Human trafficking to be focus of 2014 Lent campaign

WCRC logoA consultation in Cuba on the international trade in human beings for profit has concluded with a call for a campaign to make churches aware of the scale, causes and impact of what is commonly referred to as “human trafficking.” Plans are to launch an awareness-raising campaign during Lent 2014 to draw attention to the issue.

“There is no region that can say this issue doesn’t concern them,” says the consultation organizer, Dora Arce-Valentín. “During the consultation we even realized that we might be unknowingly complicit in the illegal trade ourselves. For example, our domestic helper might have been trafficked or someone may not know they have received a transplant organ from a donor who was trafficked to harvest his or her organs.”

Arce-Valentín heads the Office for Justice and Partnership of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. The organization is known for its stance – based in the Christian faith – on gender rights, environmental protection and the need for economic transformation.

Twenty-five participants from 17 countries convened for a three-day consultation at the Matanzas Theological Seminary, 18-20 March. Most are members of WCRC’s two justice networks: one with a focus on gender rights, the other focused on economic and environmental concerns. The consultation in Cuba was called in order for WCRC to plan a strategy of response to an issue which Arce-Valentín says is deeply interconnected with economic, ecological and gender concerns.

The programme featured input by Ryan Smith of the United Nations Office in New York supported by WCRC and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who provided participants with an overview of the global scope of the problem: human trafficking is second only to drug trafficking in profits for illegal traders.

Naeisha John, a lawyer working with the Grenada Conference of Churches on human trafficking concerns, explained the regional challenges and responses to the problem. Participants completed the picture with input about the situation in their respective regions.

In response, WCRC’s two justice networks agreed to cooperate on a joint action strategy. Proposals include a campaign during Lent 2014 to raise awareness of the issue among WCRC member churches, encourage solidarity with anti-trafficking activities already underway at the local, regional and global levels, and provide a solid theological basis for action.

“We are people of faith and we want to create the theological tools that will help us understand why we should stand against the practice of human trafficking,” says Arce-Valentín.

The Cuban theologian noted that WCRC’s declaration of economic, human and environmental rights called the ‘Accra Confession’ provides a solid base for this theological reflection.

Plans are for WCRC’s social justice networks to work closely with the organization’s theology office to create a website of resources for Lent 2014 including liturgies, Bible study, and videos as well as links to existing resources.

“We’d like to start it off with a competition inviting youth in our member churches to create a logo for the anti-trafficking campaign,” says Arce-Valentín.

The networks’ proposals are to be presented to WCRC’s Executive Committee at its meetings in May in Dodowa, Ghana.

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