As the 2010 Winter Olympics approach, the Canadian bishops have spoken against the “trivialization” of concerns about prostitution during the event. They said the crime is a part of a “new form of slavery” known as human trafficking and called on Catholics to help fight it.
While the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games are much anticipated, the bishops said some see the event as a chance to make money at the cost of human dignity and human rights.
Those in vulnerable situations may believe unscrupulous smugglers or succumb to earning money through “sexual tourism,” the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) said in their Pastoral Letter on Human Trafficking.
The pastoral letter was authored by the CCCB’s Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, which is chaired by Archbishop of Kingston Brendan M. O’Brien.
“In Canada, Aboriginal women and young girls disappear from their villages and are never seen again,” the letter lamented. “Increasingly, younger immigrants work the downtown streets or get jobs in strip clubs and massage parlors.”
Immigrants may not be able to speak the language and may have their passport taken from them.
“They are at the mercy of pimps who demand to be reimbursed for the victim’s transportation costs.
“Women and children, usually under the influence of drugs, must then engage in prostitution under the vigilant eye of pimps who pocket the profits. If the victims try to run away or stand up for their rights, the pimps threaten to kill them or members of their families back home.”
The pastoral letter encouraged Canadians to become aware of human trafficking and take action to stop it.
“How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” the letter continued, quoting the First Letter of John.
The bishops also recognized that demand for prostitution fuels human trafficking.
“In a country that considers equality between women and men to be a fundamental value, a country where a majority of citizens are Christians who promote the dignity of each person created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), how can we tolerate prostitution, which is a form of institutionalized violence that destroys the physical, psychological and spiritual integrity of other human beings?”
The bishops also urged support for organizations that work with victims of human trafficking and to provide “concrete assistance” such as spiritual support, health care, safe housing, decent employment, and substance abuse programs.
“Our prayers will also strengthen the hope of those many people whose liberty and humanity have been taken from them by trafficking and the courage of those groups that assist them,” their letter concluded. “May our faith and outrage spur us to get involved, individually and together, for the transformation of our world!”