Talking With Raymond Arroyo about Human Trafficking and the new Papal Commission on Child ProtectionDecember 6, 2013
DOCUMENTARIES ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING
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Senate Testimony on human trafficking
Child Sex Trafficking
Anti Trafficking Organizations:
International Organization for Migration
Canossian Daughters of Charity
ECPAT International-End Child Prostitution and Trafficking
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by Elizabeth Yore
“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep;
I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”
~~~Alexander the Great
This is a Pope that leads with his heart.
From the moment, Pope Francis ascended to the Chair of Peter, he has been exhorting the Catholic faithful to venture out of their comfort zone and step “out into the street and run the risk of an accident.” His bold challenge centers on his own personal transformation as a crusader against human trafficking. During the nine months since his election, he often speaks about the evils of human trafficking in his speeches. Countless stories are now emerging about the work of Pope Francis when, as Cardinal Bergoglio, he ventured into the dangerous streets of Buenos Aires, risking life and limb to meet the impoverished, the embattled, and the broken hearted. It was in the suffering barrios that Jorge Bergoglio “met the face of Jesus Christ.”
No one is immune from his call to evangelize. During his homily at the closing conclave Mass in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis cautioned the very cardinals who elected him, “if we walk without the Cross….then we are not our Lord’s disciples.” While not quite fighting words, his message is unmistakably urgent; the time has arrived for the College of Cardinals to start walking up the Calvary hill. Take up your cross or risk alienation with Christ.
As Archbishop of Buenos Aires’ 2.5 million Catholics, Cardinal Bergoglio followed his own Way of the Cross meeting the suffering poor, comforting the abused and neglected and serving as their protective father. He has walked the stations of the cross and has earned the right to talk the talk.
As a participant at the recent Pontifical Human Trafficking workshop, I heard and saw that this Pontiff is determined to open the eyes of laity, bishops, clergy, and cajole them into service for humanity. No more excuses. In the words of his patron namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, who cautioned, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” This Pope is preaching about his walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and expects us to start the journey in our cities.
His bold confidence and fearless leadership is born out of his experience; an experience rooted in serving the poor and marginalized. Like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Francis’ heart is with the impoverished, the suffering, and disenfranchised. They showed him the face of Christ through their heavy cross and ultimately, he found a deeper and richer faith. As Blessed Teresa taught “let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”
Authentic leaders shepherd their flock by acting first, often alone. Francis is asking Catholics to act as he did in his hometown of Buenos Aires. Quite frankly, his bravery shocks and inspires even the most experienced advocate. Having worked many human trafficking cases, the actions of Cardinal Bergoglio on the violent streets of Buenos Aires rival any elite team of FBI agents investigating human trafficking cases. Armed with guns, ammunition, federal law enforcement badge and the resources of the federal government, the FBI interviews sex trafficking victims at shelters in the middle of the night, hardly a dangerous assignment, yet laudable, nonetheless.
Conversely, armed with only his pectoral cross, the Cardinal would often travel in the dead of night into the dangerous Buenos Aires streets to help women prostitutes at a shelter who were escaping violent traffickers. His brave actions are nothing short of heroic. The impact of his powerful presence supported both the women and shelter workers as they battled the powerful sex trade. He sent a strong message to the trafficking criminals; these victims have a powerful advocate who is fearless.
Cardinal Bergoglio employed another secret weapon in his arsenal against organized crime which runs the sex and labor trafficking rings. He used his fierce and powerful voice to loudly and vociferously condemn the corrupt police force and judicial system that conspired to protect and assist human traffickers. This unarmed cardinal fearlessly proclaimed, “we still have slaves, everything can be fixed in Buenos Aires with a bribe. We are bribing our souls.” Now those are fighting words which could get you killed in Latin America. This fearless leader risks his own safety and livelihood for the common good by using his prestigious position to expose the evildoers and protect the vulnerable.
Pope Francis is now using his papal voice on the global stage. Much has been made of Pope Francis’ frequent reference and discussion of the devil and the personification of evil. This should come as no surprise based on his work in the barrio. This man has seen the face of evil up close and personal in the suffering poor and victims of human trafficking, exploitation, slavery, and drug addiction. Evil thrives and flourishes on the streets of Buenos Aires, as it does in all cities.
In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, once again, Francis articulates his profound abhorrence for the evil of human trafficking and the desperate need for all to stop this crime against humanity.
“We cannot ignore the fact that in cities human trafficking, the narcotics trade, the abuse and exploitation of minors, the abandonment of the elderly and infirm, and various forms of corruption and criminal activity take place.” “Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! …many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.”
Do not doubt him. He has walked those dangerous streets.
Like a caged and impatient lion, Pope Francis paces and prowls the halls of the Vatican gently roaring to the leaders and laity of the Church about ‘the babysitter Church which only takes care of children to put them to sleep instead of acting as a mother with her children.’
Watch out for the fierce and protective mother lion who guards her young with ferocity and courage. Francis, the Lionhearted is reminiscent of Aslan, the Lion in C.S. Lewis’ metaphorical masterpiece, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Lewis captures the essence of Pope Francis in the stirring description of the Aslan, the Lion:
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”
“I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe?
‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
© Elizabeth Yore-2013 All Rights Reserved.
On the flight over to Rome to attend the Pope’s Conference on Human Trafficking last week, I recalled the long running Broadway play and movie, A Funny thing Happened on the Way to Forum, starring the great actor Zero Mostel. This farcical comedy is based on an ancient play set in B. C. Rome, where a slave named Pseudolus tries to negotiate his freedom from his slave owner, Hero. The famous line in the movie goes like this:
Hero, the Slave Owner: “People do not go around freeing slaves every day.”
Pseudolus, the Slave: “Be the first. Start a fashion.”
Ironically, in 2013 A.D., Pope Francis is compelled to call a conference of global experts entitled, “Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery” to address the alarming increase in the trade in human beings as one of the pressing political social and economic problems associated with globalization.
Freeing modern slaves has not yet become fashionable. So much for progress!
Pope Francis specifically requested that the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences convene a working group to study modern forms of slavery, including the trafficking of people for sex and labor, and trafficking of human organs. Francis personally greeted the assembled global anti trafficking experts. Clearly, he understands the tragedy of human trafficking from his days as Cardinal Bergolio of Buenos Aires where there are 60,000 women in 8,000 illegal brothels, and the highest consumption of cocaine in Latin America, with 2.6% of the population being addicted or a consumer of cocaine run by the Mexican and Colombian cartels. The Pontiff challenged the conference participants that “the Church as a whole isn’t sufficiently aware of the problem or hasn’t focused deeply enough on how serious a problem.”
This Pope leads with his heart. He is a man of the poor in the streets of Argentina and around the world. He knows the suffering poor, the disenfranchised, and the enslaved. Modern day slavery is not a distant notion for him. Cardinal Bergolio would often come in the “dead of night to help women escaping violent Buenos Aires brothel owners find shelter.”
Yet no country is free from human trafficking. The rich countries create the demand and the poor countries provide the supply. This heinous crime against humanity knows no political or geographic boundaries, crosses all cultures and defies quantification.
What is the scope of this global problem? Here’s the sad reality: No one really knows. This is a covert crime carried out in the shadows with terrified and silenced victims, so hidden and disguised that they can’t be counted, tracked, and seldom rescued. The best estimates are that nearly 30 million people live in modern slavery across the globe, many of them women and children who are trafficked by organized crime gangs for sexual exploitation and forced labor.
Human trafficking thrives because it is a lucrative trade, generating roughly $32 billion annually and its fungible product is hiding in plain sight. Why is human trafficking becoming more lucrative and desirable than guns and drugs? Guns and drugs can be sniffed out by dogs, and are easily identifiable as contraband. Humans are not. Certainly human trafficking victims do not self identify as victims, because they are coerced, threatened, lied to, beaten into silent submission. Once drugs are sold, they are used and gone. Yet, a woman or child can be sold repeatedly.
Traffickers now have an immediate hotline to contract their illegal business deals, the Internet. With 2 billion people around the world now connected to the Internet, access by criminals is instantaneous. Email orders, message boards, and texts advertise children and women for sex, and deliver them through the Internet marketplace. These criminal organizations operate without impunity because investigations and prosecutions of traffickers are very complex, and sadly, rare. Experts believe that 87% of the trafficking is for sex and the remainder for forced labor. Both venues prey on vulnerable women and children.
Sex Trafficking is a thriving business in the United States. In the U.S., it is estimated that 2 out of the 3 trafficked victims are underage girls. Some 300,000 American children have been forced into sex trafficking, most of them vulnerable children who have run away from foster care and dysfunctional homes.
American citizens also fuel the demand for sex trafficking as child sex tourists. The global anti trafficking NGO, ECPAT estimates that 25% of child sex tourists are from the U.S. and Americans constitute 80% of child sex tourists in Latin America.
The Catholic Church provides the choke points in the supply and demand chain of human trafficking. She is the holy boots on the ground preventing, intervening and rehabilitating human trafficking victims. With the missionary church serving victims in cities, towns and villages around the world, the Church is uniquely situated to provide global leadership on this issue. At the heart of the scourge of human trafficking is the violation of the dignity of the human person.
The prevention work of the Catholic Church, through thousands of lay and religious missionaries ensures the freedom and dignity of the individual. The work of the Catholic Church builds a safety net around potential trafficking victims through its church run schools, charity programs, adoption, and foster care work. Prevention cannot be measured in data. Yet, trafficking is stopped when Catholic faithful labor in the vineyard running schools in the African bush, orphanages in the slums of Calcutta, shelters for Argentinian street prostitutes, and the countless inner city churches and schools. The Church builds a powerful protective firewall of social services which prevent trafficking exploitation of vulnerable people.
The work of the Church is always more effective and lasting because her labor begins and ends with prayer and is grounded in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Canossian Sisters Daughters of Charity attended the Pope’s conference. These Sisters work with trafficking victims in Italy and around the world. They asked Pope Francis for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting against trafficking to raise greater awareness in the Catholic Church about the issue. The Pope was very interested in the suggestion and the Sisters asked him to declare a day of fasting and prayer on February 8th, the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave, who was sold and resold, but found freedom in Italy and became a nun in the late 19th century. St. Bakhita was canonized by John Paul II in 2000. The words of St. Bakhita, remind Catholics of the message of loving service and joyful evangelization which is the recurring theme of Pope Francis:
“The Lord has loved me so much: we must love everyone… we must be compassionate!”
It’s time for all of us to start loving and noticing the victims hiding in plain sight.
Elizabeth Yore has spent 30 years in legal child advocacy and fighting human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad. Recently, she served as Special Counsel at Harpo, Inc. as Oprah Winfrey’s child advocate. Previously, she was General Counsel at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for 8 years and the General Counsel at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia.
“Google Agrees to Block Child Porn Online”
~~UK Daily Mail
At long last, a hopeful sign emerged this week, that something was being done about the explosion of Internet child pornography when the American company, Google announced in the UK that it was going to block child porn online.
Wait. Why was this announcement coming out of England?
After all, Google is an American company and its Chairman is a close friend of the American President Barack Obama. Could it be that the Brits care more about eradicating child pornography than the Americans?
It does make you wonder, why the President of the greatest nation on the earth, never thought to mention the epidemic of child pornography to his close friend and political and financial supporter, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt.
Mr. Obama could have easily mentioned, ‘Hey, Eric why don’t you do something about all those vile and illegal child pornography images and videos that surface on your search engine.’ Obama could have reminded Schmidt that those creepy pedophiles had posted photos of the Obama girls on a pedophile website.
After all, Mr. Schmidt served as Barack Obama’s informal advisor on the 2008 campaign trail, as well as a major donor in the 2008 and 2012 election campaigns. The President certainly could have given his good buddy a nudge to do the right thing on behalf of the American children. Right?
Surely, all those times while they met at the White House when Mr. Google was appointed a member of President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Mr. Obama had the opportunity to mention this problem of child pornography on the Internet? He could have dropped a little hint like:
‘Hey, Eric, how about getting your brilliant techies in Mountain View to work on the problem of child porn.’
I guess Eric and the President were too busy raising campaign cash to think about the protection and safety of America’s children.
But wait, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is concerned about child pornography and even acknowledged the skyrocketing problem of child sexual abuse images on the Internet in 2011, when he said, “Unfortunately, we’ve also seen a historic rise in the distribution of child pornography, in the number of images being shared online, and in the level of violence associated with child exploitation and sexual abuse crimes. Tragically, the only place we’ve seen a decrease is in the age of victims.
This is – quite simply – unacceptable.”
If the “rise in child pornography is so unacceptable,” surely Attorney General Eric Holder, who has statutory authority to prosecute federal crimes of child pornography must have asked his close friend Barack Obama, to ask his close pal, Eric Schmidt, the Internet’s largest search engine boss, about curtailing the epidemic of child sex abuse images popping up on Google. After all, these images are terribly damaging and traumatizing to America’s children. But no, Holder was too busy tracking missing guns in Mexico.
Certainly, recently retired FBI Director Robert Mueller, whose job it is to investigate child exploitation crimes must have mentioned to the President that over 2 million computers are trading child pornography images in the U.S., Of course, he must have said to the President, ‘Can you talk to your good friend Eric Schmidt at Google and ask him and his MIT techies to block these violent and brutal images?’ Bob Mueller is very aware of the extent and danger of child pornography. Before he retired from the FBI he told NPR, “The worst thing I saw at the FBI is child pornography in the United States, it is epidemic.”
Apparently, those conversations never occurred because up until now, Google has done precious little to protect innocent eyes and ears from viewing pop up child pornography during internet searches.
Don’t blame Mr. Schmidt. He was very busy raising campaign funds for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. Mr Schmidt was also preoccupied promoting Obama’s jobs bill in 2011 when the President asked Congress for a new round of stimulus spending and was faced with a Republican deadlock.
No doubt, they both had politics on the brain, and not the protection of children.
So along comes an island in the Atlantic, the size of Louisiana, which decides to take on the American corporate behemoth, Google, because British children are being murdered by pedophiles who feed off the violent and vile child pornography images flooding the Internet. This small country and its prime minister, David Cameron demanded that that Eric Schmidt of Google, close friend of Barack Obama, create software to block search results linked to child sex abuse images.
Initially, the Google Giant told the Prime Minister that “it couldn’t be done, shouldn’t be done.” However, nothing changes an intransigent corporation like the threat of regulation and steely resolve.
So an about face occurred, and suddenly in the words of Obama’s best friend Eric Schmidt writing an OpEd in the UK Daily Mail admitted, “We’ve listened, and in the last three months put more than 200 people to work developing new, state-of-the-art technology to tackle the problem….We welcome the lead taken by the British Government, and hope that the technologies developed (and shared) by our industry will make a real difference in the fight against this terrible crime.”
Amazing! So with determination and leadership from the Prime Minister of a country the size of Oregon, the American based Google has promised a global block on search results linked to illegal child sex abuse images.
Google has relented and agreed to make changes which will prevent illegal child pornography appearing on more than 100,000 different searches. It appears that PM Cameron took a page from his predecessor, Winston Churchill who said, “I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded. In fact, if anything, I am the prod.”
Now, what about Mr. Schmidt’s good friend. The words of President Obama now seem so ironically prophetic, “Americans…still believe in an America where anything’s possible–they just don’t think their leaders do.”
Oh, truer words were never spoken by Barack Obama. Yes, he said that!
You can bank on that. I googled it.