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Happy New Year – but not for all

(If you are interested in Lent resources, please see note at the end.)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. What could be worse than children’s having to anticipate a year of forced labor, forced sex, forced soldiering, lack of freedom, beatings — being totally enslaved and exploited? (Horrible for adults, too, of course.)

Some Relevant Stories

‘It is very easy to trap an indigenous woman compared to a mestizo. First of all, they do not speak Spanish and secondly, as they suffer from poverty due to loss of their land and house in [regional conflicts], they need some employment urgently. So looking at their situation, we promise the parents or husband good employment with shelter for their daughter and wife and provide them with a little money telling them that after their daughter or wife starts work they will send them some money”.  words of a trafficker   [Stop Trafficking 11/17]

After racking up an exorbitant debt [Cambodia] with a loan shark, Kieu’s mother sold her 12-year-old for sex. The desperate mom secured a “certificate of virginity” from a doctor for her daughter and sold the girl to a man who raped her in a hotel for two days. After the ordeal, Kieu was sold to brothels on three occasions and finally escaped to a safe house after learning that her mom planned to send her away for a six-month prostitution stint.  [CNN 2013]

Tessa [U.S.] was sexually abused by her dad for the first time when she was 7. Her drug-addicted mom was too consumed with her own issues to get involved. When Tessa was a sophomore in high school, she met Jared, whom she didn’t know was a pimp. He showered her with gifts and dates, and often reminded her that no one else could possibly love her because she was “damaged.” Jared soon convinced Tessa to sell her body for sex and would attack her and deprive her of food if she did not meet her quota. He kept all of the money she made and forced her to tattoo his name on her neck. Tessa eventually escaped. 

“During the time I was on the street, I went to hospitals, urgent care clinics, women’s health clinics, and private doctors. No one ever asked me anything anytime I ever went to a clinic.” Lauren, survivor

Some Relevant Facts

A $32-billion-a-year industry, human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise, according to the U.S. State Department. An estimated 27 million people are victims of the crime, which involves being forced to perform labor or commercial sex acts.

In the United States, an estimated 100,000 children are in the sex trade, according to ECPAT-USA, a nonprofit that fights the sexual exploitation of children.

Experts say that in Delhi alone, there are an estimated 100,000 girls as young as 12  who are trafficked as domestic workers.

“Whether because of financial desperation, drugs addiction, mental illness, or compulsion from pimps, women often have little choice but to sell their bodies for money. These are not people who can be said to be truly ‘choosing’ a risky line of business.” Supreme Court of Canada 

Some Relevant Dates 

Month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month.

January 1st is the World Day of Peace. Pope Francis’ theme is ‘Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace.’ Migrating people are often targets for traffickers.

January 7th is the beginning of National Migration Week. 

January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S.

February 8th is the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita (patron saint of those trafficked) and the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking 

Some Relevant Actions 

Keep handy the number 888 373 7888 – National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline – just in case you see anything suspicious. Trafficked persons can be found in the apparel industry, apple orchards, bars, beauty salons, brothels, citrus fields, construction, dairy farms, domestic help, fishing boats, food processing, food trucks, forced commercial sex, hotels, landscaping, lawn care, mines, motels, nail salons, nannies, pornographic production, restaurants, seasonal occupations, strip clubs, truck stops and…

Advocate for international agreements that offer refugee status to displaced people. 

Support agencies working with refugees and offering them legal protection. (Of many, I note one begun by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus: Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego (www.casacornelia.org). It offers pro bono legal services to victims of human and civil rights violations in the San Diego area. 

Purchase Fair Trade products, especially if they expand opportunities for displaced persons.

Pray and call attention in prayer and other ways to the connections between human trafficking and climate change, poverty, civil unrest, violence.

 

Note re. Lent resources: Three group resources — Laudao Si’ Reflection Resource, Creation Covenant (Species and Ecosystems), and Renewing the Face of the Earth (Air) — are available here: https://ecospiritualityresources.com/lent/

Thoughts before Valentine’s Day

valentines-day-rosesBefore Big Business exploited the commercial value of February 14th by selling cards, candy, candles, and flowers*, the day honored St. Valentine — a Roman priest who secretly married couples when the emperor had forbidden his soldiers to marry. For this, Valentine was executed. His feast day was meant to remind us that the call to love transcends political regulations.

The concept of love has evolved, always expanding. From love of immediate family and tribe, it broadened to loving those beyond tribal members, provided they were friends. Jesus expanded the concept to include enemies — a challenging concept even today. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” became an accepted goal of most religions. Modern science introduced us to a vast and interconnected creation that has been evolving for aeons. Many discovered that their surroundings were not a collection of objects, but rather a communion of subjects — as Thomas Berry stated it. Nothing can be isolated from the whole. Science has also shown us the power of love. No “other,” of whatever religion, color, or nationality, is separate from us, and those in need deserve preferential care.

Here are some challenging quotes to ponder about the kind of love needed in our time. Important notes on Valentine’s Day gift-giving follow*:

 Jesus of Nazareth 

jesus-na-sinagoga-de-nazare-foto-do-filmeAs found in Matt. 5: Love your enemies! … If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that ….

As found in John 13: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

mte5ntu2mze2mjgwndg5ndgzMartin Luther King, Jr.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

pierre-teilhard-de-chardins-quotes-8… Love is the most universal, the most tremendous and the most mysterious of the cosmic forces.

Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.

Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

Your favorites? Please add other quotes (women’s needed!) in Comments. Thanks!

~~~~~
If you give cards, candy, candles, or flowers, live your love this way:

  • Cards: Make sure paper is recycled or from sustainable sources. This protects forests, a vital contributor to reducing global warming. Recycled things reduce waste and pollution. Also, recycle the ones you receive.
  • Candy: Give chocolate labeled Fair Trade. Cacao farming done improperly strips the world of hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest. More than 15,000 child slaves work on cacao farms in west Africa. Fair Trade guarantees social justice, environmental protection, and economic development.
  • Candles: Avoid paraffin, which is the byproduct of gas and oil refineries and will emit pollutants and carcinogens.
  • Flowers: Give Fair Trade flowers. Conventional workers are often exploited to keep costs low, leading to severe abuse and mistreatment. (Mega farms in South America mostly employ women, often for long hours and low pay, including unpaid overtime. Some have been accused of using child labor.) The work can result in repetitive stress injuries and exposure to pesticides and herbicides, including known carcinogens. The not-fair-trade farms suck up local water and leave behind toxic chemical residues.

Weekend for Trafficking Victims

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 

2010_0825_child_trafficking_mNumbers 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                                                                                                    Pope Francis leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 23. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Oct. 23, 2013) See POPE-AUDIENCE Oct. 23, 2013.

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

• desertification,
• deforestation,
• 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.