April 12, 2020
By Jennifer Reyes Lay, Executive Director of USCSAHT
As we gather in our homes or online to celebrate the joyous feast of Easter, remembering Christ’s resurrection and the promise of life after death, it is a perfect time to reflect on how our hope and faith in resurrection helps sustain us in our work to end human trafficking and support survivors.
As Catholics our faith is rooted in the incarnation – God becoming flesh in the person of Jesus – and the Paschal mystery – the life, death, and resurrection of the divine incarnate. This mystery and divine presence permeates all of creation, which cycles constantly through these rhythms of life, death, and new life. The presence of the divine infused all around us, through us, and in us proclaims that even in moments of profound fear and grief, we are not abandoned. Even in the darkest hour, when it seems like death and evil have seemingly won, God can still birth new life and hope into the world.
This resurrection hope is something that we are blessed to see in the lives of survivors we accompany out of situations of trafficking and through the healing process of reclaiming their lives and freedom. We nurture and grow this hope as we share stories with one another about God making a way out of no way, providing safety and shelter, or giving us the strength to continue. This is a lived hope that does not depend on numbers and results, but rather is a grace continually offered us through the Spirit of the risen Christ.
This liberating Spirit which calls us together to end human trafficking is the same Spirit that has been present since the beginning of time working to bring forth life and free God’s people. It is the same Spirit that could not be killed on a cross or stay contained in a tomb. This dynamic life-giving Spirit both challenges and sustains us in this work, impelling us to speak life where there is death, to speak hope where there is despair, and to speak love where there is hate.
The mystery of the incarnation and resurrection continues to be made manifest in the new life coming into the world each day. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.” Because each person is now a precious part of the cosmic body of Christ, we can see the face of Christ in every person. This reality calls us to respond to the suffering of the body of Christ present in human trafficking, and work to heal and prevent further violence to the collective and individual bodies of Christ.
Even though the work to end human trafficking can seem daunting, our faith in resurrection hope proclaims that “through God all things are possible (Mk 10:27).” In a prayer frequently attributed to the prophetic St. Oscar Romero we are reminded, “We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.” We take comfort in knowing that we are each doing our part to faithfully respond to the call to end human trafficking. And we continue to invite others to join us as co-workers in this prophetic ministry that continues to proclaim life, love, and hope in even the most difficult circumstances.
May 1, 2017
What Does It Mean to be Safe?
by Sister Kathleen Bryant, RSC
Neurologists say that our brains are always scanning for information, for danger, for distraction like a vacuum cleaner! The stressful lives that we lead are not healthy for our brains. We all need time and space to just be, and to awaken to our safety and well-being. One of the meditations designed by Dr. Rick Hanson, helps us to rewire our brains so that we can be more mindful and contemplative. I use this meditation with a diverse population and ask them for an image that makes them feel safe. In silence and as one of the steps they sit still with that image and it has effects on the body and their wellbeing. You can view powerpoint slides of his meditations and neuroplasticity of the brain here.
What does this have to do with human trafficking? After rescue and during rehabilitation, how do we help our survivors experience safety? How safe can they be if they are living in the same city as their trafficker? How do we help with their healing process by creating safety “zones” in their lives? I have used this meditation practice with women and it helps cultivate a sense of safety and peace.
One of the most effective programs for trauma healing that I have ever experienced provides protocols for helping people get to a safety zone. Pat Cane, Founder and CEO of Capacitar trains people to use these healing protocols with survivors of trauma and violence. Using a rich menu of tai chi, fingerholding meditation, acupressure, pal dan gum, tapping, and more, the survivor is equipped and empowered to be part of her or his own healing process. All you need is your breath and your body. You can view the emergency kit at on capacitar.org in several different languages. Look at the home page for stories of work with trauma survivors globally as well as efforts to nurture peace is some very violent parts of the world.
Safety has been foremost on my mind because of a recent tragedy in which three girls were shot, or executed, on Easter Sunday night at an orphanage in a nearby country by a cartel. They had been victims of trafficking and the cartels controlled the market. No photos or places can be disclosed with reverence and protection of those who loved them. However, this story will give you an understanding of the total control and lack of any safety these girls experience here.
At a FADICA gathering in February this year, a few of us were asked to speak about human trafficking and the border between California and Mexico. Little did we know at the time that some of the stories we shared of escape, healing and support would have such a brutal ending. The most recent girl was rescued was one year old. Did the traffickers want her for child porn or for her organs? This is the reality we deal with and pray for an end to this unspeakable exploitation.
I thought of all the effort that went into helping these young girls with rehabilitation—medical and emotional—surgeries and therapy, and yet one shot ended it all. We wrestle with systemic change when we work for justice. We advocate, meet with government officials, march, educate and try to prevent. How can we imagine possible ways to go to the source of this trafficking enterprise and find ways to diffuse their power? There is no true healing if the survivor does not feel safe. These executions sent a clear message about who is in control.
As people of faith we believe that good does defeat evil, that Light can penetrate any darkness. In this Easter season, how can we nurture faith in the transformative power of suffering and death that ends in new life? I struggle as I see their faces and know their stories. It impels us into further action with the powers that be. Our contemplative lives, if authentic, impel us into social action. Otherwise, we sit in impotent silence.