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Weekly Reflection: Labor Trafficking Here and Now

(Note: The following blog was prepared by the Illinois Women Religious Against Human Trafficking (IWRAHT) organization, featuring Sister Barbara Sheehan, SP. This is the second of three blogs this month, in order to raise awareness during Human Trafficking Awareness Month).

“How many people worldwide are victims of this type of slavery, in which the person is at the service of his or her work, while work should offer a service to people so they may have dignity. I ask my brothers and sisters in faith and all men and women of good will for a decisive choice to combat trafficking in persons, which includes ‘slave labor.’” (Pope Francis, Homily, May 1, 2013)

Labor Trafficking in the United States is a form of both labor and sex trafficking where victims are made to perform a task through force, fraud or coercion. Often times people are victims of both labor and sex trafficking. Traffickers include recruiters, contractors, employers and others who make false promises of high-paying jobs, education or travel opportunities to lure their victims into horrendous working conditions. These conditions include physical or psychological/mental control, confiscation of money or passports, and physical abuse. People are trapped in labor trafficking in such industries as agriculture, construction, domestic work, and manufacturing. The U.S. Department of Labor identifies 148 goods from 76 countries made by forced and child labor. In the United States, there are more than 7,800 labor trafficking cases.

Read more about this at the Polaris Project.

Action: Be alert, be curious and be willing to call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Ask yourself, might this person be a victim? If you suspect someone is trafficked, you can make the confidential call that may save a life, and/or, you can leave a small information card for help in a place for the laborer to find. Be curious about who might have made your clothes, what are the conditions by which your food was harvested, what wages does this laborer get and are they just, who gets the wages this person makes? Read up on various food products and the labor practices of food companies (e.g., chocolate producers, coffee producers, clothing manufacturing companies). You can join a group working with victims to assist in their healing and recovery.

Prayer: We come before you, God, unable to grasp the magnitude of slave labor and sex trafficking here and now. Enfold with your compassion those so victimized and rain down justice upon them and their traffickers, both in the greatest need of healing. May we accept Your Life within them and within us so that we might not only stand for the end of such horror, but also stand for those harmed as companions and advocates. May healing, dignity and freedom for all be our way of loving and living!

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Sister Barbara Sheehan

Sister Barbara Sheehan

Sister Barbara Sheehan, SP, a Sister of Providence since 1960, lives in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods after several years in Chicago, where she ministered as Executive Director/ACPE Supervisor of the Urban Clinical Pastoral Education Consortium, Inc. and as a spiritual director. She has extensive training not only in clinical pastoral supervision but also in care with those sexually abused, those challenged with mental illness and those suffering trauma. She has offered many workshops at regional, national and international conferences, is the author of Partner in Covenant: The Art of Spiritual Companionship and of numerous articles including one of her latest, Formation For Professional Practice: Addressing Social Hurts" in Reflective Practice: Formation and Supervision in Ministry, Vol. 34 2014.

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  1. Avatar Carol Nolan on January 14, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Thanks, Barbara! We did a little of this in California. I have heard that a good place is in bathrooms, as is also the case for victims of domestic abuse. Thanks for calling us to continued awareness of this situation!

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