February, 2024 Monthly Reflection

What I Learned from January Human Trafficking Awareness Month, now that it’s February!

By Judy Molosky, CSJ

For me, the month started out reading that our own President Biden proclaimed January 2024, as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. He reminded us that more than 27 million people around the world “endure the abhorrent abuse of human trafficking and forced labor, including thousands right here in the United States.” And my month ended with our Los Angeles County Sheriff, Robert Luna, announcing the results of a “sting” operation called Reclaim and Rebuild-conducted January 21-27- when more than 500 arrests were made in a weeklong statewide anti-Human trafficking operation. Authorities made 539 arrests, including 40 suspected “sexual traffickers or exploiters” and 271 suspected “sex buyers”. Also 54 adults and 11 juveniles were rescued including a 14-year-old girl. What a month! These two January book-end announcements made me ask, what can one person do in the light of such enormous crimes against humanity?

I was happy to know after consulting Sister Kathleen Bryant, longtime advocate of trafficked persons, that the L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and many agencies help out the police during this type of sting. Both medical and legal services are offered to those who want help as well as ensuring that a survivor is present to help alleviate fear. Kathleen also shared about a “John School” where former trafficked victims talk about their experience to those arrested for soliciting sex in lieu of prosecution. Healing and rehabilitation is offered on many levels to those found during the operation. That’s great, but what can I do besides join this Task Force?

Fortunately, every January the Southern California Partners for Global Justice, and CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking) co-sponsor a Walk for Freedom where we take over Hollywood streets chanting “Stop Human Trafficking! People are not for sale!” High schoolers and college students talk to neighbors and shop owners, giving them the 24 hour hotline (1.888.373.7888) urging all, “if you see something say something.” This year special guests from AEHT joined us, E.D., Katie Boller Gosewisch and President Emerita, Sr. Ann Oestreich, IHM. Aniother participant on our walk was AEHT member, Fr. Paul Spellman who was inspired to write his February Parish Bulletin piece championing the efforts of women religious and people of faith to act on the words of Pope Francis: “Human Trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.”  I thank God for our outspoken Pope and for committed people like Fr. Paul, Sr. Kathleen, and all members of AEHT who “walk the talk” to raise awareness of the horrors of Human Trafficking.

I call on all of us to PRAY to end this crime against humanity as we walk, write and join others on behalf of human trafficking victims. For February and the rest of the year, I offer a poignant prayer from The Book of Joy:  Lasting Happiness in a Changing World featuring a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  Both men experienced tremendous personal pain and hardship throughout their lives but share with the world a powerful sense of purpose and hope.

They say and I pray, “Discovering wholeness, healing, and joy do not save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak.  In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive.  Yet as we are healed and discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters.  We have hardship without becoming hard.  We have heartbreak without being broken.”