February 8 is National Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Human Trafficking

St. Josephine BakhitaIt is held on the Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita the patron saint against the brutal history of slavery. She was a Sudanese-born former slave and became a Canossian Religious Sister in Italy, living and working there for 45 years. She was declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 2000. Catholics are encouraged to pray for the emotional, physical, and spiritual healing of those that have been trafficked, and make a personal commitment to work against human trafficking.

human traffickingAccording to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) approximately 2 million people are trafficked annually on a global scale. Here in the U.S. the numbers are staggering: 17,500.This is modern-day slavery. It is the exploitation of vulnerable and poor, taking victims across borders, leaving them without the information or ability to escape their deplorable situation.

Victims are sometimes lured away from their homes with false promises, many are outright stolen or taken against their will. They do not understand legal employment and are forced into prostitution, labor, or servitude. Local authorities may unknowingly perpetuate the cycle of human trafficking by detaining victims of trafficking as “undocumented immigrants.” To make matters worse, deported survivors of human trafficking are often at risk of being resold into trafficking by their former captors.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has this website featuring an Anti-Trafficking Program with resources that can help you learn how to identify a possible victim of human trafficking and how you can help them.