Women religious are often the first people to discover problems emerging in society because they work directly with so many people in need, an anti-trafficking advocate said.
However, because religious focus more on providing assistance than publicising their efforts, the rest of the world is often slower to catch on to where there is trouble, said Ivonne van de Kar, the coordinator of the Foundation of Religious Against Trafficking of Women in the Netherlands.
Women religious in the Netherlands, for example, “had started to work with women in prostitution when there was absolutely no attention (given to) them,” and they provided a safe space for women to rest and chat, she told Catholic News Service.
Offering coffee and a listening ear, the women religious were finding out as early as 1981 that some women were being forced into the sex trade and that marked the beginning of the sisters’ work against trafficking. The religious quickly involved the police and later some other organisations, including van de Kar’s in the early 1990s.
“Very often it’s the sisters who discover a problem because they work with the people and they see what is happening on the streets and are there for them,” she said.
Picture: Ivonne van de Kar, an anti-trafficking advocate from the Netherlands, is seen at the Vatican press hall with Sr Monica Chikwe, a member of the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy, who works with trafficked Nigerian women. They are both members of the RENATE network of religious congregations in Europe fighting human trafficking. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz).