Catholic Classroom: Responding to Human Trafficking
What is the Church doing to combat human trafficking?
Human trafficking keeps approximately 40 million people in bondage worldwide, according to the International Labor Office. Forced labor, sexual exploitation, and various other depraved crimes associated with human trafficking are gross denials of human freedom and dignity. Although it’s difficult to look at the reality of modern-day slavery, as Catholics we are called to confront this evil and defend our enslaved brothers and sisters. As Pope Francis has said, “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.” So what is the Church doing to combat such an overwhelming crisis? Here are a few of the many organizations in the Church that are educating, advocating, and taking action.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The USCCB’s Anti-Trafficking Program is a multi-faceted initiative that provides services for victims, at-risk communities, and anyone else who wants to join the fight against human trafficking. Their Trafficking Assistance Program offers legal, financial, and medical assistance to victims, while their Amistad Movement program provides education and hands-on training to immigrants who are particularly susceptible to trafficking. The SHEPHERD toolkit can be downloaded online and contains educational resources, prayers, tips for lobbying congressmen about trafficking-related legislation, and suggestions on how to engage your community about the issue.
The Holy See
In 2013, Pope Francis called for a more urgent response to human trafficking. As a result, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences created the End Slavery campaign, which has grown to be a massive initiative that leads workshops, symposiums, and research efforts. In 2015, they successfully lobbied the United Nations to add, “End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children” into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Catholic Relief Services
Catholic Relief Services “Protects, defends and advances human life around the world by directly meeting basic needs and advocating solutions to injustice.” CRS provides shelter, education, and numerous other resources for recovering victims, and partners with communities across the world to establish localized responses. According to a 2015 report, CRS has been involved in 145 projects addressing human trafficking, and rescued 46,462 victims in 2014.
Talitha Kum is an international network of consecrated persons dedicated to eradicating human trafficking through education, training, and preventative measures. The coalition began in 2009 and is made up of members from 70 countries. Their work is similar to that of the USCCB, and they provide many resources for both victims and others who want to get involved.
This Wednesday, February 8th, is the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. Please join us in praying for an end to this tragic crime against humanity, and for the healing of all those involved. St. Josephine Bakhita, pray for us!