January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and today (January 11) is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. It is shocking to consider the size and scope of the tragedy of human trafficking that exists in our world in 2021. Confronted by desperation and fraud, women and men are still exploited through forced prostitution and labor against their will. To be clear, this is modern day slavery that has affected over 40 million people. It cannot be accepted in any decent society. Human trafficking is a horrific crime against the basic dignity and rights of the human person and requires massive resources and focus at the local, state, and federal levels to eliminate the root causes that allow it to exist. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops calls upon Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, which would provide legal avenues for men, women, and their families to enter the country and work legally and safely. Elected officials must collaborate to decisively build pathways that lead to the common good.
Survivors of human trafficking are commonly linked by poverty and a lack of opportunity, particularly immigrants and undocumented workers in the U.S. The selling of people, treated as instruments of gain, takes away all fundamental values rooted in the nature of a human being. As Pope Francis has said, it is a “scourge that wounds the dignity of our weakest brothers and sisters.”
So what can we do as people of good will to assist survivors and victims? Parishes can offer opportunities to discuss this issue. The diocese is so grateful for programs like CourageLIVES, a division of Saint André Home that is Maine’s first residential program for women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and need a safe secure place to heal and rebuild. Lend a hand by learning how you can help this program and others here.
On this occasion, let us resolve as Christians to raise awareness of what is happening in our communities and pray that the victims and survivors of human trafficking find freedom, waiting arms to offer safety, an understanding of their intrinsic value, and a path to healing.