Editorial: For victims’ dignity, we pray

  • September 14, 2023

Elsewhere on this page, the Migrants and Refugee section of the Dicastery for Human Development describes human trafficking as a “gruesome criminal business” and an “evil trade.” Then it adds the word that illuminates in a sentence the reason The Catholic Register spent time, energy and our generous donors’ contributions for this week’s special supplement on human trafficking.

The word is sin.

“Beyond being a crime, HT (human trafficking) is also a grave sin that offends the dignity and freedom of its victims,” the dicastery statement says.

Human trafficking, then, is far more than a breach of human law. It is a violation of God’s created order. It offends on Earth against God in Heaven. Like all human bondage, it sinfully seeks to subvert the inherent dignity and intrinsic freedom that God’s love has enmeshed irrevocably in each individual’s essential being.

To expose and actively oppose human trafficking in its many forms becomes a crucial work of the Church, the whole Church, including the part of the Church that comprises Catholic journalism. It’s work that includes awareness, protection, rescue, liberation, and above all, restoration of those victims made to suffer by the very sins of their captors and tormentors.

That is why The Register’s special supplement profiles the incredible work of Vancouver’s Sr. Nancy Brown, a Sister of Charity who has devoted her working life to walking with dislocated young people most vulnerable to the predations of human traffickers. As Sr. Brown articulated to The Register’s Quinton Amundson, a key to that mission of restoration is “listening without judgment,” much less clumsy attempts at evangelization, to those victims.

Equally, it’s why we heralded the achievement of Anne Ashcroft and Donna Aldous, of the Catholic Women’s League in Saskatoon who, against their own expectations, succeeded in getting authorities to declare a day against human trafficking in the Western city. Yes, there are dedicated days for and against this, that and every other imaginable cause for almost every Monday through Sunday on the calendar. Some days do triple, quadruple and quintuple duty in that regard. But the shining glory of the proclamation in the Paris of the Prairies was its localized, grassroots origins and its bridging of governmental, legal system and Christian-Catholic appeal.

Such an outcome goes beyond the category of worthy initiatives advanced by good-souled, civic-minded citizens. It touches the heart of what is called the “religious sense” innate to every human being, including die-hard self-identified atheists. It intuits that there are rights and wrongs and then there’s something more. It recognizes crimes, crimes against humanity, and then crimes — injustices — that cry out to Heaven for redress; that transgress the source of Creation itself.

Its essence is found in the words of Trisha Baptie, executive director and community engagement coordinator of Exploited Voices Now Educating (EVE). Before assuming her role with the human trafficking victim support organization, Baptie was forced into prostitution at 13 and worked the squalid streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for 15 years. Her work often brings her into contact with politicians and high-level law enforcement officials. But her heart remains with the victims who, like her, were sinned against by others’ sinning.

“The grounding work of loving and knowing the (suffering) woman is what I like the most,” she told The Register.

Just so, a grounding work of Catholic journalism is to bring honouring illumination to those who make God’s face shine upon people who suffer the consequences of sin, especially one as grave as human trafficking. We hope our special supplement does exactly that.

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