Pictured left to right: Father Anklan, Deacon Molina, Bishop Noonan, and Deacon Gray.
Deacon Fred Molina of Resurrection Parish in Winter Garden received the 2016 Polaris Star Award Jan. 26 at the UCF Burnett Honors College for his work in bringing awareness to the scourge of human trafficking. Given by the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force (GOHTTF), the award is named for the Polaris Star, also known as the North Star, the navigational point slaves used to find their way north to freedom along the Underground Railroad. One of six recipients, as the chairman of the Diocese of Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force and a member of the GOHTTF, Deacon Molina was among other community and government leaders working to eradicate what many are calling modern day slavery.
Diocese of Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force, now in its third year, is on the front lines of combatting human trafficking in the Central Florida community as they coordinate with other agencies in the fight.
“Most people are not aware of how big the problem is or they don’t think it affects them,” said Deacon Molina. “But, it does apply. Our city is number one in addiction to pornography, is in the top three states for human trafficking, and in the top ten for child prostitution.
“Through the diocese’s task force, we provide awareness and make connections,” said Deacon David Gray, director of the permanent diaconate and member of the Diocese of Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force. “We want our parishes to become places of support, and to be well trained on how to spot a victim and what to do.”
The Diocese of Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force is currently developing standardized materials that can be used to train parishes and teachers.
“We are working on a major project to write a protocol for all Catholic schools in the diocese,” explained Deacon Molina. “Schools have protocols for what to do in the event of a fire or a gun, and we want a protocol to spot a child who is at risk of or is being trafficked. We want our schools to be protected and know what to do. We need to save people.”
Executive Director of the Florida Abolitionists and Chairman of the GOHTTF, Tomas Lares, who presented the awards, said, “Deacon Molina is such an incredible advocate. I love his passion and desire to get the word out. He deserved the award because of his advocacy across the state.”
In an email to fellow task force members, Deacon Molina said “I feel that this award is as much for all our members of the Diocese of Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force that have worked hard to develop us into a recognized Force against Human Trafficking … We have to first thank God for His guidance throughout our endeavor, because without him we would have never succeeded.”
Human Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, coercion, abuse of power/position) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation. For more information on the Diocese of Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force, contact: Deacon Fred Molina at DOHTTF@orlandodiocese.org