MERCHANTVILLE — St. Peter Parish in Merchantville here marked Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Monday, Jan. 11, with a rosary and miraculous medal novena to pray for human traffickers and their victims. There was also a presentation and discussion of human trafficking with Dennis Fisher, Northeast Program Officer for Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
CRS is the bishops’ overseas relief and development agency.
In front of some 70 people in the parish hall, Fisher spoke of the worldwide prevalence of human trafficking, which is the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, and harbor or receipt of persons…by means of threat, force, or other forms of coercion, for the purpose of exploitation.” This exploitation can be sexual, servitude, forced labor, or, in some cases, even for the purpose of the removal of organs.
A $46 billion dollar-a-year industry, human trafficking exploits approximately 12.3 million children and adults worldwide, even in the United States. This “business” is mostly concentrated in Eastern Europe and India, said Fisher, although it can be in any place.
Human trafficking, Fisher said, is most likely to be found in places where there is poverty; situations of armed conflict; and a low status of women. A need for cheap labor, sex workers, eroding social norms and values, and a consumerist society that tolerates these activities, fuels this industry.
Social, political, cultural and economic conditions help human trafficking thrive. It is tolerated by a society that views it as a cultural norm, where there is a need for inexpensive labor, and where governments have ineffective migration policies designed to stop the spread of trafficking or a corrupt judicial system.
To combat this injustice against human life, Fisher noted that Catholic Relief Services has supported campaigns aimed at the prevention of human trafficking, reintegration into a normal society for its victims, and public awareness.
CRS has also called for effective anti-trafficking legislation, effective law enforcement, and the end of migration and economic policies that lead to individuals being vulnerable to trafficking.
Fisher showed slides of CRS working with trafficking victims, and helping them to learn industrial and agricultural skills.
“From CRS’ point of view, it’s important to know that this is a reality for millions of people, and that it affects the dignity of human beings,” said Fisher.
“As this is a human rights issue, we’re called as Catholics to create opportunities to prevent this from happening.”
Father Allain Caparas, parochial vicar at St. Peter, introduced Fisher to the audience. “Here in our parish, we talk about growing closer to Christ, but we also have to be open to loving our brothers and sisters (in the global church),” he said.
When asked what those in the audience could do to combat human trafficking, he answered, “ We need to pray for the conversion of the people who encourage these kinds of practices, and pray for ourselves, that we may be made more aware and conscious of how this affects the lives of others.”
Before the presentation, parishioners prayed the rosary and Miraculous Medal Novena in the church. The meditation for each rosary decade focused on a different aspect of trafficking, praying for the conversion of traffickers, and for the courage and perseverance to combat trafficking.
For more information on human trafficking, visit the Catholic Relief Services website at www.crs.org, and search “human trafficking.”