Thursday, January 28, 2010

Justice: What Faith and Love Look Like in Public by Karen Beilstein

Many faith traditions around the world are rooted in the concepts of love, compassion, kindness, and charity. These values are the foundation on which the faithful take leadership roles in social justice efforts. With a long history of striving to make the world better for all who live here, we believe that Jewish, Protestant, Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu and so many other faith communities can play a key role in helping to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

On January 14, 2010, CAASE partnered with Illinois Rescue and Restore Coalition to present a faith-based Human Trafficking Training to engage faith communities in the Chicago area on issues surrounding human trafficking locally, nationally and internationally, and how faith communities can get involved to end such activity. Representatives from the Salvation Army’s STOP-IT initiative and the International Organization for Adolescents presented information at the gathering as well, making it an especially informative and engaging resource for communities of faith.

Many faith groups have taken up the cause of anti-slavery, becoming advocates for those entrenched in a perverse and exploitative system as modern-day slaves. Christian denominations, Jewish organizations, Catholic sisterhoods and countless others have all made statements against the atrocities involved with human trafficking.

I encourage you to find out what your faith tradition is doing and to consider how you can get involved. While a movement towards heightened awareness and progressive action has increasingly become apparent for many in their places of worship, there is still an urgent need for more of us to make a real difference.

Below are just a few examples of faith traditions that have made statements and begun efforts towards ending modern-day slavery. Please share with us your faith tradition’s efforts. We would love to link to your work.

Temple Committee Against Human Trafficking
Evangelical Covenant Church
Vineyard USA
Evangelical Lutheran Church

In addition, we offer to faith groups our newly created Communities of Faith Toolkits. We currently have Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant versions. We hope to have more versions soon in order to include and reach as many congregations as possible.

The purpose of the toolkits is to educate congregation members about the harms of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and work with them to identify ways to take action towards effective change.

The toolkits have information on prostitution and human trafficking and explains how they are related. There are also religious texts with responses and questions that can be used to help explore issues surrounding prostitution in a way that is spiritually relevant to your community, practical action steps that can be taken to eliminate the exploitation of people, a section of specific groups related to your faith that have taken positions against sexual exploitation, lists of related films and books to check out, and lists of organizations—both faith-based and secular—that are involved in working to end sexual harm.

What are some things you can do right now?

1. Continue learning about the issue – read books and websites, watch films, visit learning forums at local events.
2. Host a discussion with a survivor or expert on the issue. To schedule a representative from the Speakers Bureau to come and speak to your faith group, contact Grace Yi at
3. Host a movie screening for your congregation. For film recommendations, visit
4. Address the issue in a sermon or homily.
5. Build a relationship with your local government leaders – alderman, mayor, council members, senators, representatives.
6. Donate to and/or volunteer at your local organization.
7. Pray.
8. Contact us for more ideas ( and request our toolkit .

Prostitution and human trafficking are a violation of human rights that occur in neighborhoods all over Chicago and throughout Illinois. As long as people remain unaware of the extent and root cause of sexual exploitation, the violence and harm experienced by victims will continue to grow. Faith communities can be a vehicle for both awareness-raising and advocacy.