The Archdiocese of Vancouver joins forces with the Dioceses of Victoria and Saskatoon to unveil the Working Towards Freedom Study Guide, a resource designed for clergy, parish groups and individual congregants to learn more about human trafficking.
Two webinars, scheduled for November 24 and 26, will launch this new resource, which will examine the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2021 Pastoral Letter on Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in Canada.
Myron Rogal, coordinator of the Saskatoon Diocese’s office of justice and peace, said the guide delves deeper into the messages and themes of the letter.
“This letter really brought us back to that level of education and awareness,” Rogal said.
“We thought we could spread this more at the parish and diocesan level, and apply it to some education, awareness and advocacy at the local level. We were inspired by the document and wanted to open it up more and make it more accessible to people in our dioceses, and across our country and beyond.
Working towards freedom is divided into four sections, each following the model of seeing, learning, praying, doing. Individuals are encouraged to complete the study activities, but this document is primarily intended to “bring people together in dialogue in local parishes and other community settings.”
Unit 1 of the materials, for example, delves deeper into the definition of human trafficking and reflects on what Catholic social teaching says about trafficking. The “see” activity in this segment asks participants to review the Pastoral Orientations of the Vatican Section for Migrants and Refugees on Human Trafficking. The “knowledge” encourages participants to watch videos by Fr. Fred Kammer, SJ, and U.S. Bishop Robert Barron on the dignity of the human person, and also to see how Catholic social teaching ties in with the law current law, in particular the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA).
The “pray” component involves praying the beatitudes and reflecting on how to live them today, while the “act” encourages readers to share what they have learned with family and friends, and to teach children, nephews and nieces, etc. true meaning of consent, the danger of online traffic and pornography.
Many misconceptions about the nature of human trafficking exist in Canada and around the world. Working Towards Freedom seeks to provide clarity, Rogal said.
“The first thing we want to share is that (trafficking) happens all over Canada, from small towns to big cities and from the prairies to the east coast,” he said. “It’s so widespread. It doesn’t happen to just one socio-economic group either. Some things make women and girls more vulnerable, but it happens in all areas.
“Another misconception we see is the assumption that (trafficking) happens overnight where someone could come into your home to coerce and coerce you. In reality, most bondage is only not physical – women are not chained in basements for the most part – it’s psychological imprisonment and most of it happens online.
Statistics Canada announced in June that the number of human trafficking incidents reported by police rose from 546 to 515, but the report’s authors, who work for the Canadian Center for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, said admitted that the heightened nature of this online crime due to the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to incidents that were “more likely to go unnoticed” when they did occur.
Other reasons why it is difficult to infer the full extent of human trafficking in Canada include language barriers, lack of health care, inadequate law enforcement training, fear and the shame of the victims, the desire to protect their trafficker and distrust of the authorities.
Delving into the work towards freedom also offers participants a forum to learn more about Saint Josephine Bahkita (1869-1947), born into a family of six in Darfur, Sudan.
Bahkita’s happy childhood was shattered at the age of nine when she was abducted from a field and enslaved, two years after an older sister was kidnapped.
Bahkita survived and came to know God herself, becoming a model of simplicity, prayer and service. She was canonized in 2000. Her feast day is February 8, which is also the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking.
Rogal said a promising impact of people engaging with the study guide is that there will be increased awareness of PCEPA and increased efforts to advocate for the retention of this legislation. He said the decriminalization of prostitution and sex work in countries like Germany and New Zealand has led to an increase in trafficking.
He is also waiting to see how groups and individuals manifest their own actions to combat human trafficking in the weeks and months to come.
“What we hope is that people will listen, take seriously and put into action how God might specifically call them to meet this challenge moving forward. They may be doing political advocacy work with some of the temporary changes that may be happening in the legal landscape, it may be someone educating their children more or someone urging their parish to pray more about this. We hope for an outpouring of these individualized responses.
For more information email [email protected].
Canadian Catholic News
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