Jeff Odendahl, Coordinator
submitted by Associate Jeff Odendahl
It may surprise you—or maybe not—to know that slavery is alive and “well” in this, the 21st century. “Modern-day slavery,” also known as “human trafficking,” is the control of a person through force, fraud or coercion—physical or psychological—to exploit that person for forced labor, sexual exploitation, or both. Most often, trafficking uses violence or threats of violence to maintain control over the victim.
While no one is immune to being trafficked, certain groups are especially vulnerable. These include undocumented immigrants, runaway and homeless youth, and oppressed, marginalized and/or impoverished groups and individuals. Even among these, trafficking disproportionately affects women and children who, by some estimates, make up 85% of trafficked persons. In addition to the immediate human suffering, trafficking creates a group of “damaged” people who have little ability to heal themselves, and almost no resources to do so.
Think this doesn’t affect us? Think again! Minnesota is in the top 13 states for its children being recruited into the sex trade. The average age at which these victims are “recruited” is 13 (no, that’s not a typo). According to Minnesota law enforcement officials, sex trafficking of girls is happening in every city and county in our state. During a 10-month period in 2010, Internet sales for sex with children rose 166% in Minnesota.
Despite its level of depravity, human trafficking not only continues, it is the second fastest growing criminal commercial activity in the world. How can this be possible? Several features of human trafficking contribute to its prolific growth. Most significant is its lack of visibility—at least up to now! Much trafficking takes place in economically poorer countries where a variety of factors obscure its harsh effects. Poverty is often so grinding that finding one more missing person is important only to that person’s immediate family. Worse yet, it is sometimes the family itself that trafficks the individual—often a child or female relative. Another factor which encourages trafficking is its profitability. Estimates of global profits from trafficking are in the billions, with individuals trafficked to the US sex industry bringing in as much as $400,000 annually.
In the United States trafficking is often disguised as willing behavior by the trafficked person. Prostitution and pornography are examples of this phenomenon. When we hear these words, many of us avert our eyes and/or attention, believing these activities affect only willing participants who we believe are acting immorally if not always illegally. The sad truth, however, is that 80-90 percent of the victims—and, yes—they are victims in the truest sense of that word—of prostitution and pornography are acting against their will and would escape their circumstance if given a reasonable chance.
In the coming weeks and months, along with the JPIC Advisory Committee, I am calling on the Franciscan Sisters and Associates to adopt a corporate stance in opposition to human trafficking. In taking a corporate stance it’s important to know what a corporate stance will not do. It’s unlikely to influence traffickers, most of whom will not even be aware of our position. It’s not an attempt to say we have all the answers, because we do not. Instead, we must listen to victims and their advocates for the best responses. Finally, it doesn’t commit us to “hands on” work with victims—although it does require from each of us a level of service commensurate with our abilities.
Taking a corporate stance is speaking in our most authentic voice to our neighbors, to the victims, to our elected officials and, yes, even to the perpetrators themselves. In speaking out to our neighbors and to the community at large, we shine a bright light on this horrible injustice around us. In speaking out to victims, we acknowledge their pain, we let them know that what they’re experiencing isn’t okay, and that we’re there to support them. In speaking to our legislators, we ask for laws that offer the most protection to victims and that prosecute perpetrators. We also ask our elected officials to provide adequate funding and programs to restore the health and dignity of victims. And we let perpetrators know that we will no longer sit idly by as they abuse our sisters and brothers.
Submitted by Jeff Odendahl
At first blush, requiring a photo ID to be able to vote seems like a reasonable measure. After all, some activities (like cashing a check or getting on a plane) are already subject to photo ID verification. And many people actually have a photo ID—folks like you and me, that is. What happens, though, to the ten percent or more of the population who are not like you and me and who do not have a photo ID and do not necessarily have easy access to one? Further, voting is not like other activities that may require a photo ID. All of these activities are privileges while voting is a right. Is there a legitimate concern that justifies the proposed restriction on this right? I don’t believe so, and I’d like to suggest four reasons why you should vote AGAINST Minnesota’s Voter Photo ID Amendment.
The purported impetus to restricting the right to vote to those with a valid photo ID is a desire to control fraud in our elections. Allegations of voter fraud usually get big headlines. What does not get headlines is the fact that nearly all allegations of voter fraud turn out to be clerical errors, data matching mistakes or misunderstandings. In reality, voter fraud is extremely rare. When we look at the few ballots that are wrongly cast in an election, there are virtually none that would have been prevented had those voters been required to show photo ID.
In order for a photo ID requirement to be constitutional, a free photo ID must be made available for anyone and Minnesota would have to institute a system of provisional ballots. These costs are estimated to be in the millions. They would be borne by state and local governments, and ultimately be paid by the taxpayer.
And even though the actual ID is free to the voter, there are many hidden costs in tracking down the necessary documents in order to get an ID. This expense—to the government body providing IDs, to the taxpayer, and to the individual voter—would provide no benefit to the community.
Problems for Eligible Voters
While many people can easily reach into their wallet and produce a current ID that shows who they are and where they live, that is not true for everyone. Who is least likely to have a photo ID?*
All of these are voters who are more likely to experience barriers that would prevent them from getting an ID. They are more likely to have low incomes and not have the money for transportation nor to acquire supporting documents to qualify for the ID. People with disabilities and elderly citizens, especially in rural communities, who no longer drive may have difficulty getting to a county office and waiting in the necessary lines to update their identification. The provisional balloting system proposed would not be of much benefit to these voters. They would still experience the same barriers to acquiring a photo ID, with very little time to achieve it.
The real result of voter photo ID in Minnesota will be to disenfranchise many voters, most especially people of color, the poor and young people. The travesty is that this result is not an accident. Rather, it is the design of the original instigators of voter photo ID. Please note, I’m not saying that all those who support voter photo ID are racists, or that they have evil intentions. What I do say is that the people who instigated the idea of voter photo ID saw it as a way to prevent certain people—those they felt were most likely to vote against their preferred candidate—from voting.
These “instigators” as I call them, are the members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC describes itself as the largest “membership association of state legislators,” but corporations fund about 98% of ALEC’s activities. One of these activities is the creation of “model” bills that ALEC promotes to state legislatures and encourages them to enact. Minnesota’s Voter Photo ID Amendment is adapted from one of ALEC’s “model” bills. Its stated purpose is to prevent election fraud, but its impact will be felt almost exclusively by eligible voters in the targeted groups.
This is not a new phenomenon. Between 1890 and 1910, most southern states created laws and regulations that effectively disenfranchised most of their black citizens. These were measures like poll taxes and literacy tests that were specifically designed to suppress the black vote. Interestingly enough, these practices also disenfranchised many poor white voters. These practices were not fully eliminated until passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Voter photo ID, as envisioned by its instigators, thumbs its nose at the Voting Rights Act, and will roll Minnesota’s election practices back 100 years.
*Statistics from League of Women Voters
by Elizabeth Rydeen
A One-World Mission grant allowed Associates MJ and Jerry Park and two volunteers from their organization Little Friends for Peace to travel to Maria Madre de los Pobres Parish, El Salvador, for a full week of peace education and building relationships. This was the Parks’ second trip to the parish and indeed strengthened and moved forward their peace work with the people of Maria Madre. “We felt the spirit of Francis and Clare with us on this peace-building journey,” they said.
Jerry and MJ and their peace team spent their mornings conducting Peace Camp for 70 children. All took part in interactive presentations on peace building and had the opportunity to rotate between “win-win” games, art projects and “home base” time with MJ. The children learned peace songs, met peace makers and used peace attitudes to become peace makers themselves, solving their inevitable problems peacefully, not violently.
In the afternoons they addressed teachers, church and school workers and community leaders. Everyone was receptive to the peace tools introduced by the team, eagerly practicing and infusing the peace-building tools into their work, in essence, creating a toolbox for peace building. In the evenings, the Parks met with the church council and other community groups interested in building a culture of peace. On Saturday, MJ spoke to 250 parents about “planting the seeds of change, pushing back the gangs, and disarming them with nonviolent tools to build a new world order, a culture of peace and harmony, a beloved community.” The week ended with a peace festival where the children sang peace songs they had learned, demonstrated how their peace train works and sharing their new “tools”—caring, sharing, cooperating and shining.
Funded by the One-World Mission Grant Fund, Madres Fuertes y Las Niñas y Los Niños Sanos (Strong Mothers, Healthy Children) is a program that serves women and children in the barrios of Managua, Nicaragua where Franciscan Sisters lived for 7 years.
The program, which serves 20 mothers and their children, was conceived and is coordinated by women of the barrio. Through home visits and monthly meetings, the coordinators, two who are Franciscan Associates, educate young mothers about the benefits of nutrition and early childhood activities for healthy emotional, intellectual and physical development. The grant covers a stipend for two coordinators and basic supplies and educational toys that promote positive interaction between mothers and their children.
The young moms appreciate learning about nutrition, breast feeding and early childhood development, but also appreciate forming supportive relationships with each other. They are able to talk about personal struggles of being a woman, a mom and a wife. They are grateful to the One-World Mission Grant Fund and Faithful Fools for helping women in the local community get the program up and running. Mercedes Gonzales, one of our Franciscan Associates, is the primary coordinator of the project. She works together with a community educator, Salvadora, and Franciscan Associate Ana Cecilia.
Photo Caption: During a recent visit to Nicaragua, Sister Carmen Barsody, who sponsored the Own-World Mission Grant Fund application, met with some of the mothers in the program, the youngest a 15-year-old who was two months pregnant. “The women and the children look happy and healthy, and that is no small thing here.”