Human trafficking is a modern type of slavery. It is the trade of humans for the purposes of sex slavery and/or forced labor. Victims – usually women and children – are forced into prostitution, pornography, and other forms of sexual exploitation. Forced labor, both sexual and non-sexual, involves the use of threats and coercion to reduce people to involuntary servitude. Human trafficking is present in our city and state, but frequently goes unnoticed because it takes many ambiguous forms, and its victims live in the shadows.
The number of victims of human trafficking is staggering. The UN estimates that there are over 1.5 million victims in the United States, Canada, and Europe alone, excluding the number of victims from all other regions. Women and children are disproportionately targeted: 98% of sex trafficking victims are female, while children make up 26% of all victims – over 5.5 million child victims around the world.
THE CATHOLIC PERSPECTIVE
Human trafficking is a serious violation of the dignity of the human person. It treats humans as objects to be bought, sold, transferred, and exploited, often for the purposes of the sex industry. Regardless of its forms, victims are manipulated and coerced into performing acts – both sexual and non-sexual – against their will.
Pope Francis has repeatedly condemned human trafficking as a “crime against humanity.” In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis denounced human trafficking in the strongest terms:
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. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
-USCCB Anti-Trafficking Program
-New York State Office of Children and Family Services: Human Trafficking
-New York City: Let's End Human Trafficking
Host information sessions to educate others
-Become a Shepherd
Join an organization that directly works to end human trafficking
-Coalition of Organizations and Ministries Promoting the Abolition of Slavery at Sea (COMPASS)
-Trafficking Victim Assistance Program
-The Amistad Movement
Contact public officials
-The United States and New York State have laws against human trafficking, but these laws can be strengthened and more aggressively enforced.
-Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000
-Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014
-Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) of 2015
-Link to laws in NY
Report trafficking concerns
-National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888
One of the best things we can do is pray for the victims of human trafficking. It is especially appropriate to pray to Saint Josephine Bakhita, who was herself a victim of trafficking, having been sold into slavery as a young girl.
St. Josephine Bakhita,
you were sold into slavery as a child
and endured untold hardship and suffering.
Once liberated from your physical enslavement,
you found true redemption in your encounter with Christ and his Church.
O St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery;
Intercede with God on their behalf
so that they will be released from their chains of captivity.
Those whom man enslaves, let God set free.
Provide comfort to survivors of slavery
and let them look to you as an example of hope and faith.
Help all survivors find healing from their wounds.
We ask for your prayers and intercessions for those enslaved among us.
Download the prayer card.