Posted at: 01/12/2013 10:41 PM
By: Brittany Lewis
Minnesota is ranked as the nation’s 13th largest center for human trafficking. It’s an issue without a lot of mention. That’s why the Sisters of Saint Francis and other organizations put together multiple events this week as part of “Breaking the Chains of Modern Day Slavery.”
On Saturday, a proclamation.
"I hereby proclaim, January as human trafficking awareness month and call on citizens to recognize the vital role we can play in breaking the chains of modern day slavery,” said Mayor Ardell Brede.
The message to a full crowd of curious, listening ears about the issue of human trafficking. Several panels and performances throughout the week sharing the details of the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.
"This is something that's happening right here in America,” said Shamere McKenzie, a survivor of human trafficking.
"We have kid here that this is happening to. We have women and other survivors of different types of trafficking that and all of them are worth our attention. All of them have value and it's not something that's just happening in other countries, this is in our own back yard,” said Stephanie Holt, founder of Mission 21.
According to Mission 21, a local anti-trafficking service provider, 100,000 children are trafficked in the U.S. every year. The average age of entry into prostitution is between the ages of 12 and 14. Organizers hope sharing these statistics and personal stories won’t just create awareness, but will spark action.
"We really need a lot of people to come and help us get this message out there,” said Holt.
"I can sit and I can talk about this, but until I actually get up and put my words into action, this problem will remain not Shamere's problem, but your problem,” said McKenzie.
And hope that the message of human trafficking not only reaches the audience, but those who might be victims.
"We even had a victim of sex trafficking come who heard about one of the events at the library earlier this week and came to the event looking for a way to get out,” said Holt.
To break the chains of modern day slavery.
The panels were held at Assisi Heights. Lourdes High School students provided a prayer service at the end of the program.