By McKenna Hendrickson ’17
When we think of nuns, we think of teachers, monochromatic habits, and women dedicating their lives to convents. What we don’t think of are covert missions to rescue victims of human trafficking. The work of a network of 1, 100 religious sisters would prove us wrong.
The group, known as Talitha Kum, started in 2004 when feelings arose in the Catholic community that not enough was being done by any government worldwide to stop the issue of human trafficking, and primarily forced prostitution. Since then, the sisters have come from many different religious orders around the globe. They do not give one-on-one interviews because they do not wish to sensationalize their work. They see their work against human trafficking rings as a simple service to God, not something to be applauded.
Despite their humility, there is no denying that the impact the sisters have is enormous in the fight against human trafficking.They currently operate in 140 countries. Their strategy is to pose as parts of the organizations themselves. Many sisters have posed as prostitutes or interested buyers, and later staged escapes for those in bondage. They are also trying to stop human sale at the source, by setting up homes in Africa, the Philippines, Brazil, and India to shelter poor children whose families can no longer care for them, as well as children who have already been enslaved for some time.
As recently stated in the Christian Science Monitor, the International Labor Organization reports that nearly 21 million people, including children, live in slavery worldwide, many of them trafficked by gangs for sex work and unskilled labor. However, according to Catholic.org, Talitha Kum estimates one percent of the world’s population is trafficked in some form – and that represents about 73 million people, of which 70 percent are women and half are age 16 or younger.
Recently, Thomas Reuters reported that the sisters are expanding their operations into policy and analysis. They have started partnering with private philanthropic organizations to study the supply chain of human trafficking, and they are imploring world leaders to look more critically on those who buy enslaved people or are patrons of human trafficking rings, instead of harshly punishing those forced to work in them as is the custom.
While the exact number of people rescued is unclear, it is considered to be somewhere in the hundreds of thousands, Catholic.org reports. The sisters are one of the most effective anti-human trafficking organizations in the world. Their bravery and dedication to women and children around the world reflects the changing dynamics of religious orders and how nuns are expected to follow their vocation. So whenever you see a nun, don’t just expect her to be bound to the walls of a convent. You never know, she might be an undercover spy infiltrating brothels and saving the lives of countless women.
During Respect Life Week, members of Immaculate Heart’s Campus Ministry Leadership Team shared statistics with students on topics ranging from human trafficking, to sexual violence against women, to bullying.