Last week, on January 31st, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, represented by the Congregational JPIC Office and sisters from El Puente Ministry, participated in the 3rd annual Sex Trafficking Awareness Day in Jefferson City at the State Capitol.
The event was sponsored by Senator Jamilah Nasheed, a strong advocate in the MO Senate for stronger anti-trafficking laws and support for victims and prevention. Around two dozen organizations for throughout the state the Missouri gathered together in the morning to share information and resources about human trafficking. The CCVI Congregational JPIC Office shared prayer resources, educational resources, and information about US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, a network of religious life working to end human trafficking and support survivors, of which we are members.
In the afternoon there was a rally where attendees heard from various legislators and government employees including Rep Tracy McCreery, Rep Bruce Franks Jr., Rep Jean Evans, Senator Gina Walsh, Senator Bob Onder, Senator Ron Richard, and Senator Jamilah Nasheed. MO Attorney General Josh Hawley gave a passionate speech about his dedication to ending all sex trafficking in Missouri and the efforts he has led in the past year including bringing together a coalition of business owners, non-profits, politicians, and law enforcement officials.
One of the most powerful testimonies shared was that of Chiquita Tillman, a survivor of sex trafficking. She courageously shared her story of how she ran away from an abusive household when she was just 15 years old, only to be found and exploited by two different pimps over the next year. She was finally able to escape thanks to a caring stranger who’s family ended up adopting her. She struggled for many years after that with the trauma she still carried from when she was trafficked, until she was finally able to receive counseling services. She is now the owner of Rubies INK, LLC and shares about her past to help prevent other young girls from becoming victims. She is also a strong advocate for more survivor resources and works to empower survivors in their own recovery journeys.
Overall it was a powerful and inspirational day of joining together with others in the fight to end sex trafficking in Missouri and support survivors. Senator Nasheed shared in her closing remarks that she hopes this tradition will continue in years to come, even after she is out of office.
About the International Day of Prayer and awareness against human trafficking:
“The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General has designated February 8 as an annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking. February 8 is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once Josephine was freed, she became a Canossian nun and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She was declared a Saint in 2000.
On February 8, Catholics all over the world are encouraged to host or attend prayer services to create greater awareness about this phenomenon. Through prayer, we not only reflect on the experiences of those that have suffered through this affront to human dignity, but also comfort, strengthen, and help empower survivors.”
Prayer for and end to Human Trafficking
Oh God, we didn’t see them.
But you did.
The hundreds and thousands of human beings
Trafficked each year to join the millions who are trapped in
Under terrible conditions, they work in factories, plow fields,
harvest crops, work quarries, fill brothels, clean homes, and haul water.
Many are children with tiny fingers for weaving rugs
and small shoulders for bearing rifles.
Their labor is forced, their bodies beaten, their faces hidden
from those who don’t really want to see them.
But you see them all, God of the poor.
You hear their cry and you answer
by opening our eyes, and breaking our hearts
and loosening our tongues to insist:
No mas. No more.
Source: Prayer for an end to Human trafficking, CRS