Human Trafficking Symposium Shines Light on Issue
Episcopalians and Catholics united during a symposium on April 18 on human trafficking, hosted by Saint Michael and All Angels in Dallas.
The symposium provided information about human slavery, particularly in the North Texas region. “Human trafficking is happening right here in plain sight,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told the 200 participants. The side effects of trafficking -- physical abuse, drug abuse and unwanted pregnancies -- will drain city, state and federal resources, he noted.
Other expert speakers asked the participants to realize that human slavery goes beyond commercial sex to include servitude in domestic households, agricultural workers, nail salons and other industries.
Archbishop David Moxon, director of the Anglican Center in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Vatican, told the group to broaden their definition of slavery to meet the following -- no passport, no income and no freedom. He urged everyone to think about taking action. “We cannot lie idle, we cannot remain speechless,” he said.
Episcopal Diocese of Dallas Bishop Suffragan Paul Lambert said after the symposium that he was pleased to be part of the ecumenical effort and noted that involving faith-based groups will help not only shine a light on the problem but help develop solutions to end it.
“By working together as children of Christ, we can unite our resources, our intellects and our hearts to eliminate this heinous problem,” he said.
The effort to face the issue of human slavery began with a declaration signed last December by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Pope Francis and Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish leaders to commit to the eradication of slavery together.
“The challenge to people of faith all over the world is clear: we are called to rise up and walk with those who are enslaved, to journey with them on the pathway to freedom,” Welby wrote for the symposium. “This will mean educating ourselves about their plight, working together to act locally and globally and inviting others to work with us.”
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori also wrote a message to the symposium expressing her gratitude to Saint Michael and All Angels’ congregation for tackling the issue with passion.
She also noted that the Episcopal Church has established a church-wide webpage of resources.
“This evil’s form is legion: sex trafficking, bonded labor or servitude, forced marriage, chattel slavery, mail order brides, organ harvesting, illegal adoption, child soldiers, begging and petty crimes, pornography and other expressions,” she wrote. “Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal activities of our age.”
Tammy Thomas, an Arlington, Texas police officer and member of the North Texas Anti-Human Trafficking Team told anecdotes from the trenches about human trafficking in the region and its impact on the victims, their families and society.
“We need everyone’s help,” she said. “Human trafficking destroys a person’s dignity. It reduces humans to property. We can take a stand and make a difference.”