In January and February, the seven dioceses in Florida will educate the faithful through a Human Trafficking Sunday in parishes to bring awareness of the trafficking of human beings and its prevalence in the state of Florida. The Bishops of Florida have issued a statement urging Catholics to take the steps necessary to become educated and active in the fight against this assault on human dignity. Resources for use in this effort include the video, Invisible Chains, developed by the Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Human Trafficking, a PowerPoint presentation for use by parishes, and educational materials for students in grade school and higher education. These are available on the Conference’s web site at www.flacathconf.org/humantrafficking.
The statement from the Bishops of Florida follows:
On this tenth anniversary of the passage of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), we call upon the Florida faithful to be actively engaged in the fight against the evil of human trafficking. The Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign is intended to educate those who may come in contact with victims in churches, health care facilities, schools or the community so they can identify and report in order to rescue victims from their abusers.
The constant global movement of people across borders enables traffickers to bring close to one million victims into the United States yearly with relative ease, luring them with promises of money and then selling or using them in bondage. Profit over people places at risk women and children forced into prostitution, pornography and sexual entertainment to meet the huge demand of customers. Florida, a prime destination for traffickers because of agriculture and tourism, also depends upon workers in the fields, hotels, and other labor intensive industries. This extreme exploitation destroys the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health of the victims, leaving them scarred for life.
A troubling trend is the exploitation of minors in domestic sex trafficking. These youth, under age 18, are the runaway and throwaway children in society picked up on our streets and forced into sex acts in exchange for food and a bed. We grieve for the children whose innocence has been sacrificed in the name of greed and monetary gain, a shocking example of “man’s inhumanity to man.”
In a 2007 pastoral statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, the bishops wrote: “Human trafficking is a horrific crime against the basic dignity and rights of the human person. All efforts must be expended to end it…to ensure that, one day soon, trafficking in human persons vanishes from the face of the earth.”
As we reflect on our human bond with each other and the words from Matthew 25:40, “as you did it to the least of my brethren, you did it to me,” we call on Catholics to become educated about the scourge of trafficking in society. Our vulnerable brothers and sisters, trapped by poverty or circumstances, are waiting for us to help free them from bondage so they may be made whole and restored to health.
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, Archdiocese of Miami
Bishop Victor Galeone, Diocese of St. Augustine
Bishop Robert N. Lynch, Diocese of St. Petersburg
Bishop John G. Noonan, Diocese of Orlando
Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito, Diocese of Palm Beach
Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Diocese of Venice
Auxiliary Bishop Felipe J. Estévez, Archdiocese of Miami