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2022 Assembly

 

Damaris House – May Newsletter

 

My dear friends,

This year, May has been for us the month of Orthodox Easter, providing us with the opportunity to gather together and celebrate with the presence of past participants who came with their children to join us in celebration. We would like to express our gratitude to O.U.R. Rescue, the organization that sponsored our festive meals and allowed us to experience some cherished family moments once again. Additionally, we had the chance to remind our beneficiaries of the significance of Easter and share with them its message.

Another piece of wonderful news is that three of our girls have begun job training after successfully completing phase I of the Recovery Program. This transitional phase prepares them for future employment and brings them closer to independence. It is also a time for them to save the money needed for the next phase of transitional housing. Meanwhile, the rest of our girls continue their training in the skill development program, and all of them have progressed to the level of worker, no longer being trainees. This training enables them to earn an income and make plans for their future as well.

Your tangible support is always greatly appreciated, and we rely on it to sustain our work, meeting not only the daily needs of our girls but also preparing them for a promising future. The cost of the job training program amounts to $12,000, equating to $1,000 per month. Additionally, during this period, we acquire supplies for the Skill Development Program such as leather, clay, jewelry materials, and fabric, which amount to $1,000. I cannot emphasize enough that every gift, no matter how small, is incredibly valuable and can make a significant impact.

Thank you for considering this prayerfully.

Please join us in prayer for:

  • The success of the job training program for our girls.
  • Continued provision for the construction of the safe house.
  • Overall protection and safety for the ministry.

Love in Christ,
Dina

RENATE Co-President, Ivonne van de Kar speaks to Vatican News at Talitha Kum Assembly – Religious Orders Against Human Trafficking: Exploitation Happens Everywhere

 

You can access the article here: https://www.vaticannews.va/de/welt/news/2024-05/menschenhandel-talitha-kum-ordensnetzwerk-renate-interview.html

(Photo credit: Vatican News)

Religious orders are at the forefront and well-networked to combat human trafficking, which often occurs directly and unnoticed in society. Currently, the global network Talitha Kum is meeting in Sacrofano near Rome, and we spoke with some participants.

Svitlana Dukhovich, Deborah Lubov, and Christine Seuss – Vatican City

Ivonne van de Kar, from the Netherlands, is one of the two vice presidents of the European Network of Religious Communities Against Human Trafficking (RENATE). In an interview with Vatican Radio, she praises the action plan of the German Bishops’ Conference against human trafficking and urges everyone to remain vigilant about supply chains in their personal purchasing behaviour. RENATE is the European Network of Religious Organizations Against Human Trafficking, one of the numerous institutions united under the Talitha Kum network, which was founded 15 years ago by nuns. Ivonne van de Kar emphasizes that human trafficking occurs everywhere in all societies, even if we often do not want to acknowledge this:

“Everywhere. It’s hard to believe, but it involves exploitation, sexual exploitation, but also in factories, in a shop… People are exploited everywhere, and it is very important that we are aware of this and that we tell each other about it (at events like these, Ed.), but also inform others, and it is very important to know what our fellow sisters in other countries are doing, what others are doing, and what they are fighting against. And that, I believe, is the most important reason we are here, to learn from each other and to hear what is happening in Lebanon or Zimbabwe or Australia. Human trafficking exists everywhere, it is a bit different everywhere, but it exists everywhere, and people are exploited everywhere.”

Listening Back

“Human trafficking exists everywhere, it is a bit different everywhere, but it exists everywhere, and people are exploited everywhere.”

Mostly, it is women who fall into the ruthless machinery of sexual exploitation, but children and men are also vulnerable—no one is truly safe if they are in financial distress, fleeing, or in other difficulties. It’s not just about forced prostitution. Van de Kar finds it especially important that regular consumers become aware of their consumption habits and look closely at where a product or service comes from:

“So, when you buy a new blouse, where does it come from? Where was it made? Which children worked on it? Or when laundry is done in my church, which organization does it for our church? Who does it? Who are these people and where do we buy our supplies for the church? Are they perhaps migrants, do they receive a normal income? Can they live on it? Where do they work? Where do we buy our own stuff? As a church, as a person, and as an organization? People are exploited here with us, but also when we buy something produced in China or Taiwan.”

In this context, van de Kar also praises the action plan against human trafficking presented by the German Bishops’ Conference in December 2022 after two years of joint work with the Santa Marta Group. With nine specific recommendations, the consulted experts provide guidance on how human trafficking can also be combated at the political and law enforcement levels.

“We have heard about this action plan from the German Bishops’ Conference, and we are also using it in Europe because it is so important,” underscores van de Kar: “Where does exploitation occur, and where can something be done? It is not always far away. Sometimes it is very, very close.”

From Victim to Helper

Kris, our second interviewee, can only agree with this. She is a survivor of human trafficking who originally came from a wealthy family but was lured off a train as a naive teenager and forced into prostitution in a major American city. She is also attending the 2nd General Assembly of Talitha Kum in Sacrofano, north of Rome. Kris has become a sought-after expert in the field. She currently serves as the executive director of the Justice Project KC, a nonprofit human rights organization in Kansas City, Missouri, and provides support to women and girls in poverty. She is also a member of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Anti-Trafficking Coalition and the Kansas Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Advisory Board.

“There needs to be a shift in language from victim to survivor to achiever because when people are labelled as victims, it changes their self-image.”

“As someone who survived sexual exploitation and now works with other affected individuals, I really believe the world must unconditionally accept and love these people,” she asserts in an interview with Vatican News. She also calls for a change in how survivors are perceived: “There needs to be a shift in language from victim to survivor to achiever because when people are labelled as victims, it changes their self-image,” says the expert, who has herself endured dark times as a sex slave in the middle of an American city.

Participants at the 2nd General Assembly of Talitha Kum

Male Victims Slip Through the Cracks

There needs to be more “inclusivity” for the many victims, “including our trans victims” who face “a lot of hatred,” as well as “for men and boys who sometimes slip through the cracks.” Society as a whole needs to be “less biased,” “put aside their prejudices,” and “help others achieve justice for themselves,” the expert demands. Looking ahead to the Talitha Kum General Assembly, where religious, especially nuns, and committed lay people from around the world dedicated to combating human trafficking come together, Kris emphasizes that she would like to see a specific focus at the next event:

“I would like them to address the ‘demand,’ the buyers, because they want to tackle the causes. There are many causes, but one of the main ones is that people are still willing to buy other people.” With a wink, she also argues using an ancient economic principle: “If people don’t buy, it’s much harder to sell. I mean, that’s basic capitalist theory. If you don’t have buyers for your product, it’s much harder to sell the product. That’s what I would like to see.”

“If you don’t have buyers for your product, it’s much harder to sell the product.”

However, this requires a lot of awareness, especially among men and boys, that it is wrong to “commodify women and girls as mere toys for men.”

Furthermore, Kris emphasizes the necessity of promoting “the equality of women at all levels, in all phases, in all countries, and everywhere” and always striving for greater equality: “Especially law enforcement must address the demand, and where I live, this is already happening. And when these traffickers are legally and financially penalized, they often withdraw, and that makes a difference. We’ve seen that in my part of the world.”

A Global Network

The Talitha Kum network includes religious, laypeople, young activists, and survivors of human trafficking. The International Union of Superiors General (UISG) established the network in 2009. Talitha Kum aims primarily to offer assistance to boys and girls, women and men affected by human trafficking and to raise awareness of their situation.

Member networks—there are sixty in total—are represented on all continents in 107 countries. Recently, Talitha Kum has established subregional hubs, particularly in Asia and Africa, and in 2023, new networks were founded in Togo and Puerto Rico.

Talitha Kum: Towards a discerned future – a gathering that counts.

 

Author – Brian O’Toole

I was one of the 148 Delegates from over 70 countries that attended this 2nd Talitha Kum Assembly that marks 15 years of Talitha Kum (TK). I was attending as one of the 6 delegates from RENATE, the Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation.  The guiding theme of the Assembly was “Journeying Together to End Human Trafficking: Compassion in Action for Transformation”. 60 Talitha Kum networks were represented in Rome, and it is significant to mention that there was a strong youth and lay contingent present to help discern the next steps for Talitha Kum for the next five years.

In the weeks and months in the lead up to the Assembly I was committed to and attended several online preparation seminars and trainings as a group facilitator at our table. We were tasked with facilitation of the “Conversation with the Spirit” as a way of collective discernment given the listening and input that had been prepared for us for each day. Upon meeting our group, we were given some time to spend together, to introduce ourselves, to speak of our work, our hopes, and perhaps too of our expectations for the sessions ahead. We had been asked to bring something from home that would be representative of where we come from. I brought a “sliotar” – a hurling ball, which in and of itself created some interest. I later gave it to Bill, from the USA as a gift going home. He seemed particularly taken with it.  The opening ritual involved all placing those representative and well-chosen items in a sacred space that would be a centre piece for the duration of the Assembly. We were invited to reflect on the symbols as a testament to our diversity, our identity and our experiences, bringing the spirit of those whom we accompany to this gathering.

Sr. Abby Avelino, opened proceedings by inviting us to share and to listen to the voices from the grassroots that would be heard during the week. She reminded us to embrace the TK identity, and to work to strengthen the TK network, explaining that this was a unique opportunity for “dialogue that would allow for emerging strategies by joining forces.” 

Pope Francis reminded us of the moral imperative to fight and act to end Human Trafficking. He told us that “freedom is not a privilege but a right.” TK is a global force for liberation that honours, advocates and supports all volunteers, “each life reclaimed is a testament to faith in action.” This Assembly was presented as an opportunity to rekindle our collective resolve to forge stronger bonds in new and ongoing work.

As part of the welcome, we were told to trust and respect all that we bring to this gathering and to know that all in the room are working to dismantle the structures that facilitate Human Trafficking. In advance of our attendance each of the networks was tasked with the completion of a significant piece of work and 56 of the 60 attending networks had completed this work meaning that we were never more ready than we were at this point to begin to set out the plans for the next 5 years that will in turn, feature in the plans of all the networks attending. It was clear from the beginning that the view and perception of the local work was to feature strongly at the meeting of networks.

The conversations we were to have were inspired by significant contributions that had been strategically planned during the week. One early input introduced us to the neo-liberal economy, a bit wordy, you might say, but essentially it places profit above the person, it’s about unfettered economic growth at the expense of the dignity of those working. It’s about a race to the bottom in terms of rights for those who have the least. We are all familiar with the concept of the widening gap between the richest and poorest, and we are aware that this gap is widening. Additionally, as the rich become richer, the poor are becoming even poorer and sometimes this can lead to an inevitable desperation, creating conditions that are ripe for the trafficker where the pull factors are so appealing, given that the desperation for so many can be just one of the motivating push factors. We were told of the significant increase in online trafficking since the Covid19 Pandemic. We are witnessing the emergence of enabling technology that facilitates increased abuse at a distance and at a remove, meaning that the perpetrator can act with greater impunity. Migration is now a feature of most party manifestos where elections are being held and the welcome is hostile. Countries are looking inward; the politics of kindness, if not already absent, is disappearing fast. Even though we know that migrating is very often the last thing a person wants to do, but climate change, conflict, natural disaster and persecution are real and persuasive push factors. We watch with growing concern the response of countries who should know better.

What we do know for certain is that when people move, there is a vulnerability, a chance that they may meet with or fall into the clutches of traffickers. And what is now even more exasperating is that there is a conflation between the issues of migration and Human Trafficking and that many now don’t see or won’t see that there is a clear and marked distinction between victims of Human Trafficking and Economic Migrants.

Since the last TK Assembly there has been a noticeable increase in the numbers being trafficked. There is an increased number of undocumented workers tied to unscrupulous employers, increased surrogacy, and a pronounced increase in organ harvesting, forced marriage, organised crime, terrorism, kidnapping, war and displacement. We were told that “thousands are rescued while millions are still in darkness.”  We were told of the disturbing involvement of family members in facilitating human trafficking of their own family. We were told how the middleman who lures a victim doesn’t have to be successful all the time. He only needs to successfully lure a victim into being trafficked now and again to be considered successful but that each time he fails he learns to persuade better, he hones his technique, his skill becomes nuanced to succeed and the trusting victim may not stand a chance, such is the deviousness of those involved in the trafficking of people.

We listened to disturbing stories of families selling their own children into “sex work” knowingly, such is the poverty and desperation. It was becoming clear from the very beginning of the Assembly that progress would involve both victims and survivors and the visibility of TK must be heightened in the church and with the public. We were being encouraged to take risks, to be bold, not to shy away, but to confront, to challenge, to engage, to be forthright, to be courageous and unafraid.

It was becoming apparent from the synthesis of the group’s feedback, that strengthening the network needs to be a priority. The issues of Human Trafficking need to be aired in parishes, they need to be part of ongoing parish conversations, and even wider than that, we need to encourage all to be part of a new interfaith understanding and activism that dismantles, disrupts and thwarts the traffickers at every turn.

We need to be advocates for the restoration of dignity, for a sincere human rights response that leads to lasting transformational change. “We need to continue to feed our networks to help them to grow. TK needs to be more visible in the church.”  And central to this is the role that victims and survivors can and must play with our gentle accompaniment.

Again and again, the spirituality of TK was referenced as a guiding beacon, a powerful tool, a sustaining and energising force that binds us together, strengthens our network and takes care of all when the path becomes tough. In an effort to discern, we were guided in our reflection by carefully prepared inputs, one of which referenced migration as the issue of the times. For us, we understand that when people move, they are vulnerable and often the sudden reason for the move may indeed exacerbate the vulnerability.

The UISG offer free training (only 4 hours) at an easy pace that offers a more in-depth understanding of the dynamics at play when people migrate, and we have been encouraged to avail of this training and to offer this invitation to all who are in our networks. People have always been on the move but of growing concern is the hostile welcome that is being afforded to migrants. In many countries there is a narrative that conflates the issue of human trafficking with migration and so victims are not being seen as victims and this exacerbates the problem. May be an image of map and text

We know now that people migrate to seek out a better life and for better job opportunities. People also move because of conflict, climate change or religious persecution. Political instability can also be a reason so many people move, natural disaster, human rights violations or maybe it could be just as simple as resource scarcity.

Where a sudden move happens, we see an increase in vulnerability, take for example the women and children who had to suddenly move from Ukraine in March of 2022.

TK recognises that over time they have become very good at helping those who become victims, they can speak to the issues of human trafficking with facility but what is really concerning is that there are more and more victims in need of help and this constant need mitigates TKs ability to affect the numbers that are becoming trafficked. The numbers are on the increase and some of this is down to authorities (and governments) that stigmatise victims or survivors, police that collude, poor legal support for victims, too few prosecutions and the utter fear that is instilled in the victims by the traffickers. In many countries where TK is working, we heard again and again of the uphill battle that the Sisters face when corrupt systems collude to thwart their efforts. “Too often, the trafficker is protected by politics.” Staying power is what is required! The Sisters also know that to some extent that they are respected and that this can be of use when leveraging the freedom of a victim from the clutches of a trafficker.

In all of what we heard and learned over the course of the week’s Assembly there was one lesson that resounded, that there are layers that we cannot touch or reach and in accepting this we must remember to leave space for God to work and to trust in the slow work of the Lord. When what happens isn’t as we planned or hoped for, we need the spiritual strength to persist and in accepting this we begin to network with a new authority.

And what of advocacy, as a tool for change? We listened to youth ambassadors tell us that “hope is not a strategy and that efforts to tackle human trafficking need to be more than aspirational.” “Hope can be the force that compels us into action.” “The solutions to some of the most intractable of problems can be found when we create wider circular tables to include every caste, class and religion.” And so many are now sure that “every survivor can contribute to ending Human Trafficking.” “Protecting and praying in a time of crisis is ‘doing’ and ‘acting’ for change.” “We must continue to build the trust that we all feel is breaking.”

Such is the wisdom that inspires the final declaration that we were reminded that “it is not enough that you love the victims and survivors, they must know that you love them.” Empowering women and girls, gives way to empowering a generation. Those empowered contribute positively to both family and society.  Such was the sincerity of all attending that it was felt that, “when we share a breath, we are family”

The youth at the Assembly were vocal, articulate and measured. Their message rings loudly after the Assembly is over when they told us. “The youth are today, they are now, tomorrow is too late.” Such was their welcome presence at the Assembly that they have been recognised as champions of change.”

Sr. Pat Murray, Executive Director of Talitha Kum was one of the final speakers to the gathered delegates and she urged us all to “make Human Trafficking a key ministry for this century.” She also told us that every single action counts, never mind how small it is. It matters! “We are being called and pushed to find new ways to combat Human Trafficking.”

The final declaration sets out our collective plan for the next 5 years and it is a living document that urges us to “listen carefully to the whispering cries of the victims of human trafficking and to run to their aid.” The message is clear: just put “one foot in front of the other, even when the road ahead isn’t visible.”

To take the free course on Migration you need to email, rete.migranti@uisg.org and they will facilitate your request.

“For the longest time in my life, I have never felt this safe!” – Survivors tell their stories at Talitha Kum

 

Photo – The African Delegates at the Talitha Kum Assembly.

“I have never felt so safe as I do in this room”.

These heart-breaking words, spoken by a survivor, for me, and for many others have had a deep and significant impact. In one session at the Talitha Kum Assembly, we were spoken to by a number of survivors (indeed many prefer now to be referred to as thrivers) who spoke so movingly of their experiences whilst being trafficked and enslaved. The Final Assembly Declaration is reflective of their significant input where we can see that Talitha Kum (TK) is being called: “to be more intentionally survivor-centred, survivor-informed, and trauma-sensitive – listening to their stories, consulting them in decision-making processes and putting them at the heart of our networks.”

Amani, (not her real name) told us that despite being free, everywhere she goes can be a trigger. Amani was born into a “beautiful slum” in Nairobi that teaches a resilience that she says was a necessary strength to come through her experiences with a confidence and a resolve to work to ensure that others will not be treated as she has been. Amani, is clear, “to solve the problems of human trafficking in a better way we need hope, passion and lots of compassion.”

Amani explained that she had been gang raped by four men who told her that her school days were over and so she hid her intelligence. She told us: “I didn’t think that I deserved to be here (at the TK Assembly)”, “I was reminded that I too needed compassion.”  Amani, was married by 19 and lost her first child to violence and “yet I stayed”, she told us. “The violence never stops.” And of her attendance at the TK Assembly, she said, “I have never felt so safe in my whole life. I have never felt such hope.” Amani told us that “minds like mine never have silence” and from her heart she begged Talitha Kum to “keep this conversation going.” 

Amani told us that the reality for most survivors is that they are rarely believed, they are a growing number, but for the most part unfunded and unrecognised. They believe that they are a reminder of a country’s dirty secret and because of this, they are to be hushed and pushed back into a darkened corner. “They don’t find survivors work”, “they don’t see survivors work.” Amani confidently urged those attending delegates “not to forget the grassroots women” and reminded us with her powerful intervention that SURVIVORS can shift the conversation. 

When Amani had finished, the entire room was in tears and she sat down while we stood up in appreciation, in awe of her strength and confidence, in solidarity with her requests and out of respect, empathy and compassion. Amani was smiling at the appreciation and the standing ovation. Back in our groups we began our Synodal conversation in the Spirit where those in our group offered that we must “stand strong as a prophet”, “be unafraid” and that we are being called to “challenge and face the consequences, and that for love we must take the risk.” 

In one of the final sessions of the Talitha Kum Assembly, Amani was part of a panel to assess what exactly is Talitha Kum’s strength and to offer some reflection of her attendance at this Assembly. Once again, Amani spoke with confidence from her heart and her experience. “We are not starting from scratch.” “My voice is found in this final draft.” “I am affirmed.” “I will sit at that table at the UN and I will not be ashamed to be a survivor.” “One day Kenya will have a president who will be a survivor.” “Talitha Kum, has created a platform for survivors.” “Do not stop with me or with the next girl you meet.” “I will repeat what I have said before: For the longest time in my life, I have never felt so safe as I do now” – Talitha Kum – DO NOT STOP!

Once again, the delegates and attendees including the technical staff rose to their feet to appreciate Amani’s confident, insightful intervention and this time Amani sat in tears knowing that as a “Thriver” she will be the best example to those marked by Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery. 

(On Thursday morning we had been scheduled to meet with Pope Francis, and this was to be a quiet highlight for many of us and we were indeed disappointed when this visit was cancelled given that there were so many unwell attending the Assembly. But my disappointment was far outweighed by my encounters with the survivors. How privileged am I! I met Amani!) 

(Amani is not her real name and she is not in the photo above). 

Brian O’ Toole. 

RENATE Law Task Group. 

RENATE members to present at Webinar hosted by The Tablet International Catholic News: “Understanding the mission against human trafficking and new trends initiated to combat this crime”

 

Date + Time: Wednesday 19 June 2024, 6pm – 7pm BST

Price: €14,97 Tax included

Click here to purchase a ticket to attend

Join the Tablet team for this webinar as we bring to light the new threads of understanding emerging in the mission against human trafficking and new trends initiated to combat this crime

Your speakers for this event will be:

‘Sister Imelda Poole, IBVM is a British citizen on mission in Albania.  She was the former President of RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation) and continues to address the root causes of Human Trafficking in Albania and across Europe in the most vulnerable communities.’

Bill Woolf is a former federal task force officer and Director of Human Trafficking Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice. He has dedicated his personal and professional life to combatting trafficking in persons.

Dr Carole Murphy, is the Director of the Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse at St Mary’s University Twickenham. Her research focuses on survivor care and support, and training for practitioners.

RENATE at the Sisters Annual Trafficking Awards 2024

 

On 23 May 2024, the second annual SATA awards event (Sisters’ Anti–Trafficking Awards) took place at the Augustinianum, in Rome, following the conclusion of the 2nd General Assembly of Talitha Kum, which began 18 May last.

Sr. Mary Barron, OLA, newly appointed UISG President and Ms. Delia Gallagher, Vatican journalist and moderator of the ceremony, welcomed all present.

Sr. Nathalie Becquart, xmcj, Under-Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, delivered the keynote speech.

In her address, Sr. Nathalie highlighted the characteristics of sisters’ work, which reflect perfectly the synodal path.

The following three guest speakers briefly shared about their work to combat human trafficking: Mary Mugo, an Anti-Trafficking Youth Ambassador from Kenya; Nasreen Sheikh, a widely-respected advocate for survivors, and Kevin Hyland, the former first UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of awards to three religious sisters who have demonstrated exceptional courage, creativity, collaboration and achievement in the protection of their communities from human trafficking, namely:

  1. Sr. Grasy Luisa Rodrigues FDCC from India received the Common Good Award from the Arise Founding President, John Studzinski CBE.
  2. Sr Anne Victory HM from the USA & The Alliance to End Human Trafficking, received the Servant Leadership Award from the #UISG President, Sr. Mary Barron, OLA.
  3. Sr. Marie Claude Naddaf RGS from Lebanon received the Human Dignity Award, announced by Associate Vice President of Program Operations at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Sr. Jane Wakahiu, LSOSF, Ph.D.

As part of the ceremony, short video recordings gave glimpses of each recipient’s mission. And in the coming days, the UISG will share documentaries showcasing the important work of each laureate.

Photo credits: Stefano Dal Pozzolo

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Arise

#SATAs2024

RENATE MEMBER BRIAN O’TOOLE’S REFLECTIONS ON ATTENDING SATA AWARDS

On Thursday May 23rd last, I was privileged to attend the SATA  Awards in the Augustinianum in Rome with a gathered audience of approximately 200, and far more attending online. The names of the three laureates were being kept as a closely guarded secret. We had been informed that the three had been selected from a list of over 120 nominations from around the world. The event was organised by Arise Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the UISG and the prizes awarded were not insignificant either. Apart from the symbolic trophy and the beautifully crafted scarf, there was the matter of the $20,000 that was offered to each of the winners to put to their own work against Human Trafficking. 

Mary Mugo, an anti-trafficking youth ambassador, spoke first and told us that “you can order a woman quicker than you can order a pizza”, as she urged us all to become the change we want to see in the world.  Nasreen Sheikh, a widely respected advocate for survivors spoke from lived experience, offering a hope that, “survivors have a vision, a solution, for their most prized gift, the next generation.” Her strong words echoed and resonated loudly in this hallowed chamber, “This, (MSHT) is a genocide embedded in our economic system.  MSHT is a moral pain in every facet of our world.” She then implored all who gathered: “Let us ensure that in our collective future, that each child has the chance to emerge as a wonder for all.” 

Kevin Hyland, OBE and author of SDG 8.7, explained that many of the Sisters have been deeply involved in combating MSHT and indeed many have been involved for centuries. He articulated the work of the Sisters so well when he said that “lives can be changed, and dignity restored, when families are rescued.” Kevin, gave a uniquely practical example of the power of the networking capabilities of the Sisters when he was facing a court without a witness. The Sisters were able to solve this issue, where others would have definitely failed. “Their, (the Sisters) work on the ground and at the frontline is unmatched.” And Kevin left us with a very real final word, “When I get to go home I go to a place of safety but when the sisters go home it may well be to a place where there is no safety.” 

Sr. Grasy Luisa Rodrigues FDCC from India received the Common Good Award for her unstinting courage in the face of real threat when rescuing girls from the grips of criminals. Her work is described as “inspiring work of the Holy Spirit which is transformational.”  Like all the other recipients, Sr Grasy explained that “I cannot do it alone! I need God and others in my community. We are working together to reply to the call which God has given us. Friends, I am unworthy of the awards bestowed upon me, but it reflects the efforts of so many who collaborate in our Mission. We see and value the inherent dignity of all human beings. St. Josephine Bakhita, our universal Sister… it is your turn now to work for victims of human trafficking.”

The Servant Leadership Award was presented to Sr. Anne Victory HM from the USA.
Sr. Anne built networks with a vision, championing best resources with courage in abundance and reminded us that in our everyday lives we are touched by MSHT, but that we must be alert and notice this to be able to make a collective response to combat all forms of MSHT. 

The Human Dignity Award, went to Sr. Marie Claude Naddaf RGS from Lebanon and this got a really loud cheer (there was even a whistle!) from the auditorium as we at the Talitha Kum Assembly had the privilege of working during the week with Sr. Marie Claude who made regular interventions and comments during our gathering. Sr. Marie Claude is so small in stature that when she stood behind the podium to accept her award, she just couldn’t be seen. The irony was not lost on the audience either, who could recognise a huge contribution that was spearheaded by such a petite Sister. 

Sr. Grasy Luisa Rodrigues FDCC from India, Sr. Marie Claude Naddaf RGS from Lebanon, Sr Anne Victory HM from the USA with Sr. Jane Wakahiu, LSOSF, Ph.D Associate Vice President of Program Operations at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. (Credit UISG for this photo)

Each of the Sisters were shown a short video of their work, specially prepared for this event, which was shown to all who attended. The overriding message that came from these awards is that there are so many heroes and advocates who have shown us the power of being present with those furthest behind as they reminded us that in order to be of help we must reach those furthest behind first, underpinning the SDGs principle of leaving no one behind. 

At my own table, I heard a throwaway remark that I followed up later when a Sister explained that she was challenged by a criminal when she found that he had “stolen” a child to be trafficked into “sex work”. She searched him out and found him and demanded that he hand over the girl. She involved the police, who helped up to a point. Corruption allows the trafficker to continue with a certain degree of impunity. This trafficker threatened her life and the lives of her family, but she persisted and won out to save the girl from the most difficult of futures. This Sister still speaks occasionally to the Trafficker as such engagement can lead to change which is what she wants despite the fear he can and does from time to time still instil. I would have happily given her an award for this quiet but hugely important service but she shrugs it off. 

The SATA awards are a beacon, a light that shines on perhaps the most insidious of crimes taking the side of those most affected. For each victim of Human Trafficking there is a significant and impactful hurt that lives on in the next generation and the generation after that. We heard but a few stories of bravery, witness, accompaniment, presence, courage and resolve. There are so many, many more, thanks be to God.  

Brian O’ Toole

Sr. Marie Claude Naddaf RGS from Lebanon (Credit UISG for this photo)

MAY 25 – INTERNATIONAL MISSING CHILDREN‘S DAY 

 

 Anne Kelleher – RENATE Communications Team

 Every year on 25 May, Lithuania and around the world marks the International Day of Missing Children. The day was chosen because of a story that shocked the United States when, on 25 May 1979, six-year-old Ethan Patz disappeared without a trace on his way to school at a bus stop just a couple of blocks from his home. On the initiative of the Missing Persons Families Support Centre, the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania added this day to the list of commemorative days in 2006. It is a day not only to remember missing children, but also to remember families who have suffered the terrible loss of a child. The day focuses on the causes of child disappearances around the world, including sexual and physical violence, paedophilia and human trafficking. Lithuania, like 31 European countries, has an international 116 000 hotline for missing children, and was the first Nordic country where the Centre, together with the US Embassy, the Ministry of the Interior, the Lithuanian Police Department and Facebook, launched the Amber Alert Facebook child alert system in Lithuania in 2018. 

According to Missing Children Europe, there is a missing child report every two to three minutes in Europe. In Lithuania, according to the Missing Persons Register, about 2000-2500 cases of disappearance of minors are registered each year. In 2023, 2212 cases of disappearance of children were registered, and in the first quarter of 2024, 570 disappearances of children were registered. It is observed that the main cause of disappearance of children is running away from home or care institutions. Children often run away from problems at home – domestic violence, conflicts, neglect. Children who go missing or run away from home can become easy prey for criminals not only outside the home but also online. It is essential not only to identify the threats to children in good time, but also to provide ongoing prevention efforts involving minors of all ages. In 2023, the Centre organised 25 prevention events in educational establishments, reaching more than 1 200 children studying in Lithuania. From 2024, the Centre has introduced a chat function on www.116000.lt to ensure the widest possible access to help, not only for the relatives of missing children, but also for children who are thinking of running away from home or have already run away. 

On the International Day of Missing Children, we invite parents and their children to visit the sculpture of a lonely girl and touch her hands to bring home all missing children. This tradition of touching the sculpture’s hands started when Pope Francis rubbed the sculpture’s hands and prayed for every missing child to find their way home when he consecrated the sculpture in 2016. 

Brief information about the commemoration on 25 May 2024 is attached. 

Spend at least 5 minutes each day talking to your child, hugging them, feeling for them. By building a secure and trusting relationship, you can prevent your child from disappearing or running away from home. 

More information: 

http://www.116000.lt/institucijoms/ 

Missing persons’ families support centre https://www.missing.lt/ https://www.facebook.com/www.missing.lt 

Contact for enquiries: 

Arūnė Bernatonytė centras2@missing.lt arba +370 670 52 725. 

Director of the Missing Persons Family Support Centre Natalja Kurčinskaja 

An overview of the recent RENATE webinars, 14-16 May 2024 on the topic ‘’The effect/consequences of wars/war-situations on trafficking and exploitation – esp. for women and children.’’

 

In order to bring attention to the issue of “The effect/consequences of wars/war-situations on trafficking and exploitation – esp. for women and children”, the RENATE Europe network held three morning events/webinars online, each of three hours duration, 14-16 May, 2024.

The webinars helped raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking and exploitation specific to areas of conflicts and wars.  Thanks to the first-hand experiences of the presenters who work at grass-roots level in the UKRAINE; South Sudan and Kenya, participants were provided first-hand information about the realities of living and trying to function in areas of conflict, where traffickers ply their trade taking advantage of newly-vulnerable people.

Through the Zoom break-out rooms facility, participants considered the implications and impacts of what they heard each morning, for their own work in prevention, protection and awareness-raising in their own respective countries.  It was particularly helpful to explore possibilities for action on our parts to help & support colleagues at CARITAS Ukraine; the Catholic University, Lviv; HAART Kenya and Loreto Rumbek, South Sudan.  

The perils of conflict extend beyond the bullet & the bomb. There is the equally impactful rendering of vulnerability of people due to risks of confiscation or destruction of their identity documents; labour exploitation; detentions; forced begging; conscription; domestic servitude; forced involvement in criminal activities, to name just a few.

We also learned of the reintegration challenges for those displaced through conflict, who in many cases no longer have a house or employment to return to…finding themselves falling into the hands of traffickers ever-ready to take advantage of the plight of the most vulnerable.   There is also the consideration of the need to support those who source food, medicines, medical equipment and first-aid supplies to help sustain communities impacted by warfare, as explained to us by Olena Mosends (Kulygina) a Communications teacher at the Catholic University, Lviv & experienced journalist, who shared with us her ‘ministry of influence.’

‘’In a country where girls are seen as currency, a woman with four daughters & two sons is seen as ‘blessed.’’’ So said Sr. Orla Treacy, Principal Loreto Secondary School, Rumbek, South Sudan as she gave us in-depth insights into the tribal cultures in existence there and the issue of Child Marriage. Working within that milieu of cultural morés, gender issues and concerns etc., Orla has managed to successfully create an appreciation of the value of including girls access education and remain within the education sphere through to adulthood, securing gainful employment and thereby able to help financially support themselves and their families.

Culturally, the commodification of girls is not limited to south Sudan, and we considered both the similarities and differences across many parts of our world where girls are considered ‘less than’ and bartered for labour exploitation, child-marriages and more.  

It was powerful to hear the first-hand wisdom from Mercy, a human trafficking Survivor Advocate, who together with her colleague Njera, spoke about the importance of building upon those lived experiences. HAART Kenya provided us with a most informative and indeed heartening input, as Njera and Mercy spoke to the topic ‘’Holistic Care: Enabling Victim Transformation, Partnering with Survivors and developing Community Resilience.  Their input which focused on the voice of a survivor, proved to be most uplifting and heartening.  We learned about Survivor Advocates and their crucial role in the efforts to end human trafficking and exploitation. It was especially engaging to learn about the importance of creating employment opportunities  for survivor advocates in the anti-trafficking spaces and the recruitment of survivor advocates for positions in governmental, NGOs and the private sectors.

Areas such as survivor engagement; the ethical Storytelling and the principles of survivor support challenges & recommendations around economic empowerment approaches, were central components of an enlightening presentation.

Their abiding question Where do we find hope?  should be a road-marker for us as we move forward in our mission to end human trafficking and exploitation.

Recordings of the webinars are available on the RENATE YouTube channel:

Part 1: 14 May 2024
Part 2: 15 May 2024
Part 3: 16 May 2024

Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network Webinar: “Safe Birth 4 All: a Human Rights issue” – 29th May, 7pm GMT.

 

You are invited to join the AEFJN (Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network) Ireland at 19:00 (UK)/20:00 (CET) via Zoom for a webinar focused on ”Safe Birth 4 All: a Human Rights issue.”

This webinar will focus on expert insight from healthcare professionals and human rights advocates, the physiological and psychosocial impacts of obstetric fistula, the economic and cultural dimensions from a human rights perspective, and how you can take action.

Please visit the webpage mentioned in the flyer to register for the event.