Human Trafficking

February 8th, the Feast Day of St. Josephine Bahkita has been named International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. Read more

150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States and 20 years after the end of Apartheid in South Africa, slavery goes on. Human trafficking, a contemporary form of slavery, claims thousands of victims. Whether trafficked for labor or for sex, these victims need our awareness and our action to be freed. 

 General Information:

As defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the legal definition of “severe forms of trafficking in persons” is:

  1. a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or
  2. b) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

The Big Picture:

Victims of trafficking in the United States can be women, children and occasionally, men, who become victims of trafficking when they attempt to emigrate here. They often promise to “work off” the cost of transportation into our country without full knowledge of the type of work they will be doing. In reality, the people transporting them are selling them into slavery for the sex trade or manual labor in a never-ending cycle of poverty and enslavement. Around the world, it is believed there are 27 million victims of human trafficking.

The GNSH Response:

The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious brought the topic of Human Trafficking to the attention of women religious.

  • In 2005, Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart joined with Sisters and priests from religious communities in the Philadelphia area to sponsor a workshop on human trafficking.
  • A commitment was made to educate the public about trafficking of humans and to help the victims.
  • One joint initiative is Dawn’s Place, a residence with 9 bedrooms, opened in 2009 to provide housing and support services to victims of human trafficking and commercial sex exploitation.

Hands of formerly trafficked women, living at Dawn’s Place

Sister Eileen White, GNSH, became Resident Coordinator at Dawn’s Place.  More than fifty women – United States citizens as well as women from Mexico, Ecuador, Poland, Indonesia, and Jamaica – have come to Dawn’s Place since 2009.

  • Dawn’s Place exists solely on donations and grants, many of which come from congregations of Catholic Sisters, including the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart.
  • Many of our Sisters have volunteered at Dawn’s Place through the years, along with more than 40 other volunteers, including Catholic Sisters and laywomen of many different faith traditions.

Ambassador Louis CdeBaca serves as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and directs the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Below is a website that includes Ten Ways You Can Help Fight Modern Slavery.  Sister Eileen White had the privilege of hearing Ambassador CdeBaca speak in Washington some years ago when she was invited to be part of a panel examining human trafficking at Catholic University

We encourage you to read Ten Ways You Can Help Fight Modern Slavery and become more aware of this often unseen epidemic.

Prayer to End Trafficking 

Lord of freedom and love, we are saddened to know that more than one million people are trafficked into slavery each year. The effects of contemporary slavery are felt in every country around the world.

As sisters and brothers, we are tormented by this reality that will leave devastating repercussions for generations to come. 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.

 As a people in solidarity with God’s poor, we must protest this atrocity and work against the demeaning practice of human trafficking.

 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 a prayer by Sr. Genevieve Cassani,

Franciscans International,

Click on the following for more information:

Ten Ways You Can Help Fight Modern Slavery

End Child Prostitution and Trafficking

Polaris Project

 Stop Human Trafficking Newsletter  worldwide information and updates on human trafficking.  Sponsored and published by a coalition of women religious communities.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops pamphlet

New York Times article

The Grey Nuns