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Sisters Act: How nuns are fighting human trafficking

Filed under: Features |

MANILA, August 1, 2014 – Religious women can help crack down on human trafficking crimes. This is the reason why an international network against human trafficking is going all out in its recruitment of nuns to help in the fight against this cross-country exploitation.

“Religious women should take part in fighting human trafficking in the Philippines and other countries,” Sr. Mary Adel Abamo, Sisters of the Divine Savior (SDS), who is main animator of Talitha Kum for Southeast Asia and the Philippines, urged fellow nuns to join the campaign against human trafficking.

In the Philippines, Talitha Kum comprises the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN); Women’s Ministry of the Diocese of Iligan; Carmelite Sisters of Charity of Vedruna in Tagaytay and the Women’s Ecological Center of the Oblate Sisters of Notre Dame in Kidapawan, Mindanao, among others. (Photo: Talitha Kum Network)

“Wide network”

According to Abamo’s analysis, congregations of nuns have a “wide network” which is crucial in fighting human trafficking.

This capacity to interconnect help from law enforcers and concerned non-government organizations was demonstrated when five young women on board a Jakarta-bound ship were saved from trafficking.

A Societas Verbi Divini (SVD) priest, who was also aboard the same vessel, perceived the women were in distress, Abamo said.

The priest approached them, who disclosed they sensed they were about to be trafficked.

He phoned nuns in Talitha Kum, who in turn, contacted the police. The women were fetched by the law enforcers at the seaport upon landing.

Another congregation offered temporary shelter, and kept in touch with Talitha Kum about their whereabouts, Abamo said.

The five women were returned to their parents in two days.

Sexual exploitation, forced labor, organ removal

“That’s the importance of setting up a network of religious women against human trafficking,” she said. “The nuns are capable of doing many things, and also religious men and laypeople.”

About 800, 000 to two million people are trafficked worldwide each year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global TIP Report in 2012.

Sixty percent of victims are women, 13 percent are men and 27 percent are minors, she said.

“The motives of human trafficking are sexual exploitation, forced labor, domestic servitude, and organ removal,” Abamo said.

The idea for the Talitha Kum network came about in 2007 when superior-generals from different congregations of religious women in different countries were alarmed by the growing incidence of trafficking in person worldwide, she said. The campaign officially started in 2009.

In the Philippines, Talitha Kum comprises different congregations of religious women, the Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking (PIMAHT) and law enforcers. (Oliver Samson)

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