Selection from "A Safe House for Victims of Human Trafficking"
Michele Jurich, The Catholic Voice
December 14, 2015
To read the full article published in The Catholic Voice, click here.
"Within a year, a partnership between the Diocese of Oakland, Catholic Charities of the East Bay and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office will open the doors of the first of what, leaders hope, will become a series of safe houses for young victims of sex trafficking.
Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, made the announcement at a Dec. 8 press conference, just hours after Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at the Vatican to begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
'We've been called by Pope Francis to celebrate this holy year in two ways: We're asked to contemplate the mercy God has shown to all of us then go forth to offer this mercy to those in need,' Bishop Barber said.
While the project to provide a home for 20 young female victims of sex trafficking will be among the signature events for the diocese during this year of mercy, the church's interest in it dates back almost two years.
'In February 2014, I met with District Attorney Nancy O'Malley in the San Antonio District of Oakland,' the bishop said. 'She explained to me the enormity of the epidemic of commercial sexual exploitation of children, especially in the Bay Area, and asked how the Catholic Church could be part of the solution.'
She was not the only one to bring the matter to his attention. 'Many of my pastors in parishes we have in those districts came to me asking, 'Bishop, girls are knocking on the door, asking for help. What can we do to help them?'
The help will come through a safe house, under the care of Catholic Charities of the East Bay. 'I think it's imperative that the church take the lead in building an awareness of this and offer victims a safe place to rediscover their dignity and self-worth.'