January was proclaimed National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the United States. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry. It is estimated that there are over 20 million victims worldwide.
The Human Trafficking Academy and the LL.M./J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights hosted a series of events throughout the month as part of the school’s ongoing efforts to increase public awareness, educate, research and inspire action.
The events kicked off on January 11th with a special screening of Not My Life, a powerful documentary film that depicts the cruel and dehumanizing practices of child trafficking in five different continents.
In her opening remarks, Professor Roza Pati, Director of Human Trafficking Academy, noted that, “St. Thomas Law through its Intercultural Human Rights Program, is South Florida’s pioneer educational institution to bring human trafficking to the forefront of student, faculty and community engagement.” She expressed the delight felt in seeing many other schools and universities joining in this fight. “Since 2004, we have never wavered in our commitment to play a role in ending modern slavery in our lifetime.”
The documentary was followed by a panel discussion with guest speakers Leyla Copertino, Miami Community Engagement Fellow for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and Gabriela DeBellis, Vice President & Chair of Ignition Fund and J.S.D. Candidate, who had a lively and interaction with the audience.
A mass and prayer service was held on January 17th, dedicated to human trafficking victims and survivors. This was followed by a presentation: “A Catholic Faith Perspective in Combatting Human Trafficking in the Context of the African Continent.” Father Paul Karenga, Parochial Vicar at St. Mark Catholic Church and St. Thomas Law’s J.S.D. Candidate in Intercultural Human Rights presented his findings on typology and prevalence of human trafficking.
The Human Trafficking Academy also hosted a ‘Facebook Live’ chat with guest speakers Brenda Mezick, Assistant State Attorney and Chief of Program Development & Public Policy for the Human Trafficking Unit with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, Rev. Msgr. Franklyn Casale, President of St. Thomas University, and Ana I. Vallejo, Co-Director and Attorney with VIDA Legal Assistance, Inc. They discussed current actions being taken to prevent and combat human trafficking in the state of Florida.
On January 23rd, the Human Trafficking Academy, in cooperation with the Office for Career Development, culminated the Human Trafficking Awareness Month activities with a Lunch & Learn presentation: “Prosecuting the Crime of Human Trafficking Under State Law” with Kristy Nunez, Division Chief for the Human Trafficking Unit with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
St. Thomas Law is committed to respecting and protecting human dignity of each and every person and we will continue our devotion to the cause of ending modern-slavery through outreach, education and research. For more information and to join our efforts please visit www.humantraffickingacademy.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.