Lisa Lungren, national education and outreach coordinator on immigration and anti-trafficking at the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services, said focusing on “education, engagement and sustainability” is the most successful for getting parishioners engaged in the issue. (Courtesy photo)
March 18, 2021
Nicholas Wolfram Smith
A recent webinar sponsored by the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s Office of Human Life & Dignity explored how parishes can become involved in countering human trafficking.
Because trafficking is so often unseen, it can “really be easy for parishioners and community members to become discouraged, because it seems like an insurmountable crime, but there really are ways we can become involved and make a difference,” Lisa Lungren said.
Lungren, national education and outreach coordinator on immigration and anti-trafficking at the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services, said focusing on “education, engagement and sustainability” is the most successful for getting parishioners engaged in the issue.
The anti-trafficking non-profit Polaris Project defines trafficking as “the use of force, fraud or coercion to get another person to provide labor or commercial sex.” Sex trafficking can be found in prostitution or massage parlors, among other places, while labor trafficking occurs in the agriculture, construction, hospitality or personal services industries, according to the organization. In 2019, Polaris said its human trafficking hotline received tips about 11,500 cases involving more than 22,000 people in the U.S, with the most reports coming from California.
Since January, which is national slavery and human trafficking prevention month, the Office of Human Life & Dignity has sponsored webinars to address the issue. Previous webinars, available on the department’s YouTube channel, covered trafficking in general and child sex trafficking.
Offering parishioners an overview of trafficking and information on how to address it locally through parish presentations and discussions raises awareness on what is often an unnoticed crime, Lungren explained. The USCCB offers a program, SHEPHERD, to support church groups who want to become more involved in working against trafficking. Parishes and dioceses can build on awareness through bulletin notices, prayers of the faithful, or participating in special events dedicated to trafficking.
Lungren said parishioners can become discouraged from getting engaged in anti-trafficking activity, because of the difficulty of both identifying it and acting on that information. People can become more engaged through partnering with local anti-trafficking organizations and participating in meetings about the issue to learn more about the prevalence and types of trafficking in the area, she said. Rescuing victims of trafficking, however, should be left to law enforcement and social service professionals.
“We always find there are Good Samaritans who want to go out on the streets and rescue. It’s not good for us and it’s not good for the victims, it puts them in danger,” she said.
Parishes can help trafficking survivors in a variety of ways, including care packages for those rescued, distributing the U.S. trafficking reporting hotline in public places, or supporting organizations that help survivors rebuild their lives, she said. Lungren said dioceses and parishes can make anti-trafficking a consistent part of its ministry by incorporating it into existing departments or ministries or joining nationwide campaigns against trafficking.
Pope Francis has spoken on several occasions about human trafficking, calling it a crime against humanity and a “scourge” that “reduces many men, women and children to slavery.” In a 2018 address, the pope called for a “shared sense of responsibility and firmer political will to gain victory on this front.
“Responsibility is required towards those who have fallen victim to trafficking in order to protect their rights, to guarantee their safety and that of their families, and to prevent the corrupt and criminals from escaping justice and having the last word over the lives of others,” he said.
Lungren said the pope’s encouragement repeated encouragement for all to become involved in anti-trafficking work “illustrates his confidence in us that we can have an impact.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .