Friday, May 21, 2010

May Intentions

The Holy Father's general intention for this month is one of those issues that sits very heavily on my heart. I feel such pain for those poor souls who suffer slavery of any kind, but especially those girls who are kidnapped and kept as prostitutes. I can hardly even think about it, which makes me all the more troubled that there are those who have to do more than think: they must live it.

Our Holy Father prays this month:

That the shameful and monstrous commerce in human beings, which sadly involves millions of women and children, may be ended

I have researched this subject quite a bit, and prayed on it, and wondered how I can contribute in my small way to ending this blight on our human soul. While making a donation to an organization that works against human trafficking would be an ideal step, it's something that's very difficult for me to do, given the constraints of my situation. I do have some money, but the amount I'd be able to donate (around $20) seems like a drop in the bucket. I want to do more. It's also the main point of this blog to connect my everyday life to the lives of others, particularly those who are suffering. What can I do, as a SAHM of two children, to help those who are victims of human trafficking?

1. Raise the issue.
Simply as a function of my status as a stay at home mom, most of my conversations with my friends revolves around our kids, our husbands, and local events. I can do my part to make sure people know about the problem of human trafficking. I can mention an article I read in Marie Claire, specify our Holy Father's monthly intention before praying a group Rosary, wear a Common Thread ring or an anti-slavery t-shirt, or suggest my book group read Not For Sale. I can teach my children about slavery, in an age-appropriate manner, and help them understand how fortunate they are to be free. In short, I can look for opportunities given my by the Holy Spirit to share this issue with people who may be interested in learning more. As long as I do not lecture or push the subject past the point that people are willing to listen, there is no gathering where it would not be appropriate to take these poor with me.

2. Promote a Global Identity
The Church has been consistent in Her teaching that social justice is part of our duty as children of God, and also that the makeup of our global society can create situations of great injustice for which we must take responsibility. In other words, our choices here in America affect not only those we come into contact with, but people thousands of miles away whom we will never meet. It is not enough to care for myself and my family, I must care for the whole world. The more I understand about the complex machinery of international trade and globalization, the more I am able to make good choices that promote a culture of respect and preserve the humanity of everyone on Earth. This is a difficult concept to communicate in only a few sentences, but it is the foundation of my worldview and the reason I launched this blog.

3. Promote the Theology of the Body
Here's something more concrete! Many of the victims of human trafficking are young women and girls who are sold into brothels or to individual families as something between a concubine and domestic servant. I can't write here about how heartrendingly awful their lives are. The Marie Claire article in #1 above has a good overview. Sex slaves have been an unfortunate part of the human experience for as long as we have had a history, and it may seem there is very little I can do to change a culture so twisted that it would allow such atrocities. But I can. For one thing, I can use Natural Family Planning. The very nature of NFP is that it asks couples to deny their instinctual yearnings and instead focus their energies on love, mutual sacrifice, and non-sexual intimacy. In conjunction with the Theology of the Body, this teaching promotes the now nearly-laughable idea that men and women can control themselves and that sex is neither a right nor a recreation. We may not have cage brothels in my town, but we certainly have a culture where sex is not valued as it ought to be. My example may help others embrace the concept of self-giving through abstinence. In addition, times of abstinence can be difficult for couples. When it is difficult for me, I can offer up my feelings to God, asking Him to bring comfort, freedom, and healing to a woman trapped in slavery.

4. Promote Education
One of the causes of human trafficking is a lack of opportunity for those in poverty. In many instances, people are promised a job and then taken instead into a life of slavery. Sometimes, families sell their children because they have no other source of income. I have long believed that the key to eradicating poverty and oppression lies in education. It is not only a matter of job-training, although that is critically important, but also in allowing ideas to permeate a culture where, too often, hate and division have been predominant. Donating used books and school materials, volunteering at my kids' schools, and supporting my local library are all good ways that I can promote education right in my own neighborhood.

5. Advocate for Better Laws and Systems
While some aspects of human trafficking can get caught up in other issues, like immigration or reproductive rights, most legislation is thoroughly bipartisan. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 passed the Senate unanimously. Catholic Relief Services has an Action Center where you can sign up to receive email alerts when relevant legislation needs your voice. I find it incredibly helpful to read the Bishops' position on pending legislation, not only to inform my conscience with the wisdom of Church teaching, but also because, frankly, I just don't have the time to research all the possible issues myself. Even when the government doesn't act upon our suggestions, we have at least made our position known. The more voices call out for justice, and the louder we shout, the more our elected officials will listen.

6. Pray

We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

-- Thessalonians 5: 14-18

Lord of freedom and love, we are saddened to know that more than one million people are trafficked into slavery each year.
Our hearts grieve for what our minds can barely comprehend, particularly when we hear of women, men, and children who are deceived and transported to unknown places.
We recognize this sexual and economic exploitation occurs because of human greed and profit.
We are sorrowful and our spirits angry that human dignity is being degraded through deception and threats of force.
Help the violators to be transformed and enlightened to realize the scope of their unjust actions.
Allow them to see the value and the dignity of every human person.
Lord of Life, strengthen those whose hearts have been broken and lives have been uprooted.
Give us the light, grace, and courage to work with you so that we can all participate in the goodness of creation.
Fill us with the wisdom and courage to stand in solidarity with the victims so that we may all enjoy the freedoms and rights which have their source in your Son and our Lord Jesus Christ.
-- Adapted from Franciscans International and a prayer by Sr. G. Cassani, SSND

If you wish to learn more, or if you feel moved to help financially or otherwise, you can also visit the following websites dedicated to fighting human trafficking.

The Polaris Project:
The Somaly Mam Foundation:
Human Trafficking:
Catholic Relief Services:
The Human Trafficking Project:
Franciscans International:
International Justice Mission: (main page not loading for me, so I'm linking to their Facebook site) Thanks, Ruthanne!!
Project Exodus: (Thanks, Tami!)


Claire said...

Great post, as usual.
You can also add to your list: spiritual "offerings."

Julia said...

I'm going to sign up for the Action list. I like that you point out "little" things we can do.

Ruthanne (in Seattle) said...

I would also add the International Justice Mission at Wonderful work around the world. This is something we all need to be aware of as it goes on all around us, not just over seas.

Marie said...

You can protect and raise your children properly. Those should be two little ones who grow into adulthood without being enslaved or exploited. As such they are a great victory.

Our Family said...

Hi my name is Tami. I am also a sahm with a passion to fight human trafficking. I live in Los Angeles, CA and I work with a christian abolitionist group called Project Exodus. Please add us to your list, we need as many volunteers as possible.
Thank you for what you are doing!

Rae said...

Oh! I thought that I had already commented.

Thank you so very much for raising this issue and sharing what you're doing. I still haven't found my niche, but I know that I can't keep "doing nothing" about this.

Daily Grace said...

This is an absolutely fabulous post. Thank you for the links that you have added here. Awareness and education are crucial steps to getting others involved.

God bless

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Even $20 can help because it takes many drops to fill the bucket. What you have done with this post, though, will be really helpful, especially the Action list. It is not always money that makes the difference. Thanks for bringing this and the related sites to people's attention. You never know whom you will reach and what good can come of it.