Submitted by Sister Emma Jean Middendorf
Social justice issues are everywhere in this world. The crying needs of people caught in the Industrial Revolution as it swept his native Germany haunted our founder, Bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler. His sermons, strong, forceful words, rang out in the Saint Martin Cathedral in Mainz, calling people to responsible actions, calling authorities to improve the deplorable conditions of the workplace. He demanded a just wage for the worker and an end to child labor. He championed the rights of his people. Ketteler’s writings are as relevant today as they were over 150 years ago.
Social justice issues today include poverty, the right to life, inequalities in education, women’s rights, human trafficking, fair housing—the list encompasses all aspects of the human condition. We, the daughters of Ketteler, have inherited his passion for service to those in need.
“The Sisters of Divine Providence have a corporate commitment to promote a consistent ethic of life. One life issue is Human Trafficking, sometimes referred to as modern-day slavery. The Sisters and Associates arrived at making a corporate stance on Human Trafficking in November 2008.” [Provincial Statement]
The LCWR Region 1 in the Boston Area sponsored a Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (SOAP) outreach campaign on April 12, led by its founder, Theresa Flores. Ms. Flores, a survivor of human trafficking, is the author of The Slave Across the Street. The Saint Joseph Sisters of Boston offered their motherhouse for the campaign, and many volunteers [see the picture on this page] labeled and packaged small soaps to be distributed to hotels and motels in Boston and in surrounding cities. Information folders were given to each hotel, which included a poster of missing children from eastern Massachusetts who may have been trafficked. The poster also provides clues to recognize instances where trafficking might be happening in the hotel, as well as phone numbers to help rescue victims. The label attached to the soap has the National Human Trafficking Hotline number, 1-888-373-888.
Volunteers dropped off folders and bags containing 150 packaged soaps to their assigned hotels (it was suggested that the labeled soaps be placed in an accessible area for hotel visitors). Most of the hotels accepted the soaps, but some indicated that corporate policy doesn’t allow for this type of handout. All hotels accepted the folders and expressed their willingness to help alleviate this rampant problem. According to statistics, an estimated 1.5 million people are caught in the web of human trafficking.
Theresa Flores has a mission and a passion to save young girls from the experience she endured. Her travels have taken her to many parts of the world. I was privileged to be a part of the SOAP campaign.