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Property. It is amazing that another human being could be viewed as property. Yet humans have treated other humans as property for a long time. It can be thought that the notion that another human being could be seen as property is something that is no longer true. But is it?
Consider these stories from the Trafficking in Persons Report from the United States Department of State.
Veronica left her indigenous community in Colombia for a domestic service position in the capital city, Bogotá. After arriving, her employer told her she would need to work for two months without a salary to repay her relocation expenses. Later, her employer forced Veronica to work for two years without pay as punishment for breaking a decorative vase in the home. She had to work 12-hour days and her movements were constantly restricted. After she escaped and a prosecutor brought charges against Veronica’s employer, the court ruled that Veronica was a victim of domestic servitude and a survivor of human trafficking.
Sofia was optimistic as she landed in Italy with her new fiancé, excited for the luxuries her rural Romanian village did not afford her. Soon after arriving, Sofia’s fiancé handed her an itemized bill for every meal, trip, and gift he had ever purchased for her. He told her she needed to reimburse him by engaging in commercial sex. He forced her to do so through threats, physical violence, and destroying her personal property. Sofia escaped back to Romania and is now receiving support at a shelter for trafficking survivors.
Madhu was thrilled when recruiters arrived in his Northern Indian village offering him easy, flexible work at a factory in Bangalore. After moving, he quickly realized the factory owners had lied about what his role and work conditions would be. Forbidden from leaving his work site, Madhu had no choice but to work 12-hour shifts packaging chemicals under hazardous conditions. While the factory owners paid Madhu a small daily salary, they physically threatened him, forced him to work when ill, and restricted all his movements for four years. When local police learned he was not allowed to return home or travel without consent from his employer, they required the factory owners to release him. Madhu returned to his village, but law enforcement have not pressed charges against the factory.
Needing money to help purchase a home and start a family, Kim’s parents accepted a small loan from the owner of the brick kiln where they worked. For years thereafter, the kiln owner used the debt to coerce and manipulate Kim’s family to continue to work. When Kim was 12, she began working with her parents to help pay off the debt. Twenty years later, her family’s debt has grown to more than twice their average annual income, which has left Kim with no option but to put her own 11-year-old son to work at the kiln as well. Kim fears her family will never escape their trafficker.
As a 17-year-old orphan living on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, Huy sold lottery tickets and slept outdoors in unsanitary conditions. An older acquaintance offered him a well-paying job abroad, which he declined. Despite his refusal, the man seized and bound Huy and transported him to a windowless warehouse in China. There men beat and tortured Huy; when he tried to escape, a guard poured boiling water over his chest and arms. After three months, Huy’s captors smuggled him to the United Kingdom and forced him to work without pay for an illegal cannabis garden. The traffickers physically abused and starved him when he did not meet his quota. Huy eventually escaped by breaking a second story window, jumping out of the house, and running until he found a train station.
These are but a few of the very many stories. But they make clear that we still fail to see every human being as made in the image and likeness of God. As we continue this Rosary Marathon, let us pray for all victims of violence and human trafficking.
Today’s Intention: For all victims of violence and human trafficking.