Many members of Franciscan Action Network, especially women religious, place a high priority on work to stop human trafficking. During the past decade, greater attention has been paid to this contemporary form of human slavery which is a global, national and local evil. By definition, human trafficking is the exploitation of a person through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of forced labor or commercial sex exploitation.
In 2009, The International Labor Office in Geneva estimated that 12.3 million people live in forced labor, bonded labor and sexual exploitation conditions worldwide, including in the United States. It is estimated that every year 100,000 U.S. children are commercially sexually exploited. Ending contemporary human slavery is a human rights issue which many Franciscans feel compelled to address.
Catholic Social Teaching and Human Trafficking
Human dignity is the core element of Catholic Social Teaching. Equality of persons is clearly stated in scripture: “For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God, through faith . . . There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ” (Gal. 3: 26, 28). In his Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1991), Pope John Paul II referred to new forms of slavery such as trafficking in human beings, child soldiers, exploitation of workers, illegal drug trafficking and prostitution. “Even in countries with democratic forms of government, these rights are not always fully respected.” In a letter to Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Pope stated that human trafficking “constitutes a shocking offense against human dignity and is a grave violation of fundamental human rights.”
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
Human trafficking is a horrific crime against the basic dignity and rights of the human person. All efforts must be expended to end it. In the end, we must work together—Church, state, and community—to eliminate the root causes and markets that permit traffickers to flourish; to make whole the survivors of this crime; and to ensure that, one day soon, trafficking in human persons vanishes from the face of the earth.
—On Human Trafficking, 2007
FAN and Anti-Human Trafficking Work
In Washington DC, FAN works in collaboration with the USCCB’s Anti-Trafficking Services Program and is a member of the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking. FAN also collaborated with Franciscans International (FI) and the Franciscan Federation in a project to review the human trafficking issue in the 2013 United Nations review of the United States. In states and cities across the country, many FAN members address human trafficking in a variety of ways, including:
- advocacy for anti-trafficking legislation in their states
- direct service with survivors of human trafficking
- education projects to promote awareness of modern day slavery
- engagement of the tourist industry, encouraging airline and hotels to sign a Code of Conduct
- Transparency in Supply Chains
- USCCB/Migration & Refugee Services: www.usccb.org/about/human-trafficking
- US Department of Health and Human Services: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking
- ECPAT-USA (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking): www.ecpatusa.org
- Polaris Project (Named after the North Star that guided slaves towards freedom along the Underground Railroad): www.PolarisProject.org
- Global Centurion: Fighting Modern Slavery by Focusing on Demand: www.GlobalCenturion.org
- Tahirih Justice Center: Protecting Immigrant Women & Girls Fleeing Violence: www.tahirih.org
- US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking: http://sistersagainsttrafficking.org/