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Faith-based communities to come together to tackle sex trafficking

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    Sandy Sieben, co-chair of the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, speaks during last year's prayer breakfast focused on reducing and preventing human trafficking. This year's event will begin Saturday at 10 a.m. at the United Auto Workers Local 12 Hall, 2300 Ashland Ave. in Toledo.

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The faith-based community’s role in reducing and preventing human trafficking will be a key topic during a multifaith prayer breakfast Saturday.

CTY-PRAYER29-2

Sandy Sieben, co-chair of the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, speaks during last year's prayer breakfast focused on reducing and preventing human trafficking. This year's event will begin Saturday at 10 a.m. at the United Auto Workers Local 12 Hall, 2300 Ashland Ave. in Toledo.

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The third-annual event, hosted by the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at the United Auto Workers Local 12 Hall, 2300 Ashland Ave., with doors opening at 9:30 a.m. The event includes a continental breakfast, a keynote address, and a variety of area organizations available to provide information and resources.

January is national Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Amy LaGessee, the coalition’s regional grant coordinator, said the breakfast and prayer service are intended to increase awareness of labor and sex trafficking.

Faith communities are sometimes not as involved in the issue as they could be, Ms. LaGessee said.

“It’s affecting people in their churches,” she said. “It’s affecting people in their communities. ... Human trafficking is here whether you want to acknowledge it or not.”

Celia Williamson, director of the University of Toledo's Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, will be the keynote speaker. She noted the ongoing case of three Toledo pastors indicted for human sex trafficking, saying churches aren’t immune to the issue.

“Humans are humans, and human beings have faults,” she said. “We have to look at everybody.”

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Faith-based communities often provide safe spaces and resources for people in difficult circumstances, including victims of labor and sex trafficking. Such communities are often involved into compassionate outreach and service.

“All religions have some common beliefs. One of those is to take care of the vulnerable,” Ms. Williamson said. “They have a deep sense of being their brother’s keeper and their sister’s keeper. I think they have the capacity to do that better than anybody else.”

Religious groups also provide a number of services trafficking victims need when they are rescued, such as clothing, food, housing, and transportation assistance.

“Once we’re able to disconnect them from their trafficker, they have nothing,” Ms. LaGesse said.

The event is open to the public. Attendees are asked to bring a personal hygiene item to donate to local trafficking victims.

The coalition’s monthly meetings are also open to the public. The group meets at 9:15 a.m. the third Wednesday of every month at the Kent Branch Library, 3101 Collingwood Blvd.

Contact Alexandra Mester amester@theblade.com419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.

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