The following is from an article by Grace Williams of Children of the Immaculate Heart:
Jesus used the words “captive” and “oppressed” to begin his earthly ministry, declaring that the Spirit was upon him to give liberty to those who are oppressed. There are many forms of captivity in our world today – spiritual captivity to sin, political oppression by unjust powers, and (incredibly) human slavery.
If our Lenten fasts are to bear fruit during Easter, we too must be about the Father’s business of setting captives free.
One way Catholics can respond is through making a conscious effort to confront the disturbing reality of human trafficking in our society today (also referred to as modern day slavery). Human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal industry in the world and the second largest black-market industry (behind only the illegal drug trade). Globally human trafficking generates $32 billion annually.
In our Diocese (including the San Diego and Imperial Counties), human trafficking has actually surpassed the illegal drug trade. According to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, human trafficking cases increased 600% between 2009 and 2014. The FBI has ranked San Diego as a “high-density” child trafficking area.
As Christians, an apostolic term meaning “little Christs,” the mission falls to us to implement Jesus’ mandate of setting the captives free. Involving both a physical and spiritual dimension, the journey to freedom for a trafficking survivor can often take years. Materially, it involves the cooperation of local and federal law enforcement agencies. Spiritually, the Church must get involved.
There are currently several homes for female adult survivors of human trafficking in San Diego County, including a home run by the Marist Missionary Sisters. These dear and faithful Sisters gave me my first experience working in a safe house. Unfortunately, there is not yet a home for minors in San Diego County.
In the fall of 2013 I founded Children of the Immaculate Heart, a not-for-profit organization, to provide housing and rehabilitation to survivors of trafficking in the Diocese of San Diego. One of the great treasures we have to offer is the Church’s teaching on marriage and family, human sexuality and feminine genius. It is such a grace to be able to carry out this work in the wake of the canonization of Pope St. John Paul II, who is a profound inspiration for my own desire to serve these young women and help them realize the profound beauty and dignity of authentic femininity.
We began serving our first adult client in the spring of 2014 and are currently in the process of opening a residential treatment center for female minor trafficking victims. This home will provide a much needed safe haven for the girls – offering therapy, education, job training and most importantly an environment centered on the healing and freeing love of Jesus Christ.
If you are interested in learning more please visit our website at www.childrenoftheimmaculateheart.org. You can also join us on May 11th from 6 to 7:30p.m. at Our Mother of Confidence Parish for a Human Trafficking Forum. The forum will consist of a panel of various law enforcement officials with Q&A from the audience. I will be speaking on our mission at Children of the Immaculate Heart. Hope to see you then!