Back to School, Back to Safety

“Pornography has become increasingly acceptable, accessible, and freely available, and it is one of the biggest threats to our children’s online safety” (Pornography 101).

“Internet safety is now the 4th top ranked issue in the list of health concerns for U.S. children” (C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, 2015).

As summer ends and families prepare to send their children back to school, many of them are unaware of the potential threats lurking on school and library computers. While technology has expanded the educational possibilities in the classroom, it has also introduced a harmful enemy: online pornography.

The internet is both a source of potential for our children and a source of concern. The potential being that the internet offers such an enormous range of positive and educational experiences and materials to our children. Yet, children online may be vulnerable to harm through exposure to sexually explicit materials and adult predators.

More children are becoming victims of brutal online sex abuse and developing an addition to it without even knowing. (Learn more here.)

Pornography gives an image of sexuality completely dehumanized, robotic, and with no connection to feelings. It conveys a degrading image of the woman. It is a violent sexuality where women are in positions of submission, alienation, and compliance to the desire of the man. Today, children aren’t protected when they navigate alone on the internet. They can, at any time, fall prey to explicit pornographic images that can be the beginning of an addiction in the future.

Porn is a new drug, an online epidemic. Pornography is, in and of itself, a form of sex trafficking. The demand for porn leads to the trafficking of others.

Click here for ideas on how to keep our children safe.

Traffickers Target Children

“It’s not surprising that young children and adolescents are the primary targets of traffickers/pimps, given their operational methods. Youth have less life experience, fewer coping mechanisms, and smaller social support mechanisms. This can work to the trafficker’s favor as he implements different recruitment and control tactics.” – Shared Hope International

“Among the diverse populations affected by human trafficking, children are at a particular risk to sex trafficking and labor trafficking.” – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Traffickers Exploit Vulnerability

In the U.S., the average age a child is recruited or forced into prostitution is 11-14 years old.

Shared Hope International (SHI) has identified a startling trend: American children are victims of the sex trade and they are being trafficked within the United States. SHI research reveals that Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) is a critical problem in many locations across the U.S.

Your children are growing up in a different world than you did–a world where a predatory porn industry is seeking to hook your vulnerable children as early as possible. You have the power to prepare your kids to reject pornography!

What is Known About Human Trafficking

Much has been written about the scope of human trafficking throughout the world. While there isn’t an agreement as to exact numbers due to the difficulty in identifying victims, there is a general acceptance of certain components of human trafficking.

  1. Human trafficking responds to and is driven by demand for cheap goods and commercialized sex. And this demand is enormous! Indeed, human trafficking is a business that generates a profit of approximately $32 billion annually. There are around 30 million trafficked people around the world, including some 5.5 million children.
  2. Human trafficking is a crime that is gendered, the primary victims being women and girls. However, the number of trafficked men and boys is increasing. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UN ODC) report indicates that women constitute approximately 51% of trafficked persons, men 21%, girls 20%, and boys 8%. This report identifies the most common form of trafficking is sexual exploitation, which is most in demand in western and southern Europe.
  3. Some forms of human trafficking are a result of other types of crises, such as forced armed recruitment of child soldiers, the demand for exploitative sexual services by armed groups, or the enslavement of persecuted ethnic minorities. The links between other forms of human trafficking and crisis situations are less direct, such as the opportunistic trafficking of displaced persons for the purposes of forced labor in neighboring countries or cases where children are trafficked into the international adoption market.
  4. Human trafficking is both global and local. That is, many human traffickers are recognized as being highly organized criminal networks with a very broad reach. This, frequently combined with extensive government corruption, means that many trafficking organizations are international forces. At the same time, however, the forms of trafficking that emerge in communities are not uniform. The rules of supply and demand state that the nature, shape, and form of trafficking will be different depending on the community. For example, labor trafficking on a rural South American coffee farm will be different from sex trafficking in a Korean nightclub. However, both manifestations of the crime may arise from a highly organized criminal network with local connections that allow them to deceive and/or control the local source of victims and to engage in the necessary corruption to create a successful business empire.
  5. Victims of modern slavery are often subject to inhuman living conditions and psychological and physical abuse. They face starvation and drug addition in order for traffickers to assert control over them. Traffickers are known to threaten and/or harm victims’ family members.
  6. Modern slavery is a complex issue caused by many dynamic and interdependent elements that makes it too difficult for any single organization to solve it alone.
  7. Human trafficking is a crime in itself, but it is rarely the end goal for a perpetrator. Once the act of human trafficking is complete, it normally leads to further crimes like enslavement, sexual and/or physical violence, etc.
  8. Combatting human trafficking has never been more challenging, especially in the midst of the worst migration crisis since World War II. Migrants, especially refugees, are vulnerable to traffickers abusing their situation and preying on their desperation for a safe haven. However, “most people are never identified as trafficking victims are, therefore, cannot access most of the assistance or protection provided.” This is often the case as the movement of refugees and migrants is significantly mixed, making it easier for traffickers to infiltrate and prey upon the vulnerable.

Do you ever feel as if the issues of human trafficking is too big to make a difference? While the issues cannot be solved by one individual, that one person can make a difference! Learning about and getting involved in the fight against human trafficking has changed many lives.

Do Not Oppress a Foreigner

“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners because you were foreigners in Egypt,” (Exodus 23:9).

“Migrants seeking a better life in other countries must not be viewed with suspicion but rather defended and protected, no matter their status,” Pope Francis.

“Freedom of mobility is a human right. Migrants have their rights; they do not lose them when cross a border,” (Article 13 Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

These past few weeks, we have been overwhelmed by the media showing us multiple disturbing pictures of families divided, parents deported, children left behind, immigrant toddlers ordered to appear in court alone, fathers heartbroken and mothers in tears. In the midst of those images we cannot ignore the psychological trauma endured by these families fleeing violence in their countries and enduring the arduous journey with smugglers and criminals preying on them as these families to try to survive together.

Last year, a Syrian-American medical organization announced that the severity of PTSD suffered by migrant Syrian children surpassed the clinical definition and should be renamed “human devastation syndrome.” Children crossing our borders and separated from their families may also be suffering this type of PTSD.

An annual report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released this past week estimates that there are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. This includes individuals who are fleeing violence, persecution, conflict, and now climate change. The global number of refugees grew by a record 2.9 million in 2017.

However, we cannot ignore that those who cross borders bring both challenges and opportunities for their new host countries.

“The cliché that international migration is associated with economic ‘burden’ can be dispelled,” wrote the scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Clermont-Auvergne and Paris-Nanterre University. The research analyzed data from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The research found that asylum seekers contributed most to a country’s gross domestic product after three to seven years in the country. They also lowered unemployment rates and had a near-zero impact on public finances.

Refugees’ Impact on the US

“The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, A Return to First Principles: How Refugees Help to Define, Strengthen, and Revitalize the United States” was released June 20, 2018, the 18th anniversary of World Refugee Day.

The report looked at the 1.1 million refugees who arrived in the U.S. between 1987 and 2016 via the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Most of the refugees considered in the report moved quickly to self-sufficiency through gainful employment, English proficiency, and the attainment of college degrees and/or vocational training. The report stated that USRAP “has saved countless lives, put millions of impoverished persons on a path to work, self-sufficiency, and integration, and advanced U.S. standing in the world.”

It described some of their achievements and contributions, including:

  • 68 percent participate in the labor force (compared to 63 percent of the overall U.S. population);
  • 67 percent have naturalized;
  • 40 percent are married to U.S. citizens;
  • 10 percent are self-employed and have created jobs;
  • They achieved a median household income of $43,000.

The report was conceived and commissioned by Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of Migration and Refugee Services. It was released at a symposium hosted by the Georgetown University Human Rights Institute in Washington, D.C. To read the full report, click here.

Hostility Fuels the Migrant Crisis in the US

Anti-migrant attitudes have little to do with migrants themselves. The crisis is rooted in the factors of: trust, social disengagement, and political disaffection. To solve any crisis, a good place to start is to consider the factors in the crisis and experience those factors to come to understanding of the others’ reality. An excellent example of trying to understand and diffuse hostility occurred last week in the Catholic community of St. Ignatius, a Jesuit Parish in Baltimore, that organized a refugee camp simulation.

Speechless. Devastated. Moved. These were some of the feelings parishioners expressed after leaving Camp Peace, the Refugee Camp Simulation hosted by the Immigration Subcommittee on June 24. About 60 individuals and families participated. It included stations of the various aspects of life in a refugee camp: entry process, shelter, water, food, health services, and education. There was also a Detention Center Station, to which parishioners were diverted with little explanation which many refugees experience when they arrive in a new country and on a detention camp.

22.5 Million Refugees Live in Refugee Camps Around the World

Over 65 million people in the world are currently displaced, and 22.5 million of these are refugees in other countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. While some are relocated to new countries such as the United States, many must wait in various countries for long periods of time, expanding over decades and sometimes years, as I myself saw in Lebanon and Jordan.

Instead of the recommended 37 sq. ft. of space per person when camps become crowed, families of 4 sometimes live in spaces as cramped as 80 sq. ft. total. This means that they generally sleep sitting up, as there is not enough space for all family members to lie down on the blankets that are provided. Most camps are unable to provide the necessary 20 liters (5 gallons) of water per individual per day and refugees must carry this water themselves from the source to their dwellings in large buckets. These 5 gallons are used for consumption, cooking, cleaning and hygiene. By comparison, the average American uses approximately 300 gallons of water per day.

The migration of peoples is a reality that continues to grow and the challenges of migration are increasing. In order to respond to this globalization and to the magnitude of this phenomenon, it is essential to plan  responses that promote and show respect, charity, hospitality and generosity towards the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.

We must do more for migrants

“We are encouraged by the national outcry railing against the cruel splintering of families at the border. The president recently ended the practice, but there is no system or even governmental will to reunite these traumatized families. Furthermore, the dehumanization of people who are seeking safety continues. Our country has a long history of vicious disregard for family bonds–let us not be seduced by a ‘lesser evil,’ a ‘solution’ that is better than what was happening but that remains immoral. Let us demand more; we have an opportunity to move from a callous history of colonialism and individualism to a new vision of whom we can be as a country. Making room for, and welcoming with grace, those who need a safe place may impact our comfortable spaces, but it is what we must do, what we are called to do, not just as Christians, but simply as human beings,” (“Philadelphia Inquirer editor” – Sunday  July 1, 2018).

We can DO more day by day

  • Be choosing 2 or 3 credible sources to follow regularly to deepen your understanding of the changing realities of migrants and refugees;
  • By raising awareness of refugee and migrant realities both in the US and the world and sharing those through your use of social media;
  • By calling legislators’ offices and voicing your support for policies that change the situation of migrants and refugees in a positive way;
  • By taking action to defend the rights of refugees when we see those rights violated e.g. separating families;
  • By using a model like the Jesuit Catholic community in Baltimore to educate persons into the realities of migrants and refugees;

By joining in prayer as we contemplate the call of Jesus today to welcome the foreigner, “for just as you did it for one of the least of these, you did it for Me,” (Matthew 25: 40).

Multiple Problems at the Border

These past weeks, you may have seen or heard horrifying stories: children missing and feared to be in the hands of traffickers, families separated at the border, and death of 19-year-old Guatemalan woman at the hands of border patrol. All are depressing situations and I have been shocked by each of these cruel realities.

However, it seems that there has been some confusion about these situations, especially of the disappearance of children. These situations are not connected. Rather, the missing children mostly came to the U.S. alone in 2017. They were put into custody of the Office of Refugees and Resettlement (ORR) and were then released to sponsors. Until recently, ORR has been unable to contact a significant number of these children by way of their sponsors.

Another compelling but separate issue is that of the separations of children from their families at the border. These parents often are unable to find their child again and may be deported by the time the child’s advocate locates the parents.

While migration and trafficking are inherently related topics, claiming that immigration restrictions are a necessary means to end trafficking is a false pretense and connection. In reality, limiting immigration policies can actually fuel the exploitation and marginalization at the basis of the global trafficking problem, creating a culture that is harmful to identifying and protecting victims of human trafficking. Ending trafficking requires and approach that prioritizes the human rights of migrants facing exploitation rather than simply “cracking down on illegal migration.”

Flippin’ (Pancakes) for a Cause

The Daughters of Charity at St. Louise House in Albany, NY have been raising funds to assist building a safe house for trafficked women in the area. The first event fundraiser was a pancake breakfast and 50/50 drawing.

This collaborative project began as the sisters listened to the personal dream of their invited speaker, Debbie Fowler. Debbie spoke of her years in Kuwait where her husband was on a work assignment. It was in that desert country that she learned of maids who had been lured there from their native countries. They had gone to obtain employment but quickly had their papers taken away, finding themselves working for little or no pay and being beaten and sexually assaulted. After volunteering in a shelter for these women, Debbie returned to New York and, upon further research, learned of the great number of women being trafficked just in the United States. That is when she decided to take action.

Debbie was brought to us to speak after meeting Linda Rivard, activities coordinator for the Albany campus of Daughters of Charity, during their time as volunteers at Her Treasure Box, a creative arts thrift store. The thrift store provides “creative arts with a purpose–to provide hope and healing” for women survivors of human trafficking.

I follow the anti-trafficking effort via our local Coalition to End Human Trafficking, which is made up mostly of faith-based and religious here in the Albany area. We are in support of both Her Treasure Box and Eyes Wide Open, another local start up. We are beginning to partner with the Homeland Security arm, The Blue Campaign, and other state agencies for the purpose of education via leafletting at public events and other options yet to be developed.

Written by Sister Faith Colligan, D.C.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2018

Recently, I attended the Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2018 which focused on the uprootedness of our world and the needs of our brothers and sisters who are migrants, refugees, or displaced people.

As people of faith, we can do more. We believe God is with Dreamers, the migrants, and the outcasts. We believe He calls us to create places of sanctuary to offer hospitality to the stranger and to welcome all, regardless of their faith, race, gender, or nationality. We believe he calls us to break down the dividing walls that separate us.

During these days, the emphasis was placed on analyzing current policy and envisioning ways to more fully and justly respond to the global and local needs of displaced communities. Through prayer, worship, advocacy training, and networking, we prepared and analyzed policy changes that advance hope and overcome the devastating impacts of conflict, climate change, and corruption of God’s people. We learned, through worship and theological reflection, how to strengthen our Christian voice and mobilize for advocacy on a wide array of domestic and international policy issues.

The interactive plenary sessions and workshops addressed specific issues on a global scale, including focuses on Africa, Asia-Pacific, Domestic US, Eco-Justice, Global Economic Justice, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Peace and Global Security. The conference includes a Lobby Day conversation with members of Congress and the Senate, during which we were placed in advocate groups based on geographic location. The legislative act around which this conversation was held was carefully prepared by policy experts to help us to articulate solid policy rooted in our common Christian social justice traditions.