Super Bowl message: Stand up against trafficking

aymond    Before the Super Bowl, you will be joining Gayle and Tom Benson and city officials in a public service announcement on TV with the goal of raising awareness about the shadowy but extremely organized business of human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution. Experts say many young girls are forced into prostitution, and studies show that thousands are brought into a town that hosts a major sporting event.
    We know from many reports and studies that human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution is very prominent in a city where a national event of this magnitude takes place. No sporting event in the United States is bigger than the Super Bowl, and whenever there is a large influx of people, the demand and solicitation for sex skyrockets. What we in New Orleans probably don’t realize is that this human trafficking is a dominant problem in our city every year during Mardi Gras, which this year will take place nine days after the Super Bowl. In talking with members of the community, we felt it was important for us as the people of God to take a stand and raise awareness that this is going on. I mentioned this to Mr. and Mrs. Benson, and they eagerly agreed to be a part of this awareness campaign. The PSA gives us an opportunity to say that the Super Bowl and athletic competition are good, but as Christians we cannot justify human trafficking, which is really a form of modern-day slavery.
    There was a report that last year’s Super Bowl attracted about 10,000 prostitutes.
    Yes, I’ve heard those figures. As a church that is strongly committed to pro-life issues, we vow to respect the dignity of human life and to reverence human life from the moment of conception to natural death. This is a pro-life issue. Anyone who participates in human trafficking – the practice of employing another person, especially minors, for sex – is participating in a serious moral evil. We hear about these things taking place in other countries – especially when we hear about children being sold for sex – and we think of it as a terrible evil. But sometimes we don’t realize that it’s happening in our own backyard.
    Is it important to realize this is an issue that afflicts the city on the 364 other days of the year?
    Certainly, one would be led to imagine that New Orleans, because of some of its places of entertainment, would be one of the cities in the United States that would be more prone to having this. But no matter how many people are used in human trafficking, one is one too many. Even if it’s just one person, we as God’s people must speak out for a greater respect for that person and speak out against using people. I am also grateful to the religious sisters and brothers in our region for joining me in taking a public stand on this issue. The letter we published in the Clarion Herald on Dec. 22 gives details on our concerns.
    Were you surprised when you heard that women get involved in prostitution when they are minors as young as 12 years old?
    It is a terrible form of child abuse. Some young children get involved in prostitution for money when they run away from home or are on the street. Other times they are pushed into it by a parent or pressured into it by a pimp who befriends them, grooms them and then forces them through threats and drug abuse to remain under his control. It’s an insidious business. What children are introduced to can very easily become a way of life. What they see as a way of making a living can poison their minds and their hearts at such a young age. It’s truly an act of evil.
    What is the PSA’s purpose?
    The purpose is to expose the darkness to the light. On a societal level, I hope people will see these messages and be on the lookout for signs of human trafficking and report them to the police. The hotline number is 888-373-7888. Also, some people who are attracted to this activity perhaps will see the messages on television and use their consciences, think through this and not participate. We as a church and as a society need to stand up and say this is wrong and offer a way out.
    Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to clarionherald@clarionherald.org.

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