The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland is working to bring awareness to National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. “The elimination of human trafficking is a priority issue for the Catholic Church as every life is a gift from God and is sacred, it deserves to be protected and nurtured,” the diocese stated in a prepared release.

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month (January) was created over a decade ago by President Barack Obama to raise awareness about human trafficking, particularly how this crime can be prevented. Calculated as a $150 billion industry, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of soliciting labor or services against their will. There are an estimated 40.3 million victims of human trafficking worldwide.

The Diocese of Portland highlights three important dates:

• Jan. 11: National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, a commemoration that seeks to increase understanding among Americans that human trafficking happens in states and communities across the United States.

• Feb. 7: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ department of Migration and Refugee Services is hosting a webinar from 2-3 p.m. on the topic “St. Josephine Bakhita: A Saint for Victims and Survivors of Human Trafficking” to education participants on human trafficking issues, including policy issues, trends and awareness. Visit to register.

• Feb. 8: Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita. Born in the Darfur region of Sudan in 1869, St. Bakhita was kidnapped and enslaved as a child. Eventually, she was sold to an Italian diplomat and taken to Italy, where she valiantly asserted her freedom with the help of the Cannossian Sisters of Venice. Through her faith, St. Bakhita realized the promise of liberty inherent in the human spirit. She lived out the rest of her life as a Cannossian sister, sharing her empowering testimony of human freedom and dignity. The Catholic Church has designated her feast as the World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action against Human Trafficking.

The diocese has myriad resources online at, including information about the Coalition of Catholic Organizations against Human Trafficking; CourageLIVES, Maine’s first residential program for women over the age of 18 who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation; Stop Trafficking U.S., based in Standish; the Amistad Movement; Bridging Refugee Youth and Children Services; the Become a SHEPHERD program; and COMPASS (Coalition of Organizations and Ministries Promoting the Abolition of Slavery at Sea).

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