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International
Solidarity Reflection

School Sisters of Notre Dame

Human Trafficking

July 2017

Introduction

The trade in human persons constitutes a shocking offense against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights. … Such situations are an affront to fundamental values which are shared by all cultures and peoples, values rooted in the very nature of the human person. The alarming increase in the trade in human beings is one of the pressing political, social and economic problems associated with the process of globalization; it presents a serious threat to the security of individual nations and a question of international justice which cannot be deferred.
(Letter of Pope John Paul II on the Occasion of the “Twenty-First Century Slavery - The Human Rights Dimension to Trafficking in Human Beings” Conference, 2002)

Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, states: “I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: ‘Where is your brother?’ (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour? Let us not look the other way.” Evangelii Gaudium 211

Call to prayer

Creator of life, just as our early ancestors, Moses and Aaron, cried out boldly to Pharaoh for the voiceless Hebrew slaves, help us to become aware and speak out for our sisters and brothers who are victims of the crime of human trafficking. We pray and ask you to hear the cries of your people.

Experience

  • Adults and children in forced labor and sexual slavery: 21 million

  • Countries without adequate laws to prevent trafficking: 147

  • 79% of trafficked persons are women

  • Countries that passed or amended laws to prevent human trafficking: 30

  • Profits from forced labor: $150 billion Sources for statistics: State Department and UNICEF
“The long working hours made us weak and exhausted... I always felt very tired and much disturbed because the supervisors were scolding me for carelessness in my work. I also suffered from headache and leg pain. I didn’t like working at the mill at all.” — A 20-year-old Dalit Girl working 12-hour plus days at a textile factory in Tamil Nadu, India (U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking)

“They let me know what would become of me if I told anyone. They told me they knew where I lived, they knew my teachers, they knew my school, and they knew everything about me. There was nothing I could do to protect myself. As 14-years-old, I didn’t know where to begin.” —An American girl sold by a friend’s father and trafficked for sex in Florida, USA (U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking)

Reflection

All living creatures share an interconnectedness that extends beyond physical presence. In an ideal world, the entire human race should be able to extend that spiritual connection in healthy relationships of mutual dependency. All are entitled to the basic human dignities in which each has control over his/her own self. To abuse or control another, strips this dignity to the core. As Scripture tells us, "The Good Samaritan recognize[s] the dignity in the other and care[s] for his life" (Luke 10:25-37). No illusion of superiority or inferiority should hold merit in our world, yet we continue to watch the imbalance of victim and perpetrator every day. Each life is precious and deserves the dignity endowed by its creator. Let us do what we can to safeguard those caught in the horror of human trafficking. We are all connected. Joey Wagner Notre Dame High School - class of 2019

Across every nation, lives are radically and negatively altered due to the reality of human trafficking. It is a story we have heard before: a young girl is separated from everyone she knows, she is sold off to man after man, a price is placed upon her body, every night she loses a piece of herself. We hear these stories on television, we read about them in news articles, we know they exist, and we are aware of their constant presence. Each and every time this happens, it is an offense to our human dignity. It is an affront to our basic freedoms, our safety, and our universal call to care for the rights and safety of others. As humans we are not objects that should be manipulated, sold, and deprived of all rights and freedoms. We are, all of us, individually and wonderfully crafted by our Lord, the Creator. We are made for a purpose; made to be fully known and fully loved, made to love one another. How, then, can we allow ourselves to hear another one of these stories without acting—without feeling a compulsion to reach just one person who has been through the unimaginable, to let them know that they matter, that they are loved, that what they have been through has not stripped them of purpose or worth? As Christ-followers, it is our calling to do everything in our power to reach those who don’t know love as God intended us to know love. In regards to human trafficking, it is our calling to spread love by showing others that their lives have worth and by doing what we can to end the practice of trafficking. Maggie Meystrik, Notre Dame High School, St. Louis, MO

Action

  • Educate yourself on the topic. Video explanation - https://goo.gl/xOkir0

  • Be an educated consumer. Take the quiz www.slaveryfootprint.org

  • Look at the list of goods produced by child or forced labor: https://goo.gl/Ff5LMm

  • Purchase items made by trafficking survivors such as from Jewel Girls, Made by Survivors, 3 Strands, Daughters of Cambodia, Agape International Missions, Fair Trade USA, Noonday Collection, Ten Thousand Villages, Revive Store, Global Girlfriend, Made for Freedom.

Closing Prayer

Oh God, we didn’t see them, but you did - the hundreds and thousands of human beings trafficked each year to join the millions who are trapped in modern-day slavery. Under terrible conditions, they work in factories, plough fields, harvest crops, work quarries, fill brothels, clean homes, and haul water. Their labor is forced; their bodies are beaten, their faces hidden from those who don’t really want to see them. But you see them all, God of the poor. You hear their cry and you answer by opening our eyes, and breaking our hearts and loosening our tongues to insist: No more. No more. Amen

Catholic Relief Services

Prepared by Students at Notre Dame High School, St. Louis, MO USA for the International Shalom Office, Rome, Italy
Graphic from a design by Gen Cassani, SSND; Watercolor map: Elena Romanova