An Educational Evening by Sister Joan Pikiell
Human Trafficking Committee
A goal of the Human Trafficking Committee is to provide Sisters, Associates, and friends of the School Sisters of Notre Dame with opportunities for prayer and education about this form of modern day slavery. I was blessed with just such an opportunity one evening in March along with Kathleen Bonnette, Assistant Director of the Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation. We had been invited by Sister Grace Sciamanna to present to the Board of Caroline Center an evening of prayer, reflection, and discussion centered on human trafficking. Some forty people - board members, associates, staff members and other guests – spent an evening learning about the statistics, the vulnerabilities of the victims, and ways that we all can help to eliminate human trafficking.
Caroline Center is an SSND sponsored institution that “offers its holistic education and career skills training program to capable women who are ready for change – women who would most benefit from the program and would not otherwise have the opportunity. Caroline Center’s mission is to empower each woman to reach the fullness of her potential so that she can create a future of hope for herself and her family.” The Center offers programs to prepare women to practice as certified nursing assistants and pharmacy technicians.
During the presentation, the receptive audience learned some realities about the issue. For example, the majority of trafficking victims are women and children. Traffickers typically prey on victims of poverty, inequality, and discrimination. These vulnerabilities allow traffickers to force their victims into either labor or sex trafficking. Human trafficking has become a $150 billion industry worldwide.
Trafficking happens everywhere, and Baltimore is a hot-spot. Baltimore is a main port of entry into Maryland with the convergence of major highways, train and bus terminals, and busy airports creating a perfect anonymous setting for trafficking persons. Traffickers often take advantage of the ease of transporting victims. From Maryland, traffickers distribute their victims throughout the country.
Using the website Slaveryfootprint.org, participants learned how we as consumers can inadvertently be contributing to labor trafficking through our purchases. Taking the survey allowed the audience to see how our purchases support the continuation of this modern atrocity, which generated much reflection and conversation. This awareness can lead to prevention by looking for Fair Trade certified products or purchasing used goods, for example.
As the evening continued, board members and guests asked thought-provoking questions while sharing first-hand experiences and prevention resources with one another. I came to realize that Caroline Center, through its educational programs geared to career development, offers another form of Human Trafficking prevention. These women are making themselves and their children less attractive to traffickers by eliminating some of their vulnerabilities. Kudos to the Caroline Center Board and Staff for their ministry and willingness to learn more about Human Trafficking! Thank you for the invitation.
Reflections on Integral Ecology by Sister Kay O’Connell
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
WE ARE SPIRITUAL BEINGS
Teilhard, as quoted by David Richo in Everything Ablaze, pp.40-41.