By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Associates of the School Sisters of Notre Dame are joining with Mississippians against Human Trafficking and the Catholic Charities Faith in Action (FIAT) Team to offer a one-day symposium on human trafficking on Saturday, August 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St Mary of the Pines retreat center in Chatawa.
A joint study conducted in Mississippi indicates that human trafficking is an active industry in the state. Building awareness of the signs of trafficking and establishing relationships between advocates and law enforcement can help combat the problem.
Debbie Shinskie, one of the speakers at this event, is the respect life coordinator for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In her diocese, teams of people praying outside abortion clinics became concerned about groups of girls coming in with the same older man. It turns out, their pro-life work to oppose abortion became an outreach to those who had been trafficked as well. In June of 2017 Shinske wrote a column about her efforts which was published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Dioceses around the country are developing various ways to respond to this urgent situation. The Archdiocese of New Orleans’ local response is part of a comprehensive approach modeled on the U.S. bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, the Catholic blueprint for respect life activities at the national and local levels.
“In addition to raising public awareness about sex trafficking, the multi-faceted approach includes a train-the-trainer element. Recent statistics indicate that 87 percent of trafficking survivors had contact with a healthcare provider during the time they were being trafficked, with 57 percent of these situations involving a women’s clinic, urgent care facility, or some other type of neighborhood clinic.
Catholic healthcare providers, those who pray and counsel outside abortion facilities, and others who might encounter trafficking victims are getting the training they need to recognize and assist victims,” she wrote. Shinsky will speak at this workshop on the use of social media in trafficking.
Ashlee Lucas, who works in the Mississippi branch of the Department of Homeland Security will speak about how law enforcement works with local communities to combat this problem. Sue Allen, coordinator for Parish Social Ministry for Catholic Charities will offer insight into labor trafficking.
The day will end with some reflection on next steps. The cost is $10 and includes lunch. Register by calling Chris at 301-266-0433 or Anne at 225-223-8408.