SAU CFDD
Jan 302014
 

Victims and survivors of human trafficking — yes, they exist in Iowa — are the focus of a national day of prayer scheduled Feb. 8 on the Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita, a victim of human trafficking.
The Committee on Migration for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) designated this day of prayer to respond to a reality that many find hard to believe, even though it happens right under our noses.
“In our diocese we have it — mail-order brides, prostitution rings and more. It’s modern-day slavery,” diocesan social action volunteer Nora Dvorak told participants at a Nov. 16 workshop at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.
She showed a video about an Iowa teen who had been lured into a “modeling job” and then forced into prostitution before being rescued three months later by an undercover officer.
Interstates near the Quad Cities provide easy access for moving victims in and out of the community, emergency room nurse Cathy Curtis explained during a human trafficking conference last month at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.  Midwestern “naiveté,” she said, keeps people from questioning suspicious situations.
We don’t want to believe that our neighbors, employers, customers, friends or even relatives use and abuse other human beings as if they were belongings at one’s disposal.
The USCCB’s anti-trafficking program website reports that “an estimated 17,000 vulnerable men, women and children are trafficked across our borders and then forced into slavery. Many are fleeing terrible conditions in their home countries, and come to the United States to find a better life. Unfortunately, the nightmare often begins when they reach our shores.”
In partnership with other organizations, the USCCB is striving to eradicate the crime of human trafficking through such initiatives as the dignity of work program, Amistad Movement, and the After Rescue research project.
At the St. Ambrose University conference, Curtis advised health care professionals to ask questions when they suspect that the individuals they are treating might be suffering from something other than a work-related injury or illness.
Perhaps we could embolden ourselves to ask questions, too, when we are in stores, restaurants or other settings where individuals may be trafficked. But first, we need to get informed about the issue, and join in prayer with people of faith on Feb. 8.
Find prayer resources at:
• http://www.usccb.org/about/anti-trafficking-program/upload/Prayer-Service.pdf
• USCCB Migration and Refugee Services at 202-541-3021, or by email at: MRSTraff@usccb.org or visit www.usccb.org/stopslavery.
May we be inspired by Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947). After being freed from slavery, the Sudanese-born saint dedicated her life to sharing her testimony of deliverance from slavery and comforting the suffering.
Barb Arland-Fye

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