Tag Archive: USCCB

Advocates Fight Traffickers Who Continue To Thrive Despite Pandemic

May 18, 2020

CLEVELAND (CNS) — Advocates fighting human traffickers are alerting children, parents and vulnerable adults that the coronavirus pandemic has pushed traffickers into new venues, potentially endangering more people to being exploited.

Seemingly innocent online venues are becoming popular places for sex traffickers to groom unwitting children and entice adults facing financial turmoil because of the pandemic. The danger is leading the advocates to call for funding of anti-trafficking programs in any new federal legislation in response to the public health crisis.

The pandemic’s impact on labor trafficking is less certain, but the advocates warn that people desperate for work may be prone to employment schemes in which they are cheated out of promised wages.

What is known, according to the Polaris Project, which operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline, is that buyers of sex are as active as ever, pandemic or not.

“Anecdotally, we have heard from survivors that trafficking victims are now being forced to participate in remote, web-based sexual activity or pornography and that the marketplace for those activities has grown,” the organization said in an April 17 post on its blog at polarisproject.org. “It’s important to remind buyers of these materials that a person on a webcam or in a pornographic video is as likely to be a trafficking victim as a person selling sex in any other environment.”

That poses dangers for children especially, said Jennifer Reyes Lay, executive director of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking.

“With the restrictions and limited mobility and physical distancing, the fear is that particularly children, but anyone who can be a potential victim, is going to be more targeted through online sources,” she said.

“Electronic communications and social media networks have become more important than ever,” Lay told Catholic News Service. “We are trying to think of creative ways to reach people and get the message out while they’re at home.”

Tracking the inroads of traffickers into new online venues is difficult. They are able to move silently through online sites frequented by children, who are spending more unsupervised time surfing the internet while at home. Once identified, traffickers quickly move on, hiding out in cyberspace waiting for the next young person to show up.

Concern among the advocates largely rests in online pornography.

“There is a huge demand for pornography online right now,” said Hilary Chester, associate director for anti-trafficking programs with Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “People (traffickers) are going to try to meet that demand. There are real concerns about people being coerced into it, not realizing they are being recorded.”

While it is difficult to track the emerging trends in the actions of traffickers, experience has shown they are adept at maneuvering around their trackers and their motivation is money.

“Once they realize somebody’s on to them, they’ve switched,” said Charity Sister Sally Duffy, a member of the End Slavery Cincinnati, an anti-human trafficking coalition.

Tori Curbelo, manager of education, training and advocacy for LifeWay Network in Forest Hills, New York, described traffickers as opportunistic.

“Their services follow supply and demand,” she explained. “Our hunch is the more demand, the more traffickers will try to meet the needs of individuals online.”

The chairmen of three USCCB committees recently called on Attorney General William Barr to “confront the ongoing harms wrought by the pornography industry and to protect its victims.”

In an April 30 letter, they urged Barr to enforce obscenity laws, open criminal investigations of pornography producers and website owners, and carry out “national leadership in encouraging states and localities to develop rigorous policies against the industry.”

Pornography, they said, is the “antithesis” of Pope Francis’ reflection during a March 27 prayer service in the throes of the pandemic in Italy that “affirmed our common ‘belonging as brothers and sisters’ in the midst of crisis” deserving of human dignity and respect.

To read the full article by Dennis Sadowski on Catholic News Service: Click Here

Goal Of Lenten Postcard, Online Campaign Is An End To Labor Trafficking

March 31, 2020

WASHINGTON  — A coalition of Catholic groups led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is in the middle of a postcard and online petition campaign to convince one of the United States’ largest food service distributors to ensure its fish supply is not tainted by labor trafficking.

The problem of forced labor, and even slave labor, on huge fishing vessels has long been a cause for concern, leading to this year’s “Labeling for Lent” campaign by the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking.

This year’s target is Sysco, which supplies food to many Catholic institutions.

“So many Catholic institutions, hospitals and school systems, and even some congregations and motherhouses, are supplied by Sysco,” said Jennifer Reyes Lay, executive director of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, a coalition member. “We make up a significant percentage of their business.”

“With the Lenten season, there’s some groups that use Sysco for the fish fries for their main source of seafood. That’s something that’s prevalent within the diocese,” said Christine Commerce, coordinator of the human trafficking task force in the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, another coalition member.

Commerce added, “Greater Orlando ranks third in the nation in calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. We see cases of both labor and sex trafficking here in central Florida.”

Sysco is not some unrepentant outlier when it comes to human trafficking.

“It is important to acknowledge Sysco’s efforts to begin addressing seafarers and fishers’ labor rights,” said a Labeling for Lent promotional piece issued by the coalition.

To read the full story by Mark Pattison on The Compass: Click Here

At Capitol, Faith-Based Organizations Shine Light On Human Trafficking

August 5, 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) — At age 9, growing up in Cameroon, Evelyn Chumbow had dreams of coming to the United States, thinking she’d live like the characters in TV shows such as “The Cosbys” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” which she believed depicted life here.

When a relative offered her the opportunity to come to the U.S. through an arrangement with a family in her hometown, she was ready to embark on that life.

“I was just excited,” she said. “I could never think that I’d come to the U.S. and become a victim of modern-day slavery or end up in foster care.”

But that’s exactly what happened and that’s the experience she talked about June 26 to participants of a daylong human trafficking conference hosted on Capitol Hill by the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.

Participants, who lobbied U.S. lawmakers after the conference for tougher legislation to combat the problem, learned about its complexities and its global dimensions:

— An estimated 40.3 million people are enslaved.

— Of those, 24.9 million are in forced labor (including sex trafficking).

— 15.4 million are in a forced marriage.

Chumbow, who was 11 when she became a victim of forced labor, fit many of the characteristics of trafficking victims: 25% of those trafficked are children and over 70% of those trafficked are women and girls. Chumbow thought she was coming to the United States to be adopted by a family.

Instead, she was in a group of girls brought in under one passport and then sent off to become a domestic worker in a house in Maryland, where, at age 11, she cooked and cleaned and took care of other children, receiving no salary. The relative who had made the arrangement, she later found out, had sold her for $1,000 to the household where she suffered a variety of abuses.

Unknowingly, she had been brought to the country illegally and didn’t know where to go and what to do about her situation. Eventually, she escaped, helped law enforcement convict her abuser and embarked on a long journey of healing, which now involves educating the public about human trafficking.

To read the full story by Rhina Guidos on Catholic News Service: Click Here

‘Hear Victims, Treat The Whole Problem,’ Human Trafficking Conference Told

July 8, 2019

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Human trafficking survivors shared their stories of abuse and oppression before an audience on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, kicking off a day of education and advocacy in the U.S. Congress.

Experts, members of Congress, and trafficking victims spoke at a Capitol Hill conference on human trafficking held on June 26. The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd co-hosted the event, along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the DC Baptist Convention.

“I cannot talk about human trafficking without saying ‘modern-day slavery’. Because when I think about my situation, it was a form of modern-day slavery,” said Evelyn Chumbow, speaker with Survivors of Slavery and a survivor of labor trafficking. 

Chumbow emphasized the importance of not separating sex trafficking from labor trafficking when discussing the problems. “One thing I hate is separation. I hate to separate the issue of sex and labor [trafficking],” she said, because “if you’re going to address the issue, address the whole issue.”  

There are an estimated 40.3 million human trafficking victims worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization; the trafficking industry is estimated to be around $150 billion.

The lack of investigation and prosecution of labor trafficking in the United States is a significant problem, said Hilary Chester, PhD, Associate Director of the Anti-Trafficking Program for United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

While “we do have relatively robust laws” against trafficking, she said, pointing to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), “what’s missing right now is accountability.”

This creates a system of impunity where “there is no consequence for exploiting a worker,” whether it be in a small business, agriculture, or a hotel chain. “There really isn’t much risk for them,” Chester said.

Sister Winifred Doherty, RGS, the United Nations Representative for the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, said there is a common thread running through global systems of exploitation.

“Laudato Si, as I Iook on it and reflect on it, connects the dots,” she said, referencing Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical. Doherty said the Pope has frequently drawn attention to how economies built towards the pursuit of profit rather than respect for human dignity lead to a market culture based on exploitation.

To read the full story by Matt Hadro on Catholic News Agency: Click Here

February, 2017 Monthly Reflection

February 2, 2017

St. Josephine Bakhita: A Saint For Our Time

By the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center

During the month of February, we commemorate St. Josephine Bakhita, who has come to be known as a symbol of hope for Catholics in the anti-human trafficking movement. St. Josephine was sold into slavery as a young girl in her home country of Sudan, but later in life she escaped and became a Canossian sister in Italy.

St. Josephine Bakhita’s story, although occurring over one hundred years ago, reflects some of the same realities that many human trafficking victims face today. There are so many untold stories of individuals trapped in situations of exploitation through force, fraud, or coercion. We have a tendency in doing this work to lump these stories together into statistics and data in an effort to convey to people the how human trafficking reaches every corner of the earth, every industry, gender, and age group. St. Josephine reminds us that behind these statistics are nearly 21 million individual stories of suffering.

St. Josephine reminds us of a man we work with who for years was exploited right here in the United States at a sandwich shop and was then apprehended by U.S. immigration officials for being undocumented. I think of his resilience in advocating for himself and obtaining legal residency and using his voice to shed light on the issue of human trafficking that occurs right here in our backyard.

St. Josephine reminds us of the service providers who work 12 hour days to assist in providing for human trafficking survivors’ basic needs after escaping exploitation. This type of dedication can only be brought out through immense compassion and hope.

St. Josephine reminds us of the people overseas who are exploited making the products we in the western world could not imagine our lives without. Cell phones, clothing, shoes, jewelry, and other products have a higher cost than just the money we pay for them, a cost paid in the suffering of those who are not paid a fair wage, work long hours, and do not have access to safety equipment.

So, to commemorate these stories, we invite you to honor St. Josephine on her Feast Day, February 8th, and to hold in your heart all victims of human trafficking in three ways:

  1. Gather your family, religious community, and friends to say the prayer of St. Josephine Bakhita (below).
  2. Choose one of the US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking’s Educational Modules to study and reflect upon.
  3. Contact your Members of Congress by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and urge them to continue the work to end human trafficking globally.

As people of faith, we have a long legacy of commemorating those who have gone before us to pave the way for justice. So on February 8th, let us continue the work to end human trafficking and celebrate how far we’ve come.

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.

Amen

 

Prayer: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services

 

The Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center is a member organization of the US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking. IPJC is sponsored by 21 religious communities and works for justice in the church and in the world through education, advocacy and organizing.