By Anne Marie Amacher and Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Two groups committed to raising awareness about human trafficking and putting a stop to it held prayer services earlier this month.
The prayer services of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary (Feb. 6) and Attacking Trafficking (Feb. 8) were part of an annual day of prayer designated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for victims and survivors of human trafficking.
The world day of prayer commemorates St. Josephine Bakhita, patron of the oppressed and enslaved. Pope Francis has said that all people are called by God to be free that each person is called to combat modern forms of enslavement.
“To end slavery in this form, we need to end demand (for it),” observed Cathy O’Keefe, executive director of Braking Traffik, during the prayer service at the Humility Sisters’ Magnificat Chapel.
O’Keefe asked the gathering to pray for love and respect for one another and to consider offering financial support to the cause and/or volunteering in efforts aimed at stopping human trafficking.
Talk about the issue in church, prayer and in conversation with others, she added.
The Sisters’ prayer service included a selection of excerpts from speeches and writings of Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
During the Feb. 8 prayer service at St. Paul the Apostle Parish, the group opened with a prayer to St. Josephine Bakhita. Parishioner and youth minister Luke Ebener shared his devotion to St. Josephine. He spent about a year in South Sudan where he learned about the saint, who he said offers three things: hope, beauty of simplicity and standing up to injustice.
The Rev. Amanda Weinkauf of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport said everyone recognizes the value of freedom. As God’s people, all can help liberate, heal and offer hope to others. Actions grow out of faith, she noted.
Deacon Sharon Larrison of Newcomb Presbyterian in Davenport shared how the Presbyterian Church has worked to attack trafficking. The church has urged legislators to take action regarding the rights of children who are trafficked. They Presbyterian Church website www.pcusa.org includes information on its fight against human trafficking and a toolkit for action on modern slavery.
Charlie Rodriguez of St. Alban Episcopalian Church in Davenport talked about his parish’s ministry to those being trafficked. The Rev. Brian McVay, the former pastor, began that ministry and participated in a Vatican conference on human trafficking last year.
As part of the ministry of presence at truck stops, church members distribute informational handouts to those who may be human trafficking victims. The St. Alban’s group also monitors activity online that they believe indicates the movement of trafficking victims through this area.
Robin Sade of St. Alban’s, and a member of Attacking Trafficking, reviewed the history of the organization begun by Nora Dvorak of St. Paul the Apostle. Sade shared what the group has done to bring attention to the problem around the world and in Iowa. Working with legislators and hosting seminars are among the ways the group has raised awareness.
“We are interfaith and united in faith – that is what brings us together” to fight human trafficking, said Ann Mohr, a member of St. Ann Parish in Long Grove who chairs Attacking Trafficking.
“Anyone can be a victim. No chains are needed. Don’t ignore the signs,” Mohr said, while showing
PowerPoint slides with statistics and information on human trafficking from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
As the prayer service concluded, Sue Arp stood up to tell how she was trafficked “right here in the Quad Cities. They kept me between Geneseo and Cambridge (in Illinois). No town is too small. It happens everywhere.”