Along Midwestern highways and interstates, with their hundreds of truck stops and rest stops, hubs for sex trafficking thrive. Sisters throughout the region are educating people to recognize the signs of victimization and are helping survivors recover.
Women religious are often the first people to discover problems emerging in society because they work directly with so many people in need, an anti-trafficking advocate said. However, because religious focus more on providing assistance than publicizing their efforts, the rest of the world is often slower to catch on to where there is trouble.
GSR Today: September 25 is IJM's Freedom Sunday, which will feature events across the nation on human trafficking. If you can plan things in a hurry, you can host an event yourself. The Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking also hosts a Freedom Sunday on that date.
GSR Today - Rahab's Heart is an interfaith ministry that reaches out, without judgement, to people in Toledo, Ohio, who are prostitutes. A former sex worker, LeeAnn Campbell, started the ministry with Ursuline Sr. Sandy Sherman.
A growing movement is recognizing the perils of human trafficking and its wide reach throughout the world. "Trafficking for exploitation robs people of dignity. It is modern-day slavery and evokes the Old Testament situation of Moses seeing the condition of the people in slavery in Egypt and wanting to rescue them."
Religious priests, brothers and sisters in Brazil are urging everyone attending the Olympic Games to report instances of exploitation of vulnerable people and to turn in suspected traffickers.
In 1989, while serving in Guatemala as a missionary in a Mayan community, Ursuline Sr. Dianna Ortiz was abducted and tortured by Guatemalan security forces. This trauma fueled her passion for human rights work. Ortiz now serves as the editor of Education for Justice, a project of the Center of Concern. She also founded the international Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition and served as its director for 10 years.
Sr. Imelda Poole of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary is president of RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation). On Sunday, Feb. 7, Poole, 69, attended a prayer service in St. Paul's Cathedral in the Albanian capital Tirana, where she has been based for the past 10 years establishing her Mary Ward Loreto Foundation, which works in the field of trafficking.
GSR Today - Today, Feb. 8, is the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, and it's no coincidence that it is also the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita: The date was chosen at the request of women religious to highlight her life.
After being involved with anti-trafficking efforts for 10 years, I received a grant from the Louisville Institute to study the resilience of women who have been trafficked here in the United States. Through my interviews, I discovered a face of the human trafficking reality that is rarely addressed. Survivors themselves made it clear that they would like more focus on their growth, goals and strength — on who they have become in their own resilience.