Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletMay 27, 2022

Main News

Sisters Support Effort to End Human Trafficking

by Kathleen Lamanna, staff writer, The Evangelist

"Human trafficking often isn't thought of as a problem here in America," said Sister Francine Dempsey, CSJ.

Her religious order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, sponsors a Coalition to End Human Trafficking. The coalition holds annual prayer services to pray for and remember victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

"It happens right in everybody's backyard," Sister Francine told The Evangelist -- even, she said, in the Diocese of Albany.

The Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT), an umbrella organization, is a group of more than 20 international Catholic agencies dedicated to ending human trafficking. CCOAHT provides safe havens for teens and young adults who have been trafficked in the United States and meets with government officials to create public policies that combat human trafficking.

CCOAHT asks consumers to make moral purchases. Human trafficking can be unwittingly supported: for instance, when products are imported into the United States, exploited and trafficked people have often had a hand in the import process, having done the manual labor -- as slaves -- to create the products and get them to America.

The Polaris Project, a global effort to help spread awareness and end human trafficking and sex trafficking, reports that there are about 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide -- a $150 billion industry. It estimates that 68 percent of people who have been trafficked are trapped in forced labor. About a quarter of those are children; more than half are women and girls.

For Debbie Fowler, founder of Eyes Wide Open of Northeast New York, a not-for-profit organization based out of Schenectady, human trafficking is something she has seen up close.

While her husband, John, worked in Kuwait for several years, Mrs. Fowler also lived there and met women living in modern-day slavery. She helped to find artistic outlets for the women, who had suffered trauma due to sex trafficking and human trafficking.

"A lot of these girls were swept from the streets of their small villages and sold to sponsors," Mrs. Fowler reported in "Fragrance in the Desert," a book she wrote after her experience. She said she learned how widespread the problem was for domestic workers who had been trafficked.

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