Creating a world where immigrants, refugees, migrants, and people on the move are treated with dignity, respect, welcome and belonging.—Migration and Refugee Services Vision Statement
Many Americans hold the belief that slavery was abolished in the United States with the passing of the 13th Amendment back in 1865. However, countless Americans remain unaware that modern day slavery is still present throughout the country – in the form of human trafficking.
The United States Department of State defines human trafficking as “the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” (http://www.state.gov/j/tip/what/index.htm) It’s certainly a heavy topic, so let’s break it down a little.
Human trafficking occurs when a victim – most often a child, teenager or vulnerable person – is either abducted or tricked into being forced to obey the demands of a perpetrator. These perpetrators usually use forms of coercion or threats in order to essentially “enslave” the victim for his or her personal use. This personal use is demonstrated through sexual, mental, and physical abuse – often encompassing rape, harassment and manual labor.
Because of the secretive and illegal nature of human trafficking, its effects and practices have a tendency to remain under the radar. American citizens are usually shocked to hear about human trafficking exercises within the United States – frequently denying the credibility or authority of the source. However, it is vital for all people to understand and respect the value and dignity of each human life.
Pope Francis works actively to bring not only the Catholic Church, but the world at large into greater knowledge about the horrific presence of human trafficking around the globe. During the 2014 International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, Pope Francis declared “that modern slavery — in the form of human trafficking, forced labor, prostitution or the trafficking of organs — is a crime against humanity.” Pope Francis calls us to reject all practices of human trafficking and advocate for its cessation.
God created each one of us in his image and likeness. Because of this, each human life is blessed and deserves to be treated with respect. Human trafficking is a crime against humanity that violates the sacredness of the human body through acts of sexual and physical violence. It is essential for us, as both Catholics and as humans, to take a stand against this demeaning social issue.
For more information about the role of the Catholic Church concerning the issue of human trafficking, check out the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Anti-Trafficking Program at http://www.usccb.org/about/anti-trafficking-program/.
Learn about human trafficking from a Catholic perspective, equip yourself with the educational tools to raise awareness of human trafficking in parishes, schools, other social networks, or to learn about the SHEPHERD program visit the usccb.org.
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).