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February 4, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – Modern-day slavery – including labor trafficking and sex trafficking – is a worldwide plague, bringing in billions of dollars in illegal profits every year to criminals and enslaving 5.4 victims for every 1,000 people.

Those were the staggering statistics mentioned during a panel discussion by members of the Lenawee County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition. The virtual presentation, “A Closer Look at Human Trafficking,” was held during Human Trafficking Prevention Month on January 26, 2022. Two Adrian Dominican Sisters were presenters.

Laura Schultz Pipis, co-facilitator of the Coalition and Associate Director of United Way of Monroe and Lenawee Counties, opened the program by offering resources to participants who might be triggered by the dark topic of human trafficking. She also facilitated the question and answer session that followed.

Amanda Davis Scott, Program Director of the Lenawee County Child Advocacy Center, said victims from throughout the world are trafficked in a variety of ways, either for sexual exploitation or to provide a number of services, from construction and domestic work to work in hotels. 

“Anyone can be the victim of human trafficking,” Amanda said, but certain groups are more vulnerable, including people of color, children in foster care, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and low-income people. Parents striving to provide for their families could be tricked into sending off one of their children to another country for what they are told is an opportunity for a better life. 

Amanda also described the various ways that traffickers exert control over their victims: threats to harm other victims or their families; confinement, often in a place where the victims don’t know the language; isolation from families and friends; and physical and sexual abuse.

Also on the panel were Adrian Dominican Sisters Patricia McDonald, OP, and Marilyn Winter, OP, both involved in the Coalition. 

Sister Patricia McDonald, OP

“Human trafficking is a crime against humanity,” said Sister Patricia, Professor of Counseling Education at Siena Heights University. “We are coming to a conscious awareness of what this is and what we can do. …This is an awakening in us as a people.”

Sister Patricia pointed to some red flags that could warn concerned citizens that a person they are encountering is a human trafficking victim: bruises in various stages of healing, an excessively submissive demeanor, and even an inappropriately quiet stance. She also explained a silent signal that victims might use to tell others that they are trafficked: putting their thumb into their hand and their hands down.

“If you see it, say it,” Sister Patricia said. “Turn it over to legal authorities. It’s up to us to do what we can, where we can, in all ways we can. Let’s join forces and help make our society better for all of humanity.”

Sister Marilyn Winter, OP

Sister Marilyn Winter, OP, Co-Facilitator of the Coalition, noted the “perfect storm” that makes human trafficking possible: a person who has power, a person who is vulnerable, and an ignorant public. 

“A lot of times, trafficking is so invisible and involved in places that we would never think is open to trafficking,” Sister Marilyn said. She gave the example of some orphanages, where children can be illegally adopted, and travel tourism in poor areas, where children are set up to sell small items to tourists – for the benefit of the trafficker. “Trafficking is moving its tentacles into many aspects of life,” she said. “The more people become aware of the evil of trafficking, the better off the world will be.”

The Adrian Dominican Sisters have long been involved in efforts to combat human trafficking and in December 2008 approved a corporate stance “to educate ourselves and others regarding the magnitude, causes, and consequences of this abuse.”


February 2, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – The Dominican Charism of preaching truth can bring healing and wholeness to our polarized world, just as St. Dominic brought healing to the troubled Cathars of his time by his gentle preaching the Gospel. 

That was the message of Sister Carol Johannes, OP, in her January 25, 2022, live stream presentation, “The Dominican Charism.” Her talk was part of a monthly series of presentations sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Spirituality Committee.

What people today most need to hear to be fully human, holy, and happy is the message that “God exists as total loving, merciful, and self-giving gift to humankind, as revelation, self-communication through our ever-evolving, holy, mysterious universe,” said Sister Carol, a spiritual director and former Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

Sister Carol pointed to St. Dominic as an example of how to live out our call to preach the Gospel. During a diplomatic trip to the South of France, St. Dominic and Bishop Diego brought the message of a loving God to Cathars, sincere people who were misled by the Manichaen heresy of an evil god and a good God, she said. The heresy claims that the created world is the realm of the evil god.

“Dominic was overcome with compassion when he encountered an entire society which was lost in guilt, in sadness, and in heaviness,” Sister Carol said. “This passion to bring the healing word of the Gospel to those who never received it is the priority linked to the [Dominican] Order’s preaching mission, and it is a constitutive element of the Dominican Charism.”

Sister Carol contrasted St. Dominic’s approach to the Cathars with that of the ecclesiastical leaders of the Church, who “chose to use force to threaten and compel a return to orthodoxy.” For his part, she said, St. Dominic approached the Cathars humbly and took the time to listen to them. 

“Dominic was essentially a nonviolent man who chose to exercise power and authority by really listening to others, by allowing himself to be touched, changed, and formed by what he heard, and by trusting in the presence of the Holy Spirit and in the free choices of people striving to live the Gospel,” she said. He used that same approach in his leadership of the Friars in the Order of Preachers.

Sister Carol spoke of how our fractured world would benefit if leaders in today’s global, national, and ecclesiastical communities were to imitate St. Dominic’s stance. Leadership in those venues “often boils down to a simple power struggle … and tends too often to be the domination-subjection model” seen throughout history, she said. “It could well be that [St. Dominic’s] mode of leadership with its practice of prayerful, patient, respectful consensual decision-making shows contemporary society the way to transformation and healing.”

Watch Sister Carol’s entire presentation below.
 

 


 

 

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