Peace & Justice
Sisters Stand against Human Trafficking
by Kathleen Phelan, OP
It’s autumn 2020, and we’ve been asked to study, research, and endorse a new corporate stance for Anti-Racism. As a Congregation, we have a deep and diverse history of corporate stances; to remind you of a few: Condemn Apartheid (1986), Oppose the Death Penalty (2002), Conflict in Iraq (2006), and Care of Creation: Climate Change (2018).
As a committee of Sisters and Associates in the Madison, WI, area, we have chosen to study and respond to the horrendous issue of human trafficking. Ending human trafficking was the focus of a corporate stance in 2008. Do you recall endorsing it? A portion of that corporate stance statement reads, “The practice of human trafficking exists worldwide. It is violent, inhumane, and incompatible with the values of the Gospel. We, the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, in accordance with our commitment to the building of a holy and just society, oppose the trafficking of human persons.”
During the last few years (pre-COVID-19), we’ve met to pray, study, and to plan appropriate actions. Supported by a Sinsinawa Ministry Grant, we’ve developed educational brochures, made presentations in various parishes and civic groups, held citywide events featuring noted speaker Kimberly Ritter, and offered an engaging film study of I Am Still Here with the writer and director Mischa Marcus. She was present to engage college students and neighbors in an exploration of the topic. Together, we studied the powerful text, Walking Prey, by Holly Austin Smith. Pre-COVID-19, members were a community-resource presence at various Madison Farmer’s Markets (we are in Wisconsin, you know). Unfortunately, the opportunity for these types of gatherings are closed down to us. Now, we meet by Zoom and are exploring ways to be equally effective during a pandemic!
One resource we’d like to suggest for personal and/or group study is the very valuable organization, U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking. Their newly redesigned website was launched recently and it’s well worth your perusal (sistersagainsttrafficking.org). The site offers an opportunity to subscribe to their newsletter; read timely press releases; or view short videos highlighting their program areas of education, survivor services, and advocacy, including current campaigns. Explore a bit, and you’ll find a topic labeled “Faith Resources” where you’ll discover a sample of prayer resources, rituals, bulletin inserts, and relevant statements from Catholic Social Teachings.
Scroll through their online newsletter, “Stop Trafficking” (published in English and Spanish), all the way to the last page where you will find the “Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, WI” listed among their sponsors! We’re grateful for the Congregation’s generosity.
The impact of human trafficking? According to this website, “it is estimated there are 40 million victims of human trafficking around the world including both labor and sex trafficking.” We know these crimes against children and trafficked adults are only growing more prevalent during this isolating time of pandemic.
There are many valuable organizations—local, national, and international—addressing the complex and desperate issue of trafficking. We hope to highlight other groups and organizations in the future. We’re happy to be a resource for you as well as to learn of your initiatives. Forty million victims and countless other trafficked persons next door and throughout our world count on each of us.
The Madison Anti-Human Trafficking Committee includes Judy Aubry, OP; Kathy Lawler; Maureen McDonnell, OP; Reg McKillip, OP; Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP; Kathleen Phelan, OP; Mary Rathert, OP; Evie Storto, OP; and Clare Wagner, OP.