An anti-trafficking demonstration in Rome’s Piazza di Santa Maria. Photo from Sofia Ranke

Breaking silence on human trafficking

  • February 29, 2024

Sofia Ranke knows she “can’t change the world” and singlehandedly eradicate the evil scourge of human trafficking. Nevertheless, she is determined to fight for victimized girls, women, boys and men by using the power of her voice. 

“I firmly believe that the fight against human trafficking must begin by breaking the silence that surrounds it,” said the 25-year-old. “Indeed, it’s important to recognize that human trafficking is an often hidden and stigmatized reality, and it’s essential to talk openly about it to raise awareness around us.”

Last month, Ranke and fellow Canadian Catherine-Laure Juste, were among 50 young adults from around the world who travelled to the Vatican to participate in a week of trafficking awareness and training sessions.   

Talitha Kum, a global network of Catholic women dedicated to combatting this omnipresent societal ill, appointed Ranke and Juste as its youth ambassadors at the gathering in Vatican City. Talitha Kum helps build community awareness, execute prevention campaigns, advocate for more robust anti-trafficking government policies and engage in international collaboration.

Ranke, currently completing a master’s degree in criminology specializing in homeland security at the Université de Montréal, was surprised to receive the invitation to join this project. 

“It took me a bit by surprise, as it was the first time I’d heard of it,” said Ranke, a partner of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary congregation’s peace and justice committee. “However, I knew it was a unique experience. My main objective was to deepen my knowledge of the subject and get involved in concrete actions. To tell the truth, I didn’t have any specific expectations in taking part in this project, but I wanted to make my contribution to this cause. Working with like-minded people made it a very rewarding experience.”

The anti-trafficking flash mob in the historic Piazza di Santa Maria public square and the audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall are considered the most heralded events on the week-long agenda. For Ranke, however, “a particularly striking moment” came during one of the roundtable discussions.

“When I mentioned the problems of exploiting temporary workers in Canada, as well as the cases of human trafficking along the Canada-U.S. border, I was struck by the surprise of the other participants,” said Ranke, who has worked as a professional security consultant. “They couldn’t believe that such situations were happening in Canada.”

And just as Ranke imparted knowledge, she also gained an understanding of the particular realities of modern-day slavery in other parts of the world. She is applying this new wisdom to one of her course projects. 

Alongside other Canadian Talitha Kum anti-trafficking youth ambassadors, Ranke will complete two awareness activities this spring inspired by the Red Sand Project out of the U.S. This movement calls for sidewalk cracks to be filled with grains of sand, symbolically representing, according to the website, “those individuals who fall through the cracks — whether the cracks of our social, economic and political systems or those of our personal consciousness.” 

Ranke said she and her collaborators are planning a Red Sand demonstration in April or May at her home parish of St. Bonaventure Church in Montreal and then one for the general public of her home city in June to spotlight the specific issues facing migrant farm workers.

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