How did Catholic sisters get involved in work to end human trafficking?
Throughout history, and especially since Vatican II, Catholic sisters have engaged in ministries that respond to the needs of society’s most vulnerable people. We do this in two ways: responding to immediate needs by providing (or enabling access to) social services, and engaging in systemic change to change unjust structures.
At their May 2001 meeting in Rome, the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) approved a declaration in which institutes of women religious throughout the world pledged to “work in solidarity with one another within our own religious communities and in the countries in which we are located to address insistently at every level the abuse and sexual exploitation of women and children with particular attention to the trafficking of women which has become a lucrative multi-national business.”
Many congregations of Catholic sisters throughout the world had already begun this work, but after the passage of this declaration, hundreds of other congregations took up the work of eradicating the scourge of human trafficking. In the years following the 2001 declaration, women religious expanded their anti-trafficking work to include not only sexual exploitation of women and girls, but of men and boys as well. Work on sex trafficking expanded to include labor trafficking, and other forms of exploitation such as trafficking for organ removal and forced marriages (“mail order brides”).
Currently, this work is being done locally, regionally, nationally and globally, by congregations of women religious in partnership with one another and others in the Church, business, government and civil society sectors.
What kinds of ministries are US Catholic sisters involved in that address the crime of human trafficking?
Catholic sisters in the U.S. are involved in a wide range of ministries that address the crime of human trafficking. These include education on this issue, provision of survivor services, advocacy to pass and strengthen laws against human trafficking and to ensure that once passed, these laws are enforced.
Catholic sisters also work in coalition with many other groups addressing this issue in the spheres of business and corporate social responsibility, health care, all levels of government (local, state and federal), and education at all levels.
We also work to help people of faith understand the connection between our Catholic faith and solidarity with those who suffer, which includes people who are being trafficked, among many others, We work to provide avenues for people to become active and effective in addressing this issue.
Are you connected to any international groups working to resolve the problem of human trafficking?
Yes. U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking is the U.S. representative for Talitha Kum, the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons. This network, representing national groups of Catholic sisters from 81 countries, enables us to share and maximize the resources that religious life has on behalf of prevention, protection and assistance, awareness raising and denouncement of trafficking in persons.
Where can I find more information about the anti-trafficking work of Catholic sisters in the U.S.?
What is the relationship between US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking and the Bakhita Initiative?
US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking came together in 2013 through the efforts of the founder of the Bakhita Initiative, Sister Margaret Nacke, CSJ, with the assistance of Sister Ann Scholz, SSND, Associate Director for Social Mission of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Both of these sisters continue to serve as members of the USCSAHT Core Group.
At present, US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking supports this website, and the initial site, bakhitainitiative.com. The two websites are a collaborative effort on the part of US Catholic Sisters to highlight our work on all aspects of human trafficking.
The www.sistersagainstrafficking.org site features information on U.S. members (congregations and coalitions), activities, news and legislation. We also maintain a Facebook page, and a Twitter feed (or @USCSAHTraffic).
Our sister site, bakhitainitiative.com, focuses on global efforts of women religious to eradicate human trafficking.
Both websites offer links to many valuable educational and prayer resources, survivor services and resources organizations. The websites are updated frequently, so please visit often!