PORTLAND – January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, created over a decade ago by President Barack Obama to raise awareness about human trafficking, particularly how this crime can be prevented.

Calculated as a $150 billion industry, human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery and occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion to control another person for the purpose of soliciting labor or services against his/her will. There are an estimated 40.3 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. The elimination of human trafficking is a priority issue for the Catholic Church as every life is a gift from God and is sacred, it deserves to be protected and nurtured.

Convened by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Migration and Refugee Services, the Coalition of Catholic Organizations against Human Trafficking consists of over 35 national and international agencies working to end human trafficking and support survivors. CCOAHT members advocate for stronger state and federal legislation, promote trauma-informed and survivor-centered services for victims, raise public consciousness, and press the private sector and consumers to prioritize slave-free supply chains.

Here are outreach resources and online education regarding this topic for your use:

Dates to remember:

Wednesday, Jan. 11: National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, a commemoration that seeks to increase understanding among Americans that human trafficking happens in states and communities across the United States.

Tuesday, Feb. 7: A webinar by the USCCB will be held entitled “St. Josephine Bakhita: A Saint for Victims and Survivors of Human Trafficking” from 2-3 p.m. Participants will learn more about human trafficking issues, including policy issues, trends, and awareness. To register for the free webinar, visit https://usccb.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_NAk60Y9HRiGkEVwWFqB23Q.

Wednesday, Feb. 8: Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita. Born in the Darfur region of Sudan in 1869, St. Bakhita was kidnapped and enslaved as a child. Eventually she was sold to an Italian diplomat and taken to Italy, where she valiantly asserted her freedom with the help of the Cannossian Sisters of Venice. Through her faith, St. Bakhita realized the promise of liberty inherent in the human spirit. She lived out the rest of her life as a Cannossian sister, sharing her empowering testimony of human freedom and dignity. The Catholic Church has designated her feast as the World Day of Prayer, Reflection, and Action against Human Trafficking.

All the above resources can also be found at www.portlanddiocese.org/HumanTraffickingAwareness. With encouragement from Pope Francis, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General encourage all to remember and pray for survivors and victims of modern-day slavery, praying that we may “work together to remove the causes of this disgraceful scourge that is present in all our cities and neighborhoods.”