The fact that there are still an estimated 25 million people in this world who are victims of human trafficking is why our country has once again declared January as a month to recognize this sad statistic and pledge to do more to stop these crimes.
In a proclamation issued on December 29, President Donald J. Trump called upon Americans to recommit themselves to eradicating the evil of enslavement.
“Human trafficking is a modern form of the oldest and most barbaric type of exploitation. It has no place in our world,” the president said. “This month we do not simply reflect on this appalling reality. We also pledge to do all in our power to end the horrific practice of human trafficking that plagues innocent victims around the world.”
Human traffickers typically prey on their victims by promising a life of hope and greater opportunity, while delivering only enslavement, the proclamation continues. Instead of delivering people to better lives, traffickers unjustifiably profit from the labor and toil of their victims, who they force — through violence and intimidation — to work in brothels and factories, on farms and fishing vessels, in private homes, and in countless industries.
The Trump administration has already taken steps to put an end to this dark trade. In February, the president signed an Executive Order that dismantled transnational criminal organizations, including those that perpetuate the crime of human trafficking.
He also established the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons which has enhanced collaboration with other nations, businesses, civil society organizations, and survivors of human trafficking. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services established a new national training and technical assistance center to strengthen our healthcare industry’s anti-trafficking response.
“And this month, I will sign into law S. 1536, the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act and S. 1532, the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act. These bills will keep those who commit trafficking offenses from operating commercial vehicles, improve anti-human trafficking coordination within Federal agencies and across State and local governments, and improve efforts to recognize, prevent, and report human trafficking,” the president announced.
Everyday Americans can also help to combat the evil of enslavement by learning how to identify the telltale signs of a potential trafficking victim.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign provides a list of key indicators such as children who stop attending school, persons who exhibit a sudden or dramatic change in behavior, juveniles who are engaged in commercial sex acts, persons who are overly fearful and timid or are showing signs of mental or physical abuse. Another sign is when a person is accompanied by someone to whom he or she defers or who seems to be coaching the person on what to say or do.
“By taking steps to become familiar with the telltale signs of traffickers or the signals of their victims, Americans can save innocent lives,” the president says.
This is an especially important issue for the Church which has long been devoted to ending this scourge.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church forbids acts that cause the enslavement of humans. “The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason – selfish or ideological, commercial or totalitarian – lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity” (No. 2414).
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).
It is from these teaching that the Church’s commitment to the elimination of human trafficking has come. For example, the Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been a leader in both the U.S. and global response to human trafficking and operates an Anti-Trafficking Program to coordinate the response of the U.S. Catholic Church.
The 4th International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking will be held on February 8, the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita of Sudan who was captured and sold into slavery by traders.
“Human Trafficking is a crime against humanity,” Pope Francis said. “We must unite our efforts to free victims and stop this crime.”
The USCCB issued an Anti-Trafficking Toolkit last year which contains valuable information on how to raise awareness of this evil and what you can do to help bring about an end to the evil of human trafficking.
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