Hello to you!
How quickly did this title catch your eye? This week we are going to discuss a recent statement from the Vatican about Christians’ duties to raise awareness about human trafficking. We will also take a closer look at a nonprofit organization in Massachusetts that is tirelessly working on this issue! So no, you did not misread the title…but go ahead and pour yourself another morning/afternoon cup of java anyways.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis greeted members of the Galileo Foundation at the Vatican: the Galileo Foundation is a group organized to “strive for a society where no one is left behind or deprived through poverty”, with a particular focus on eliminating modern slavery and human trafficking. This meeting fell near the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, who is the patroness of victims of human trafficking. Not only was February 8th this powerful lady’s day, but it was also the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking! The Pope used Saint Josephine’s life as an example for members of the Galileo Foundation and all of God’s Church when he insisted that her story was:
“A summons not only to fight with greater determination against modern forms of slavery which are an open wound on the body of society, a scourge upon the body of Christ and a crime against humanity, but also to learn from her great example.”
This is a compelling thought, Pope Francis, but how great of an issue is human trafficking nowadays? Aren’t we more civilized and beyond enslavement?
According to the International Labour Organization, there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally and forced labor accounts for a $150 billion worldwide industry. 81% of victims are forced in trapped labor, 25% are children, and 75% are women and girls. So, maybe the Vatican has a point here…
This is where coffee starts to come into the picture. Presented with all of this information, a group out of Western Massachusetts called the Amherst Project decided to get involved. As stated on their website, the Amherst Project “has a passion to end human trafficking by taking serious Jesus’ teachings to liberate the oppressed and have an others-focused approach to life.” Since 2008, they have collaborated with volunteers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst to operate what is now known as Freedom Cafe: a nonprofit coffee shop that donates 100% of proceeds to charitable causes working to end human trafficking.
Their mission is twofold: raise funds to rescue victims enslaved throughout the world and educate people about this issue. They are well on their way to doing just that - between 2012 and 2017, Freedom Cafe helped establish a vocational center in India for women who live in a region where sexual exploitation is prevalent. Through this center, they are learning skills to help them earn money and even start their own businesses. Eventually, they wish to help finance those enterprises through micro-loans and use repaid loans to jump start additional businesses. At the University of Massachusetts, they have involved more than 400 student volunteers in this project and organized over 90 educational events.
For all of these reasons, we are honoring the Freedom Cafe in this week’s blog. In their own unique and creative way, they are sustaining their mission to end human trafficking and attracting all kinds of people to unite behind their model. Not only are they pursuing justice one cup of coffee at a time, but they are doing so under the banner of Jesus’ call for each of us to tend to the most vulnerable among us. How’s that for filling your cup? Today, we raise our mug to Freedom Cafe and everyone fighting this good fight!
Peace to you.
Kelsey Rode, Saint Rita Shrine Office Administrator
To learn more about the topics and organizations discussed in this blog, or to support the Freedom Cafe, please visit the following sources: