(The following is a letter from the president, Sister Jane Iannucelli, SC)
One of the most urgent moral issues of our time is finally attracting attention. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month—and on this issue, the Sisters of Charity are leading the way.
Awareness is a great first step. Yet the “selling” of women and children into sexual slavery and forced labor is not confined to January. We’re grateful that law enforcement and media attention are both expected to increase around the upcoming Super Bowl—an event that draws sex trafficking to nearby hotels—but the danger is that afterwards, people will forget.
For the millions trafficked worldwide including 300,000 children at risk in the U.S., our vigilance and our efforts are needed all year long. Most children forced into sexual exploitation for the first time are below the age of 14, and have already been abused by a parent or guardian. This is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, second in profits only to the drug industry, and it tortures women and children in mind, body and spirit every day.
The Sisters of Charity find this totally unacceptable, and we know you do, too. Our Sisters first came to New York 200 years ago because we knew it was unacceptable for abandoned children to fend for themselves. The rest of society eventually caught up, and in the 21st century no one disputes the right of every child to a safe home, good care and an education. Today, we need society to wake up once again—this time for the victims of human trafficking.
Unfortunately, many turn a blind eye just as people did centuries ago, for the same reasons. “It’s sad but it’s just the way things are these days… It’s too overwhelming, I can’t think about it… Maybe they’re just born criminals…” Thoughts like these are temptations to turn away from Christ in those who suffer, and we cannot give in! We owe it to God’s children who are being violated right now. Every step we take, however small, is worth it.
Together we can make the world a safe place for women and children. This requires a multi-pronged approach including education of the general public, hotel staff, clergy, and law enforcement; legislative and legal advocacy; and direct assistance with victims. Our Sisters are working hard on every single one of these fronts, thanks to the support of friends like you.
The charism of Charity is a tremendous help. Our Sisters are spiritually prepared to seek out Christ in the darkest places, where hope is scarce. This is our calling. We do not lose heart when confronting the horror of trafficking head-on. And you are with us on this important journey, helping us shine the light of God’s love where it is needed most.
Your support helps us provide direct assistance to trafficking victims at a “Safe House” where many of our Sisters volunteer including Sister Mary Ellen O’Boyle, SC, a leader on this issue. Women temporarily living at the Safe House have survived the unimaginable and are traumatized; they are also incredibly grateful to find a warm bed, meals, and someone to listen with compassion at all hours of the day and night. Education and other resources are provided to help the women recover and rebuild their lives.
The Safe House is coordinated by LifeWay Network—a nonprofit headed by a Sister of Charity of Halifax, and just one of the many groups with which we collaborate. Our Congregation has also joined forces with other women religious through CRC-STOP (Coalition of Religious Congregations to Stop Trafficking of Persons), making us a powerful voice for change through annual conferences, school presentations, workshops with priests, dialogue with local businesses and law enforcement, legislative advocacy, and more.
Together we are making a strong impact—and it is only through your generosity. Please contribute to our anti-human trafficking ministry! Your gift will become compassion for survivors today, and education that may save someone tomorrow.
Another important way you can help is through prayer, and I’ve enclosed a card to help you join us. Pray that trafficking victims find a way out and a path to healing. Pray that we are successful in our efforts to rid the world of this crime against humanity. And pray that a change of heart leads traffickers to cease their horrific actions and honor the dignity of all.
I also invite you to learn more. Be alert to what is happening around you, especially in transportation centers and hotels. And if you have concerns about a possible victim, call the 24/7 National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Let’s celebrate the survivors’ success stories, and look forward to the day when trafficking and sexual exploitation are evils of the past. I know we will get there if we keep working together! With gratitude the Sisters welcome your Special Intentions, and we will keep you in our prayers.
Jane Iannucelli, SC
If you would like to make a donation to help support our efforts in this fight against human trafficking, please click here. Select “Human Trafficking” in the “Designation” box. Thank you.