In November 2013, Pope Francis released a statement concerning human trafficking in Evangelii Gaudium, which 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?” Through this statement, Pope Francis calls us, as human beings, to seek out our brothers and sisters who are oppressed by the terrors of human trafficking. In addition, God asks us to care for each other both spiritually through prayer and physically through proper care and attention.
In support of Pope Francis’ call to fight against human trafficking, some organizations have stepped up to the plate and have established ways to assist victims of modern day slavery. This provision of care and services further supports the Catholic Church’s mission to follow the teachings of Jesus and help the least of God’s people.
Covenant House is one organization that provides safe housing for victims of human trafficking and modern day slavery, focusing primarily on the needs of children. The organization states that it actively “provides loving care and vital services to homeless, abandoned, trafficked, and exploited youth.” While the first house was established in New York City in 1969, the organization now spans internationally and has shelters in over 27 cities throughout the United States, Canada and Central America. The Archdiocese of New York works closely with Covenant House in order to provide safe housing for trafficked youth within the greater New York City area. Covenant House seeks to take in children who have either found the courage to escape, have been freed by police raids, or have found a Covenant House outreach member on the streets of high-risk cities.
The Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) aims to assist young women who have been mentally scarred by the practice of human trafficking. The organization’s mission is to “empower girls and young women, ages 12-24, who have experienced sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and develop to their full potential.” GEMS founder and CEO, Rachel Lloyd, founded the organization as a way to give back to the community that helped her recover from her own experience as a victim of human trafficking in the 1990s. Each year, GEMS offers outreach to over 350 girls in over 20 states – which includes holistic case management, transitional and supportive housing, medical services, and court advocacy.
To conclude this series on human trafficking, it is of the utmost importance to stay well-informed about the terrors of human trafficking and modern day slavery. Human trafficking is a crime against humanity that violates one of the basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis have both worked as advocates against modern day slavery in all its forms, and they call us – as both human beings and as Catholics – to join them in the stand against human trafficking. It is paramount to remember that God created each one of us in his own image and likeness, and therefore it is our duty to protect and preserve the right to life each one of us is entitled to.
Report trafficking concerns
Visit www.usccb.org/stopslavery to learn more about how to identify a potential victim and what you can do to help. You can report tips on potential cases of human trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888. The text message number is: HELP to BeFree (233733).