The last weekend in September — this year Sept. 26-27 — is International Weekend of Prayer and Fasting for Victims of Human Trafficking, be it trafficking for sex, labor (agriculture, textile, domestic, etc.), organs, or child soldiers. 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of this weekend initiated by the Salvation Army and the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking (IAST). Anyone who believes that all life, all creation, is sacred will want to participate in this global effort of prayer and fasting to relieve this suffering endured by so many.
Although even the concept of human persons being treated as slaves — and worse — is repulsive, it occurs all over the globe, very probably in your area. Children, both boys and girls, are exploited.
Numbers of trafficked persons are deceptive for two reasons. For one, accurate numbers are impossible to get — traffickers are not eager to share them and police cannot find them. The other is that numbers tend to be numbing. Learning that the International Labor Organization estimates that almost 21 million people are trafficked each year, or that 4.5 million of those exploited by individuals or enterprises are victims of forced sexual exploitation can be too big to comprehend by mind or heart. (http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang–en/index.htm)
Something tangible happens when we read that “two brothers, aged 7 and 10, died in April 2015 in a fire in one of the numerous clandestine garment workshops in Flores, a Buenos Aires neighborhood, where their parents, immigrants from Bolivia, were living and working.” (http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/garment-sweatshops-in-argentina-an-open-secret/) One might not WANT to picture the sweat shops, the fire, and the protection given to exploiters by police in return for bribes, but it is POSSIBLE to do so. Both mind and heart can grasp the death of two innocents, the pain of their parents, and the injustice aggravated by police corruption.
Or that Pariyar, a poor uneducated laborer in Nepal, was tricked into selling his kidney. He needed money, was lied to about what would be removed, was offered large sums (which never came), and so he agreed. He now has a urinary problem, no way to track down the sellers, cannot afford a trip to a doctor, and worries what will happen to his two children if he dies. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/26/world/asia/freedom-project-nepals-organ-trail/)
One Major Cause
In July, Pope Francis told a meeting of the world’s Mayors that the state of the environment is directly and intimately linked to the life and wellbeing of humankind. He said huge migratory waves of peoples across the globe are triggered by environmental issues such as
• drought, and
• floods, which leave people and entire communities without the possibility of seeking a livelihood. Thus – he said – the exodus that takes them into urban centers gives life to human trafficking which brings with it diverse forms of exploitation of women, children and vulnerable people.
Pope Francis mentions human trafficking three times in Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, always linking this issue with climate change and other results of the destruction of our common home.
Prayer and Fasting Weekend
The focus on September 26-27, 2015, is on prayer and fasting, two simple actions that any reader of this blog can take to improve this blight on humankind. Uniting globally on the last weekend of September, our intentional and loving prayer and fasting “can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20) But do imagine one of the many victims, and pray/fast/picture his or her release — especially if environmental destruction contributed to his or her plight. Pray and fast that this cause may be mitigated by response to Laudato Si’.
Solutions to human trafficking are many. For actions to reduce trafficking (that include prayer and a prayer service), go to https://ecospiritualityresources.com/2014/12/31/5-ways-to-reduce-human-trafficking/.
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I add very sincere thanks to Jean Schafer, sds, editor of Stop Trafficking! (www.stopenslavement.org) who generously and graciously assisted with this blog and whose monthly newsletter is always a source of valuable information.