, and a bag of personal items to help her start her new life.

“They are so touched by this act of kindness… it’s something they don’t experience very often! I’ve made it my mission to make them feel welcome and comfortable during the time they are with me. They open up and ask me if they can tell me their story – which is very liberating for them,” Sr. Nadine says.

More than 70% of the women who complete the CATCH program do not offend again. One reason for that success is the opportunity for meaningful work after graduating from CATCH. Freedom A la Carte is a Columbus catering firm that provides supportive services and dignified jobs to survivors of human trafficking. Sr. Nadine volunteers at Freedom Ala Carte, where she acts as an extra pair of hands and offers support and love to these women who need it desperately.

Sr. Nadine’s ministry is unique because of its depth – she serves women at every stage of the trafficking cycle, from the streets to survivor. Because of this, she sees the true breadth of the human trafficking crisis in Columbus.

“There are so many homeless and trafficked young ladies out there – I rarely see the same once twice. I can’t help but feel compassion and love for them. They ARE God’s precious ones, and they are precious to me,” Sr. Nadine says. “These young ladies help me find God’s strength, and give me courage to keep going out to help them.”

“These young ladies are very grateful for everything they receive – and I am so grateful to God and to my Congregation for allowing me to work in a Ministry that promotes justice for the marginalized, helps change oppressive systems, and creates a place of welcome and love.”

 

USCSAHT is grateful to Dee Holleran, the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and Dominican Life for sharing this article with us.

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