Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It was the first snow of the season . . .

. . . and that's always an important milestone, even if all we got today were a few light flurries. Thankfully it hasn't gotten so cold that I have to de-ice the car before going to Windsor in the morning, but as of today I'm wearing my cords and my winter coat. As part of my ministry at the Windsor Refugee Office I attended a forum this afternoon on human trafficking. Recognizing that trafficking is a serious human rights issue locally as well as globally, the WRO and a number of other NGO's in Windsor have come together to form the Windsor-Essex Committee Against the Trafficking of Women and Children. The Committee's efforts to sensitize local law enforcement and policymakers to the problem of trafficking are carried out in part by means like today's forum, at which experts spoke about anti-trafficking efforts elsewhere in Canada and in the United States. It's important to note that these local efforts are linked to a larger campaign by the Canadian Council for Refugees to enact federal anti-trafficking legislation in Canada and to support more effective outreach to trafficking victims. The Sisters of the Holy Names, some of whom I've gotten to know through the WRO, are also seeking to raise awareness of the issue.

Working for and with various human rights and social service organizations, I've run into the issue of human trafficking again and again. I first learned about trafficking as a law student interning for a DC-based NGO now known as Global Rights. I didn't work directly on trafficking issues while I was at Global Rights, but I became aware of the problem through various anti-trafficking initiatives sponsored by the organization. This past spring, I began my Short Experiment at Catholic Charities just as that group and other social service providers in the San Francisco Bay Area were beginning to put together a coordinated response to the problem of human trafficking. My contribution to this response was fairly limited - I helped out a little on some grant proposals - but I suppose I can still say I was present at the creation of something good and important. And now at the WRO I find myself confronting trafficking yet again.

As a Jesuit novice, I see my humble contribution to various efforts to end the trafficking of women and children and to assist trafficking victims as very much in line with the Society's mission today. GC34's Decree 14, "Jesuits and the Situation of Women in Church and Civil Society," calls on Jesuits to support "movements which oppose the exploitation of women and encourage their entry into political and social life," and anti-trafficking initiatives certainly meet these criteria. At the same time, the fact that I've run into the trafficking issue in three separate jobs in three very different parts of North America just goes to show how widespread the problem is. I think I'm doing my bit, and I encourage you to do yours. AMDG.


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