A record crowd gathered Oct. 12 at St. Joseph in Marion to pray, share fellowship, listen, learn and celebrate at the 90th annual convention of the Belleville Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.
Msgr. Thomas Flach, pastor at St. Joseph and St. Paul in Johnston City, welcomed the BDCCW to Marion, “the hub of the universe.”
This year the organization followed the theme: “Mercy, a Bridge Connecting God, Ourselves and Others.”
Keynote speaker, Amanda Mohl is the Anti-Trafficking Community Coordinator at the International Institute of St. Louis. She is an organizer for the St. Louis Rescue and Restore coalition.
Mohl explained to her listeners that they need to be aware of human trafficking in the area, how to report it and what to do to help victims.
First, everyone needs to be aware of the problem, Mohl said. Often people think this does not happen in the Midwest, and certainly not southern Illinois.
That’s a false assumption. People are exploited for a number of reasons, Mohl said, including: for commercial sex or forced labor.
“It does not need to include moving the victim,” she said. Victims can be controlled with force, fraud or coercion.
Although most people would think it only involves foreign born victims, it also includes U. S. citizens and those who have been naturalized.
“It’s modern-day slavery,” Mohl said.
Because victims are frightened and cooperative with their captors, Mohl said it is difficult to identify trafficking. “Victims are considered a reusable, resalable and dispensable commodity and readily replaceable,” she said.
Some parents traffic their children to pay debts while others are promised “the American dream,” which then turns into a nightmare for them.
Some signs to watch for: people who seem to be under the control of another. People who are not allowed to speak with someone alone. They might be kept under surveillance.
Victims may have tattoos or brands showing “ownership” of that person.
More information is available at stoptraffickingmo-il.org