Our Congregation is part of the Southern California Partners for Global Justice and so many of us attended the Symposium on Child Trafficking on March 10th.
We were blessed to have Srs. Mary Christian and Pereka Nyirenda with us as they were in California visiting the Congregation in this part of the world at the time. We were also delighted to have some colleagues and members of the human trafficking committee from St. Columban’s parish, Garden Grove, join us. Many high school and college youth attended and let their voices be heard! One group started a club to fight trafficking when they were 14 years old and they were energetically present with their custom made tee shirts.
The keynoter, Sandy Morgan, is a university professor and member of the Orange County Trafficking Task Force. We were reminded about the four “P’s” to help abolish trafficking: Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership! Sandy focused on the commercial sexual exploitation of children and pointed out that our runaways and children in foster care are most vulnerable to traffickers. According to a 2011 study, there are 200,000 homeless youths in California alone. The brain development that signals the ability to make sound decisions doesn’t take place in girls until they are 18 to 21 years of age; and in boys until they are 24 to 26 years of age. The average age of introduction to pornography is 11. Sandy challenged us not to use the word “prostitute” for any girl or boy under the age of 18 since they are victims of sexual exploitation. The best way to fight this crime is reducing demand and increasing child protection.
We listened to the stories of survivors who were trafficked in their youth. A speaker from the State Department came and gave us some facts and background information. The Roades, young adults who are trying to raise awareness about Kony and child soldiers in Uganda also gave a talk. We were moved by the YouTube video Kony2012 that has gone viral but found out later that the issues are more complex and US military intervention, even if in an “advisory” capacity, is not good for Uganda.
We were challenged to move into action in the afternoon and share what we will commit to raise awareness and protect our youth. Sr. Kathleen, who is the co-chair of the Partners for Global Justice facilitated a review of the day as well as a “debriefing” session at a local Mexican restaurant for the planners, which was definitely a lot of fun and not all serious!
You can read more about our day as it was covered in the Catholic Press throughout the USA.