By Deirdre Pike
The dignity of the human person was a grounding principle for the recent diocesan forum, “Human Trafficking? Not in My Community!” From Bishop Susan Bell’s opening prayer to Archbishop Anne Germond’s concluding remarks, the 70 people in attendance were surely filled to overflowing with information on the issue, and compassion for the victims, when the session ended.
Paula Whitlow, executive director of Hamilton’s Native Women’s Centre, began the discussion with the fact, 50-51% of trafficked persons in Canada are Indigenous women and girls. Paula described the myriad services offered to women at the centre, including Healing Our Sisters, specific support to human trafficking victims. She explained how important it is to let the women seeking refuge, “to just ‘be’ for the first few days after experiencing so much trauma.”
Just letting things ‘be’ over a cup of tea, is how Archdeacon Charlene Taylor began a relationship with the women’s services in her area offered by the Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP).
“You cannot become partners without having a relationship first,” she wisely warned, explaining how important it is to, “just sit and listen to what’s going on if you want to learn how you might be able to help.”
That approach led to a partnership which now includes free space from the diocese to house SHOP, the only sex worker advocacy program in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Testing the knowledge of the participants with true or false polls was one of the ways Dr. Andrea Mann, director of global relations for the Anglican Church of Canada, helped pass on her storehouse of knowledge on the big picture of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Andrea recommended the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking for its many resources to support the diocesan efforts to educate and advocate in this area.
Archbishop Anne Germond urged Christian leaders to use “holy imagination to see where the reign of God is already breaking into the world,” and connect to the “voices of courage” doing this work in local communities. She also had practical steps individuals can take to ensure they are living in ways congruent with a desire to end human trafficking.
“A human being is worth extravagant and lasting commitment,” stated the archbishop, quoting the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
The team of volunteers who put the forum together will be building on the momentum and messages from the evening and sharing next steps, including further educational opportunities and local resources, as they are developed.
Deirdre Pike is the diocesan program consultant for justice and outreach. If you are interested in joining this work or obtaining a link to the recording of the forum, please email her at email@example.com.