Human Trafficking: An Epidemic of Contemporary Slavery
FI participated in the Human Trafficking Symposium held in October at the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington D.C.. Several Ethiopian survivors of human trafficking shared their testimonies about travelling through Sudan, Dubai, Russia, and several Central and South American countries to reach Mexico, only to be detained by United States (US) officials, as they attempted to cross the border. News.111.0.html?&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=73&cHash=149d6fa5a30a6c91cc75bbfc63c07cd0
Once in the US, they described their experience in detention as a form of torture. Their suffering took on so many different forms during those trying years. While difficult for participants to hear, many asked poignant questions in hopes of learning how to better address US policies and practices at the borders.
The gathering also heard from the US Ambassador-at-Large on the subject, Luis CdeBaca, who provided a moving historical account of slavery in the US. He also considered the more diplomatic side of grappling with issues such as trafficking. In particular he noted how at the United Nations and other diplomatic settings, representatives speak of “trafficking” as opposed to “slavery” because it is the goal of diplomacy to have discussions without inflaming passions or creating controversy.
Although it may be easier to speak about “trafficking”, the reality is that this injustice should upset people and provoke passionate responses. It was also noted how many who are trafficked into forced labour make efforts to move further north in the US. The Ambassador cited the fact that while there is a 68% approval rate for trafficking victims seeking political asylum in Baltimore, Maryland, only 2.5% of applications made are accepted in the state of Georgia.
The symposium, sponsored by Franciscans International, Franciscan Action Network, The Franciscan Federation, and the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at CUA, ended with a presentation of Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington D.C. His Eminence shared his firsthand experience of meeting survivors of trafficking in the safe places of their hiding. His testimony moved conference participants to be ever vigilant to signs of trafficked persons and to contact those who would are best prepared to help.
The event screened the FI documentary on human trafficking: “To whom it may concern”.