Washington D.C., Mar 9, 2021 / 12:00 pm America/Denver (CNA).
Every person has a role to play to fight human trafficking, Catholic advocates said at an online conference on Tuesday.
“Pope Francis has spoken about human trafficking as a deep wound, a scourge, in this collective body,” said Jennifer Reyes Lay, executive director of US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, at an online conference on Tuesday.
Noting the Church’s teaching on the mystical body of Christ, that “when one member of the body suffers, all suffer with it,” Lay said that all Catholics “are called to take action, to address what is causing this wound, this harm to the body of Christ,” referring to human trafficking.
Lay addressed the Shine the Light online conference on “root causes and intersections on human trafficking,” sponsored by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Advocacy Center (NAC). Co-sponsors of the conference included the U.S. Coalition of Sisters Against Human Trafficking and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Office of Migration and Refugee Services.
Human trafficking occurs through sex trafficking, forced labor, or domestic servitude, taking many forms including sexual exploitation, forced marriage, child soldiers, or debt bondage. Overall, the International Labour Organization estimates it to be a $150 billion per year industry, with more than 20 million people trapped in forced labor and nearly five million in forced sexual exploitation. More than 70% of people trafficked are women and girls.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), author of five laws to combat human trafficking, was a congressional honorary co-chair of the event. On Monday, he addressed the conference and warned that women and children are vulnerable to online exploitation by predators and traffickers during the pandemic.