The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy hosted a candlelight vigil and reflection service to commemorate the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. The event was co-sponsored with the Rotary International District 6990, Glory House of Miami, and St. Thomas University’s Campus Ministry.
In the warm glow of the Chapel of Saint Anthony, speakers and all those present shared powerful stories, advocacy and prayers. Echoing Genesis 4:9 and Pope Francis, Dr. Roza Pati, Founder and Director of the Human Trafficking Academy, opened the event with an impassioned speech about the pernicious phenomenon of human trafficking, reminding the audience that God is still asking us “Where is your brother, your sister that is enslaved?” – noting further that our generation “must own the problem; we must solve the problem.” Savannah Parvu moved the audience with the heart-wrenching story of her personal journey first as a victim and then as a survivor of trafficking, placing great emphasis on the role that faith and the church ought to play in lifting up those trapped in exploitation. Mary Rojas, a first-year law student at St. Thomas University, added solemnity to the scriptural reading about Joseph’s sale into slavery by his brothers and his ultimate redemption.
This was followed by the lighting of candles and a moment of silence and reflection in honor of the victims and survivors of trafficking. Betty Lara, Executive Director of Glory House of Miami, highlighted the power of prayer in the fight against trafficking. Drew Monaghan and Therese Homer, the District Governor and Chair of the Human Trafficking Initiative for Rotary District 6990, led the attendees in prayer to bring hope and freedom to those currently or formerly trafficked, as well as for consumers to be aware of how their purchasing choices may contribute to the demand for trafficked labor. The vigil culminated in a benediction by Rev. Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, President Emeritus of St. Thomas University.
As the participants in the vigil streamed out of the chapel for a reception, the mood in the air was one of compassion and communal understanding that we have a great task at hand.