Shine the Light Virtual Conference on Human Trafficking

I was invited to share my impressions of NAC’s 2021 Shine the Light Virtual Conference: Root Causes and Intersections on Human Trafficking. Ending human trafficking has been a cause dear to my heart since my days of working to eradicate modern-day slavery with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Budapest.

At the time, Hungary, particularly Budapest, was at the center of East-West human trafficking transit from Eastern Europe to Germany, France, Canada, and the United States. We eventually joined a larger network, the Mouvement Du Nid in France, with international representation in Brussels.

Empowering those on the margins

Since the year 2000, NAC has served as a voice to represent the Sisters and their social services agencies who empower those on the margins, particularly vulnerable women and children. With a small office and ambitious goals, its staff has managed to pull off three human trafficking conferences in the past four years. This year NAC ventured online seamlessly on March 8-9 with a reach of more than 500 registered participants from the U.S. and abroad.   

During opening remarks, NAC Director Larry Couch pointed out that human trafficking “is a growing global criminal industry with power, money, and licentiousness at its center that disregards the truth that every individual has worth and human dignity.” Larry has led the NAC organization for the past 12 years (the last seven as both director and lobbyist).

Value of the human person

Patricia Kelly is a Good Shepherd Volunteer who is missioned to the National Advocacy Center of Sisters of the Good Shepherd. She assisted the NAC staff with the Shine the Light conference on the root cause and intersectionality of human trafficking.

Anchored on the value of the human person, Larry also highlighted the importance of advocating for systemic change. He said, “structures and attitudes in our societies enable the trafficking of persons for sex and labor.”

Faced with complex systemic issues to tackle, the conference focused on the root causes of human trafficking, including poverty, immigration, racism, and lack of equal opportunities for all. These issues call us to action.

Sister Winifred Doherty, who represents the Good Shepherd Congregation and its mission partners at the United Nations, brought to the conference an international perspective on the root causes of human trafficking. She emphasized how economic systems and forced migration compound the problems facing vulnerable women, children, minorities, and other marginalized groups.

Sister Winifred summarized the five P’s that are at the root of exploitation:

  • pleonexia (greed and avarice)
  • privilege
  • pleasure
  • power and
  • profit.

She also reflected on how the coronavirus pandemic “has shone a light on the fault lines in society, showing ever more clearly the structural and systemic issues that we have known, ignored or chosen not to address.”

Moved by zeal

Clearly, the task ahead is colossal and ongoing. Moved by zeal as love in action, we are called to readiness and mobility to embrace the needs of the times. Human Trafficking is one of those needs of our times, and the 2021 Shine the Light Conference implores us to ACT NOW.

Visit the NAC website to learn more about the conference and find links to conference actions. Working together, we can make a difference.

Read more stories like this in the province newsletter Items of Interest.

Sylvia Casaro Dietert

Sylvia Casaro Dietert

Sylvia Casaro Dietert has served on the Advisory Board of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd since 2017; she was elected chair in January 2021. Sylvia is the workforce development programs coordinator for the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO and lives in Germantown, Maryland.