Vincentian View: Raising awareness of human trafficking

Fr. Patrick J. Griffin, CM, Special to the Torch

The annual discussion surrounding the Super Bowl and human trafficking continued this year. Whatever the final facts, it has the advantage of calling our attention to this dehumanizing and sinful situation.

Human trafficking refers to the buying and selling of human beings. Sometimes, it relates to the sex trade, other times it concerns forced labor. It can relate to the abuse of women, the molestation of children or the enslavement of men and women. It always deals with the brutalizing of a human being.

In these months, numerous opportunities are provided for our University community to become familiar with the breadth and depth of this pestilence. Last Tuesday, the film “A Path Appears” was shown on campus and followed by a discussion led by Lima James of LifeWay Network. The film and discussion focused solely upon trafficking within the USA. Explanations were offered as to how people wind up being trafficked, what happens to them and what steps are possible for recovering them. A truly genuine education.

Right now, we are offering “Shut Out Trafficking” week at SJU. It runs from Monday, Feb. 6 through Saturday, Feb. 11. On Wednesday, we will pray for those suffering from this scourge. Thursday will present another film, “Not My Life,” with pizza and conversation in DAC 307 during common hour. On Saturday, during halftime of the SJU basketball game at Madison Square Garden, we will host a ceremony calling attention to trafficking.

A “Human Trafficking Conference” will take place at SJU on Saturday, April 1, from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. This day will include a live performance of a play on trafficking, the witness of a survivor and other discussion on this urgent matter.

Concern about the issue of human trafficking and compassion for its victims has a central place at our Vincentian University. You will notice that St. Vincent is often portrayed with a child in his arms— look in front of Newman Hall, for example, or at the mosaic and stained glass window in St. Thomas More Church. This portrayal reflects his concern for the foundlings—the abandoned children—of his day.  It was a work in which Louise de Marillac and the Daughters of Charity as well as the Ladies of Charity became deeply engaged, where she is also portrayed in the church mosaic. Vincent was aware of how these infants were sold and abused. With the help of his women collaborators, these endangered children were rescued from this seventeenth-century trafficking.

Vincent was also aware of the way in which those who came to Paris as a result of war and famine were at risk. He worked to provide shelter, food, clothing and work for these people who had no other resources. Vincent understood human trafficking, though would never have used that term.

In this year in which we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism, we are reminded once again by circumstances within our country and our world that Vincent was not an “ivory tower” saint. We are also invited to recognize the ways in which he engaged others in the service of those in need. This call continues to echo around our campus through information and invitation.