Boston, MA: In 2007 the U.S. Senate designated January 11th as a National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness in an effort to raise consciousness about this global, national and local issue. In 2010-2015, President Barack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. For the eighth consecutive year, local Catholic Sisters representing sixteen congregations in the Greater Boston Area gathered with over 150 sisters, associates, and many friends on January 11, 2015, to mark this national day and pray for an end to human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery. This Boston Anti-trafficking Coalition, which is a collaboration of congregations of women religious in the Boston area, believes that in addition to words and actions, prayer and silent vigil are powerful tools to eradicate human trafficking.
During the introduction to the prayer, participants were reminded of Pope Francis’ 2015 New Year’s World Day of Peace Message in which he calls on all nations to fight “modern forms of enslavement” and human trafficking. Francis continues, “…millions of people today are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery.”
On this national day of awareness, participants know that they do not stand alone. In cities all across the country, similar groups gathered in solidarity, in prayer, in vigil-keeping throughout the country. The group is also heartened by the words and efforts of many civic and church leaders across the commonwealth, the country, and the world who realize that the $150 billion dollar worldwide ‘industry’ of trafficking of more than 21 million persons runs counter to basic tenets regarding the dignity and value of each person.
Roman Catholic women religious have been key leaders in the national and international movement to stop human trafficking. Each year they have been joined by associates, co-workers, relatives, friends, students, and other concerned citizens to give witness to the dignity of each person. In prayer and silent vigil they stand with and for those children, women, and men who are exploited for labor and for sex through the evil of human trafficking, modern day slavery. They also pray for the conversion of traffickers themselves.
As Pope France’s 2015 World Day of Peace Message reminds us, all peoples are our family, and together, we need to cry out and act to end the human trafficking of our brothers and sisters.
The Boston Unit of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious includes several religious congregations representing over 800 women religious in the greater Boston area.
An estimated 850,000 people are trafficked annually worldwide, according to the U.S. State Department, 20,000 of them into the United States. Human trafficking forces men, women, and children into pornography, prostitution and other sexual exploitation, as well as labor exploitation. In 1998, the realization that trafficking was a growing problem around the world—and that it was being largely unaddressed—led to the formation of a, broad-based coalition of women's organizations, faith-based groups, children's groups, labor groups, and health groups. Together this bi-partisan coalition drafted and helped pass the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The law provides a comprehensive approach to elimination of trafficking in persons through a three-pronged strategy—prevention, prosecution, and protection. In 2003 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services began educating segments of the public about the horrors of human trafficking. Their efforts began with members of women's religious communities who have the potential to educate and influence others on behalf of victims of trafficking.
Contact: Joanne Gallagher, CSJ, Director of Communications, Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, firstname.lastname@example.org 617.746.2110