September was Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Houston. What began as Human Trafficking Awareness Week in September 2007 has expanded to a month-long series of events to call attention to and raise awareness about the prevalence of human trafficking. During “Faith and Freedom” week, the Dominican Sisters of Houston hosted a Labyrinth Walk for Freedom on Sept. 16, inviting community members and friends to join them in praying for an end to human trafficking.
Durrell Thomas, director of development for United Against Human Trafficking, opened the evening with an overview of the organization and the name change from Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition. The new name identifies the coalition members as working together to raise awareness and provide services toward of goal of bringing an end to human trafficking. Margaret Harle then gave a brief introduction to the labyrinth for those who were experiencing this form of prayer for the first time. Following a prayer that included a litany calling to mind the women, men and children exploited by the many forms of slave labor, attendees were invited to walk.
Paintings from the “Look Beneath the Surface” traveling art exhibit were set up around the exterior of the labyrinth. The exhibit opened in 2005 at the Galleria in Houston. Local artists, including Dominican Sisters and students from St. Agnes Academy, were invited to interpret the stories and experiences of victims of human trafficking in an effort to share the realities of modern day slavery. The exhibit is now the property of United Against Human Trafficking and is available to coalition members holding awareness events. Participants stopped to reflect on the various paintings on their labyrinth journeys.
“Humanity Betrayed” by Sisters Benignus Galiano, OP, and Camilla Micheletti, OP, reminds us that “no one has the right to control the body and spirit of another person. To promise a better life to vulnerable individuals who are unaware and unsuspecting of the fiendish purposes of the perpetrators of human trafficking is a betrayal of humanity.”