New Years' Message

Dear People of God,

Happy and Blessed New Year to you all!

On behalf of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of United States I want to share this important article to help us understand better the evil of Human Trafficking especially during this month of January as the Catholic Church calls us to pray for an end to it.

Understanding Human Trafficking

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking violates the sanctity, dignity, and fundamental rights of the human person. The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines it as “the recruitment, transportation, harboring or receipt of persons by means of force, fraud or coercion… for the purpose of exploitation.” According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking appears in “many guises”, often taking the form of commercial sexual exploitation, the prostitution of minors, debt bondage, and involuntary servitude. The United States government, and increasingly the international community, utilize the umbrella term “trafficking in persons” to define all forms of modern slavery.

Every year, millions of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers in their own countries and abroad. No sector or industry is immune from human trafficking.  Victims may be workers in food processing factories, waiters or cooks at restaurants, construction workers, agricultural laborers, fishers, housekeeping staff at hotels, domestic help in private residences, or sex trafficked women and men in brothels, spas and massage parlors. According to the United Nation’s International Labor Organization’s (ILO) 2016 “Global Estimates of Modern Slavery,” nearly 40.3 million people are victims of modern slavery, of whom 24.9 million are entrapped in forced labor and sexual slavery and 15.4 million subjected to forced marriage. Through coercion, deceit, or force, they are trapped in jobs and situations from which they cannot escape.

Traffickers lure men, women, and children with false promises of good jobs, education, economic security, and love. Once enticed, traffickers keep their victims from seeking help through means such as confiscating identification documents, threats of violence against the victim or their family, and physical or psychological abuse.

The Facts

  • Calculated as a 150-billion-dollar industry, trafficking in persons has become the fastest growing source of illicit profit for criminals worldwide.
  • There are an estimated 40.3 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. Of these, 25 million are victims of labor or sex trafficking and 15 million are people trapped in forced marriages. Nearly 30% of all victims are men and boys, and an astounding 1 in 4 victims are children.
  • Trafficking cases are increasing under COVID-19, as traffickers prey upon people experiencing heightened vulnerabilities linked to pandemic-related lock downs, stay at home orders, job loss, and increased time online.
  • Two decades have passed since the United States adopted landmark legislation to combat trafficking. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, and its several reauthorizations, defines what constitutes trafficking in the U.S., establishes trafficking as a federal crime, and offers protection for victims and survivors.
  • Every year, the State Department issues the Trafficking in Persons Report, a diplomatic tool used to hold accountable government efforts around the world to address human trafficking. The latest edition underscores the important role of faith-based organizations in eradicating trafficking.

The Catholic Church’s Position on Human Trafficking

  • The elimination of human trafficking is a priority issue for the Catholic Church. Because every life is a gift from God and is sacred, it deserves to be protected and nurtured. We each have a responsibility to fight against the violation and degradation of our brothers and sisters. The Vatican released a set of guidelines, or pastoral orientations to help the Catholic community eradicate trafficking.
  • The Catechism of the Church forbids acts that cause the enslavement of humans. During the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the Church further stated “slavery, prostitution, the selling of women, and children, and disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as mere tools for profits rather than free and responsible persons are infamies and supreme dishonor to the creator.” (Gaudium et Spes, 1965).
  • In 2014, Pope Francis stated during his Declaration on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery: “Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution, and organ trafficking, is a crime against humanity. Its victims are from all walks of life but are most frequently among the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.”
  • Men and women religious play an integral part in the battle against human trafficking. In 2001, 800 women leaders of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) passed a resolution dedicating one million members “to work in solidarity with one another within our own religious communities and in the countries in which we are located to address insistently at every level the abuse and sexual exploitation of women and children...” The U.S. Catholic Sisters against Human Trafficking is the domestic response to this call. (Resource created by the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking)

Please join me in praying to God, not just this time but always, that He will continue to care for all the victims/survivors of human trafficking and comfort and healing for their families. Let us uphold the sacredness and dignity of human life from conception to natural death because it comes from God.

Have a Blessed Year 2022 full of opportunities for growth in faith, hope, and love!

Fr. Riz