By Thomas Holmes and Noelia Veras
The Office of Campus Activities, Campus Ministry, and PEERS joined together on February 4 to start a dialogue about human trafficking, inviting five specialists to speak at Catholic University. The panelists had a very engaging dialogue about how their unique religious views contributed to finding a solution to human trafficking.
The speakers were Christopher Meldrum, a reverend of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Rabbi Gerry Serotta, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington; Kiran Gill, Executive Director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Reverend Dr. Vanetta Rather, founder of My Sister My Seed; and immigrants rights advocate Reverend Mario Dorsonville.
Everyone on the panel had something to say when asked if something in their faith’s history was related to human trafficking. The panel was certainly familiar with the strife of marginalized people as it discussed topics of slavery, the cultures of untouchables in India, the Holocaust, the Mormon faith being ostracized from the state of Missouri, and contemporary immigration problems. This question opened up the topic of human trafficking to all those in attendance, making it clear that everyone can sympathize, and therefore help those afflicted.
The turn out for the event was large, as many students and visitors attended. Several people asked questions and were engaged in the conversations, asking about why there was such a high demand for human trafficking in the United States. The panel was extremely friendly, and the ambience was overall positive and inviting.
A topic heavily explored by the panelists was the role of their respective faith communities in helping those who were involved in human trafficking. Dorsonville spoke about how many factors play into the helping and healing of victims, but the most effective and important way to help is to build relationships of trust with the afflicted. Communication, in his opinion, is the key to helping victims of human trafficking. Rather, from the DMV area, followed up by emphasizing the scope of the crime, saying that it is not only girls who are victimized but also young boys, adult women, and can ultimately happen to anyone.
“We must treat these women and girls and boys too who find themselves in human trafficking, and again work in sex trafficking, is to treat everybody with dignity,” Rather said.
The panel mentioned that the size of the religious community can also be a very important factor in the fight against human trafficking. Dorsonville mentioned that one of the reasons that the Catholic Church is so effective at battling human trafficking is because of how large the community is. Catholic Charities provides many different resources with a large task force behind it.
Gill also mentioned how she and her colleagues had developed a relationship with the police in which they were able to aid South Asian women who had been victims of human trafficking. The Sikh community, like the Catholic Church, is dedicated to social service and aiding those in need.
At the end of the event, the panel emphasized that human trafficking is not a problem for one specific religion, but it involves everyone regardless of religion, race, or ethnicity. The panelists mentioned that this is a humanitarian crisis, one which all religions are determined to resolve. Rather commented saying that it is difficult to heal all of the victims, but as long as “we help some, as long as we help just one girl or boy, we are making the world a better place.” To learn more and get involved, contact Catholic Charities in DC here.