Best wishes for a richly blessed New Year to you, your loved ones and to every creature with whom we share our precious planet — especially those fleeing war, climate disruption, and poverty and those caught in human slavery.
This new year (in the Gregorian calendar) begins with the World Day of Peace within the Catholic Jubilee Year of Mercy. Catholics of the Latin Rite celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation and exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the “holy Mother.” Lutherans and others (and Catholics until 1960, when it became the day for Mary) celebrate the Circumcision — itself reminding us Christians of our Jewish roots. January is dedicated to poverty awareness and National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention. Jan. 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day; Jan. 6 – 12 marks National Migration Week; and on Jan. 22 the Catholic Church prays for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.
Whew! That seems a lot. But reflection shows that many items on that list are closely interconnected. How many connections can you find?
For your daily or at least occasional use during this month, I add a short Prayer for Migrants and a longer Trafficking Reflection. My sincere thanks to Jane Deren, Education for Justice Project at the Center of Concern, Washington DC for the Prayer for Migrants, and to Rose Mary Meyer, BVM, Project IRENE, for the slightly-altered longer reflection on Trafficking.
Prayer for Migrants
For all those who see “home” and all it means,
Disappear behind them;
For all those who cannot see a home
In the days ahead of them;
For all those who dwell in
For all those who are weary and
Without a safe place to rest their heads;
For all families in migration we pray.
May the image of the Holy Family
Fleeing oppression stay with us as we enter a New Year,
And stay with us each night as we are blessed
With returning to a home.
May we also be blessed
With compassion for those
Still weary, still seeking,
Still with so far to go.
Creator of All, we gather together to remember that every child, every woman, every man is a unique image of you. We are grateful for your creative diversity manifested among us.
Compassionate Creator, we gather also to grieve the enslavement of children and adults who are victimized by traffickers. We mourn the loss of their dignity and for some the loss of their lives.
Loving Creator, we gather also to pledge to act according to our circumstances to stop human trafficking in the geographic area in which we live and in our global home. May we be constant in our prayer and action so that, with our global sisters and brothers who are also opposed to trafficking, we might end this horrific tragedy. This we proclaim with persistence and compassion, with faith and hope, with conviction and love. Amen.
Reality Reading, Vatican Radio
The physical, economic, sexual and psychological exploitation of men and women, boys and girls, currently holds tens of millions in inhumane and humiliating bondage. … All are encouraged, therefore, to work to help men and women, and children who are enslaved, exploited, abused as instruments of work or pleasure, who are often tortured and sadly mutilated.
Reading from the writings of Pope Francis
It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programs, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.
Choose one real life story from the situations described below. Ponder the questions in silence. After a few minutes, if doing this in a group, you will be invited to share.
Recently a woman was convicted of trafficking and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. She reportedly controlled a business that exploited multitudes of women. To hide her trafficking activity, she became an officer in an organization dedicated to anti-trafficking activities. She was publicly acknowledged for her anti-trafficking activities by a group who had no idea that she was a trafficker. How could this happen? What is happening in the area where I live that allows trafficking to occur?
A high school student who attended school during the day and lived at home at night was being trafficked. Her mother noticed nothing. A neighbor woman “tuned in” to what was happening and reported the situation. The young woman is no longer being trafficked. How could this happen? What is happening in the area where I live that allows trafficking to occur?
Ellie was a young teenager when she met her trafficker who convinced her that he was her boyfriend. He provided gifts and attention that her parents could not provide. Her “Prince Charming” was her trafficker who got her hooked on cocaine. He sold her to get money to feed his addition. Some years later he went to prison. She now realizes that she was a very vulnerable teenager and misunderstood his “care” for her. Her story is the story of multitudes of trafficked persons. How could this happen? What is happening in the area where I live that allows trafficking to occur?
Victims of human trafficking are often found in the restaurant industry where they are forced into labor trafficking as waiters, kitchen staff, cooks with little or no pay. They often experience long work hours with little time off. How could this happen? What is happening in the area where I live that allows trafficking to occur?
Victims of sex and labor trafficking have been discovered among beauty and health services. These places include beauty parlors, hair and nail salons, spas. Services include hairstyling, manicures, massages, pedicures, skin care. How could this happen? What is happening in the area where I live that allows trafficking to occur?
The Polaris Project, an education and advocacy group regarding human trafficking, estimates that 100,000 children are sold into “slavery” each year in the United States. Because of the hidden nature of trafficking, this number is clearly an estimate. How could this happen? What is happening in the area where I live that allows trafficking to occur?
If with a group, you are invited to share with the person(s) sitting next to you the situation that you chose to ponder. Why did you choose that particular situation? What insight came to you? Or?
Response (from the writings of Pope Francis)
“…no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings.’’
Left: Victims of labor trafficking have been found among this nation’s migrant and seasonal farmworkers, including children, women and men who harvest crops, care for domestic animals, work in orchards, nurseries and packing plants.
Right: Victims of both sex and labor trafficking have been found in strip clubs. Victims include both adult women and minors.
Left: Victims of both labor and sex trafficking have been found in the hospitality industry. Recently it was discovered that traffickers had rented an entire floor in a hotel for the purpose of sex trafficking. Labor trafficking includes work as room attendants, front desk, kitchen, restaurant workers.
Right: Sex and labor exploitation are not inevitable. People worldwide need to engage in prayer, education, action, legislative initiatives on local, state, national and international levels.
What can I/we do to combat human trafficking which is the second largest criminal activity in the world, nearly a $150 billion business?
With the limited funds I have, do I purchase only gifts that are designated as Fair Trade items? Check out tenthousandvillages.com, www.MayaWorks.org, UPAVIMcrafts.org, canaanusa.com and other websites as well as stores that sell Fair Trade products in your geographic area.
If I am a chocolate lover, do I eat only Fair Trade chocolate and/or give Fair Trade chocolate as gifts? Do I tell everyone I meet personally or contact via email, letters, phone, social media about Fair Trade chocolate, coffee, tea? Do I check out Fair Trade websites such as equalexchange.coop?
Do I call the National Human Trafficking Hotline — 1 888 373-7888 — when I feel that I might have witnessed a trafficking situation?
Do I carry this number with me at all times? If I have a cell, is this number listed as one of my contacts? Do I share this number with co-workers, friends, neighbors, relatives?
Do I check the Bakhita Initiative website (bakhitainitiative.com) which focuses on Catholic sisters against human trafficking? Do I share this website with others?
For more information on labor trafficking, do I check the website of the International Labor Organization? Their “Lured by a job, trapped in forced labor” is a powerful creative presentation.
Do I work in coalition with other groups whose focus is on anti-trafficking activity?
In the state in which I live, what anti-trafficking laws have been passed? How are these laws being monitored to assure that the justice required by these laws is becoming a reality?
Do I include survivors of human trafficking as well as those who are still victims of human trafficking in my prayers and petitions during liturgy?
Do I also include those who are responsible for human trafficking in my prayers as well as in petitions during liturgy?
Ponder quietly for a few minutes and choose an action that is possible for you.
Compassionate and loving Creator of all, we thank you for the gift of time to ponder the horrific realities of human trafficking. We pledge to do what is possible to stop this local and global tragedy. May our efforts, combined with the efforts of our local and global sisters and brothers, transform local and global trafficking realities into dignity and justice for all. This we ask with great confidence in you, our compassionate and loving Creator of all. Amen.
International Symposium on the Pastoral Care of the Road/Street, Pontifical Council on Migrant and Itinerant People, Vatican Radio
Labor Trafficking Cases by Industry in the United States, National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Polaris Project, www.polarisproject.org
Prepared Text, Pope Francis’ Speech to the United Nations General Assembly
US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, www.sistersagainsthuman trafficking.org
Your Sister, Vancouver, BC