Fremont nuns honored for fighting human trafficking

December 12, 2012 7:04:07 PM PST
The FBI says the problem of human trafficking is so big, it needs help. And sometimes the bureau's partners in fighting crime are found in unexpected places.

A Catholic nun in Fremont played tour guide Wednesday for a contingent of FBI agents from San Francisco. It may seem unusual, unless you know their mutual goal of fighting the problem of human trafficking. The Sisters of the Holy Family call the crime "modern day slavery."

"When we think of slavery and what that means that people are exploited, bought and sold, abused, no freedom, no rights," Sister Caritas Foster said.

In 2008 this congregation made a pledge to devote part of its ministry to shining a light on the issue -- from the sexual exploitation of women and children, to abuses in sweat shops, agriculture, and domestic servitude.

Some advocates say as many as 27 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking.

"We want to educate people as to what's going on," Sister Gladys Guenther said. "We want to look at creative ways we can support and we want to do advocacy."

The Sisters of the Holy Family estimate they give 30 to 50 talks a year to various groups and donate about $30,000 a year to community-based organizations helping victims of human trafficking.

It is that tireless outreach and commitment which brought nine members from the FBI to this peaceful religious setting. Acting special agent in charge Joel Moss presented the nuns with the 2012 Director's Community Leadership Award.

"We are very grateful to them for helping to get the word out and were especially grateful to them for helping to care for the victims who are identified in these cases," Moss said.

The coordinator of the congregation's efforts says the sisters are humble in accepting the honor and remind everyone that January is human trafficking awareness month.

"Even though our efforts can seem very small and insignificant sometimes, when we put them together we have done great things," Foster said.


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