FERUARY 21, 2005


Trafficking of men and women
global and a California reality
Victims of bondage lured by promise of freedom, new life
How to spot – and stop –
human trafficking in our midst
Priest returns from
delivering tsunami aid
CRS says funds focus
on long-term tsunami relief

New administrator named
for St. Mark Parish

Catholics mourn death
of Virgin Mary visionary

Vatican issues
instructions for annulments
Effort begins to legalize
assisted suicide in state

Conference to focus
on family planning




Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.




Nun, Amazon advocate, murdered

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

For the countless Brazilians, Californians and Ohioans who loved her, she was “the Angel of the Trans-Amazon” and “St. Dorothy of the Rain forest.” She was known to weep over the excesses of U.S. wealth when her beloved peasants in Anapu had so little. She also shed tears over environmental destruction, often predicting that “the death of the Earth is the end of our lives.”

But for loggers and large landowners with vested interests in expropriating and clearing the rain forest, Notre Dame de Namur Sister Dorothy Stang was a “terrorist.”

In the end, it was the vested interests that allegedly won. On Feb. 12, two gunmen fired several fatal shots into the 73-year-old nun’s face. Seconds before her death, Sister Stang had taken a Bible out of her bag and began reading Scripture passages to her assailants.

Nilmario Miranda, Brazil’s human rights national secretary, said last week that those who murdered the missionary were two hired killers known as Eduardo and Pogoio, paid by an intermediary known as “Tinair,” according to the Brazil agency. Over the past year, there have been 11 murders in the state of Para at the hands of killers hired by timber merchants who, using false land deeds, seize others’ tracts.

Sister Dorothy Stang, a Dayton, Ohio native, had worked in Brazil since the early 1960’s for the Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission, a human rights group which assists landless farmers. For the last decade she had been teaching peasants the principles of sustainable farming in the rain forest, so the trees wouldn’t have to be cut down, said Notre Dame Sister Elizabeth Marie Bowyer, head of the Cincinnati-based Ohio province to which Sister Stang belong.

The day of her assassination, the nun was traveling to a meeting with local peasants when her group was attacked in the Esperanca settlement 25 miles from the town of Anapu in the Brazilian state of Para.

The area is the site of a large, state-run sustainable development project designated for small farmers. Illegal loggers and ranchers, however, are invading the reserve. Over the years, Sister Stang had enraged big business developers by encouraging small farmers not to flee or sell their land. Ranchers in Anapu had recently accused her of supplying guns to peasants, which Sister Stang’s missionary colleagues in the 2,000-member Notre Dame community had dismissed as “absurd and false.”

Sister Stang’s death came nine days after she had warned Human Rights Secretary Miranda of death threats to her and local farmers. Just hours after her murder, a worker on a nearby ranch was shot and killed in front of his wife and five children by eight armed men, police said.

Miranda was in the process of setting up a program to defend human rights workers in Para state, according to CommonDreams News Center.

But Miranda’s efforts ring hollow to Sister Stang’s colleagues. “They did nothing to protect Dorothy,” said Antonio Canuto, a leader of the Pastoral Land Commission. “This government protects big farmers.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silvia had promised to settle 400,000 landless families during his four-year term, in order to equalize Brazil’s wealth, but environmental activists say he is way behind schedule.

In fact, he has only complicated matters, his critics contend, by restoring logging licenses for parts of the Amazon. The licenses had been suspended a year ago as part of an effort to stem deforestation. License supporters had blocked Amazon transportation routes and threatened further violence if logging was not restored.

The Anapu region ranks number one in deaths connected to land battles, accounting for more than 40 percent of 1,237 murders between 1985 and 2001, according to Greenpeace, the international environmental group.

Shortly after Sister Stang’s death, Lula sent federal investigators and two ministers to the state to oversee an investigation into the crime.

Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta of Belem and Bishop Carlos Verzeletti of Castanhal issued a strongly worded statement on Sister Stang’s martyrdom.

“It is incredible that solutions to social conflicts are sought with the pure and simple elimination of human lives, dedicated to the service of the poorest, the excluded and the abandoned,” they said.

Praising the nun as “as a fighter for human and social rights,” they said that “what happened Saturday…questions the state’s protection service for those receiving death threats from criminals. The person who is threatened, even if she reports what she is suffering, is given no security by the state, which should protect its citizens.”

“It is necessary to cry out, in every possible way, that this is not the world we want,” the bishops said. “It is important to struggle so that life will triumph over death. It is urgent that we all take a position and are not accomplices of these situations of bloodshed on our Amazonian soil.”

Sister Bowyer believes “the best tribute we can give her is to reaffirm our commitment to Sister Dorothy’s work…to learn more about the cutting down of the rain forests, and the impact on the environment and the people who live in the area.”

Sister Stang’s dedication to ecological and social justice causes is well known to a group of men and women who studied with her during a four-month sabbatical program in Creation Spirituality at Holy Names University in Oakland in 1992.

Chuck Baroo, a classmate who now is a business consultant in New York City, said he had possessed “ a subtle awareness” of rain forest destruction, before Sister Stang arrived on campus. But “Dot motivated me to become active in the environmental movement.” Baroo remembers her as “mostly low-key, but when she talked about the forest, she became animated and alive.”

Marlene DeNardo, a teacher of eco-feminism at the University, had already experienced the nun’s vibrancy during the 12 years they worked together in Brazil. Now a member of the staff at the University of Creation Spirituality in downtown Oakland, DeNardo recalled her friend as being “innocent and guileless as Nathanial in the Scriptures.”

Her love for people radiated outwards wherever she was, said DeNardo. “Everyone she met was really special. She loved life and lived to walk with those deprived of life like Jesus did in order to accompany them to life in abundance.”

Her love extended to the entire earth, said DeNardo.

Her compassion surfaced early on at Holy Names, said Sister Godelieve Theys, a member of the Cistercian Redwood Monastery in Whitethorn.

During an orientation session, “Sister Dot cried and cried,” recalled Sister Theys. The nun told the other participants that she had arrived the previous day and was in a state of shock. “She had had no intermediary experience in processing the stark differences between the first and fourth worlds,” said Sister Theys. “She expressed her sadness at seeing the stark contrast between the excessive wealth here and the poverty there.”
But Sister Stang balanced her deep sorrow over the injustices she witnessed in Brazil with a warm dazzling smile and a zest for life, said DeNardo.

“She really enjoyed all of life, eating, walking in the forest, swimming in the ocean, listening to the stories of the people…it was her way of living out the gospel story and following the way of Jesus.”

She would go out of her way to see that people enjoyed themselves, agreed Notre Dame Sister Jean Stoner, a member of her community’s California Province Center in Belmont. The two met in 2000 when Sister Stoner traveled to Brazil for a community planning session.

Sister Stang wanted to make certain the planners had everything they needed in the way of amenities. One day she went to great effort “to bring back four different kinds of ice cream for us,” said Sister Stoner.

As the Belmont nun got to know her Brazilian colleague, she witnessed how refreshingly transparent she was in her dealings with everyone. “What you saw is who she was. She was equally present to everyone.” She didn’t change her personality to match the occasion or person she was with, said Sister Stoner.

This transparency and balance showed up in classes at Holy Names, said Ruth Hoppe of Sonoma County. Sister Stang was enrolled in the same movement class with Hoppe. Hoppe recalls: “Dot was a passionate mover, grounded in her body as few of the students were. I remember her joy, her love of life, and her commitment to the people of Brazil.”

Hoppe’s memory of Sister Stang’s steady commitment also stood out for Father Jim Conlon, who directs Holy Name’s Sophia Center, a descendant of the former Creation Spirituality program.

“Dot had totally given her life away to what she was dedicated to. I saw her as content, but not satisfied. She was deeply spiritual, and peaceful within herself, but at the same time she was outraged by the injustices around her.”

As he spoke, Father Conlon gazed across his office to a framed poster hanging on the wall. The poster featured a statement from the late Archbishop Oscar Romero, made before his own assassination at the hands of political right-wingers more than 20 years ago. “If they kill me, I will rise in the people of El Salvador.”

“I believe that those words fit Dot as well. ‘If they kill me, I will rise in the people of Brazil.’”

Perhaps this conjecture has already come true. On the day of Sister Stang’s funeral, a large crowd of mourners carried her coffin to Holy Missions Church in Anapu. A large white banner held by her friends read: “Dorothy Lives."


Parish offers prayer, support to pastor
accused of abuse

By Voice staff

With song, prayers, and a series of questions directed at diocesan representatives, supporters of Father George Crespin, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Berkeley, expressed their grief at his sudden resignation two weeks ago and their outrage over news reports of his departure.

During a town hall meeting held at the parish Feb. 15, parishioners and other supporters filled the church to show their solidarity with the priest. They came forward in silent prayer before a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, signed a petition directed at Bishop Allen Vigneron, and left cards, letters and prayers to be delivered to Father Crespin.

The St. Joseph the Worker community has rallied behind their pastor, following his revelation Feb. 6 that a charge of sexual misconduct 30 years ago had been filed against him. In a statement read at all Masses in the parish that day, Father Crespin denied the accusation and said he had resigned rather than allow the parish to live through a period of uncertainty during the required investigation. Diocesan officials said the investigation could take up to six months.

Father Crespin, 69, noted that he had been planning to retire soon and Bishop Allen Vigneron had accepted his resignation. News reports concerning his departure said the bishop had found the allegation “credible,” and these reports angered parishioners and other supporters of Father Crespin.

During the town hall meeting, which was held primarily in Spanish with simultaneous translation into English, members of the audience directed several questions about the use of the word to Father Raymond Breton, head of the diocesan canon law department. Father Breton said the word had been used “improperly” and had “created a lot of hurt.”
“I apologize on the part of the diocese,” he said. When someone shouted out a demand for a retraction, he responded, “That’s a good suggestion. I think we need to retract it.” The audience applauded his remarks.

Father Mark Wiesner, diocesan director of communications, said he had used the word “credible” in speaking to the media because it is the language used in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002 to address the sexual abuse scandal. In the context, he said, it means an “accusation cannot be summarily dismissed out of hand” and needs investigation.

The word does not mean that the allegation is true, he said, but that it must be taken seriously. Charges of abuse can be dismissed without an investigation in certain circumstances, for example, if the accuser has habitually filed charges in different dioceses or if the alleged victim claims the abuse took place at a parish where the accused never served, he said.

At the parish meeting, several hundred persons signed a letter to Bishop Vigneron expressing their solidarity with Father Crespin. “We have seen him work for the poor, education, children, immigrants, all those who are in need of dignity and whose cries need to be heard,” they told the bishop. “He has preached a living Gospel.”

“We pledge to do all within our power to safeguard the dignity of his name and to care for his beloved parish,” the letter said. “Father Crespin’s suffering is our suffering, too.”
After the letter was read aloud, the crowd responded with a standing ovation, and some shouted, “Viva, Padre Crespin!”

Father Raymond Zielezienski, who attended the meeting with Father Breton, spoke of the “feelings of confusion, sadness, anger and grief” in the community and reminded those gathered of the “power of faith” within them. “Our faith has brought us together to pray for Father George, to pray for the victims of abuse, to pray for each other,” he said. He also outlined the process for consulting with the parish in preparation for appointing a new pastor.

In remarks made at all the Masses the weekend before the meeting, Father Breton acknowledged “the great and excellent ministry that Father Crespin has accomplished here” and said “the good that he has done is gratefully acknowledged and cherished by you and by the diocese.”

Father Crespin was entering “his time of trial, his time of testing,” Father Breton said. “He has chosen to make this allegation public so that you may not be kept in the dark and so that, if you are so moved, he may have the continued support of your prayers and of your friendship.”

He also thanked Father Jayson Landeza, pastor of St. Columba Parish in Oakland and in residence at St. Joseph the Worker, who has been assigned as interim administrator.
In his Feb. 6 statement, Father Crespin said the allegations involved a young adult “allegedly 30 years ago.” At that time Father Crespin was pastor at Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City. “The accusations are not true. I deny it,” he wrote in his statement. “Since I know the person making this accusation, I am firmly convinced that this is being done to get money from the Church.”

Parishioners were stunned at the news and many left the church weeping. At the Feb. 15 meeting, many brought prayers, cards and messages of support to send to Father Crespin. He had left Berkeley to attend the funeral of an uncle and planned to return soon to look for new living quarters.

“I have spent the last 24 years serving this community,” Father Crespin wrote in his announcement, saying these had been the “happiest years of my life” and he was leaving “with a very heavy heart.”

He also said, “I am quite confident that my name will eventually be cleared, but at the same time, I do not want to put the parish or myself through a possibly long protracted process.”

According to Father Wiesner, an independent investigator has begun looking into the allegations against Father Crespin, who is required to go on administrative leave while the review is in progress. The investigator will interview the accuser, the accused and others
who may have relevant information.

The investigator reports the results to a diocesan review board, which can ask for further investigation. The diocese privately informs the alleged victim and the accused of the results, and the information is made public only if one of the two chooses to release the results.

Father Crespin served as chancellor and vicar general of the diocese under now retired Bishop John Cummins. He was in residence at St. Joseph the Worker until he took over as pastor from Father Bill O’Donnell in 1995. Father O’Donnell died in December 2003.



Nuns mobilize to stop practice
of forced labor here and abroad

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Slavery is alive today, a coalition of religious Sisters is telling us, and though we may not see it, the crime takes place in our midst - in the Bay Area, in our own communities. Slavery is out of sight but it is growing, the Sisters say, and it is a lucrative business. Today we call it human trafficking.

“Most people say they’ve never heard of this,” said Salvatorian Sister Jean Schafer, who works on a human trafficking project for Northern California, “but every now and then a story will come out in the papers. The victims are the foreigners who through no fault of their own just got caught.”

Human trafficking is forced labor, where the victims have been sold or tricked into servitude and frequently transported across borders. Although men are sometimes victims, the large majority are women and children, most of them from impoverished areas of the world. They have been found in the East Bay, in San Francisco, in the Sacramento Delta and throughout California.

Often the victims are prostitutes, who have been compelled to work in brothels or massage parlors. At other times they are domestic servants, agricultural laborers or sweatshop workers. They may have been trafficked from abroad or from other regions of the U.S., and many are kept in bondage by threats, isolation and lack of English.

‘Women are vulnerable,” Sister Schafer said. “They naively accept offers; they’re told they can get a job or education. Men also get trapped into trafficking. They may start off trying to be smuggled into the U.S. and then tricked into jobs that enslave them.” Coyotes who smuggle them across the border deliver them to brothels or sweatshops; employers bring servants in from abroad and take away their passports.

“Trafficking is a very hidden and complicated phenomenon,” Sister Schafer said, “and it’s growing.” It is also relatively simple. “You can move people more easily than drugs,” she said.

As religious congregations and other groups explore the issue, they find it leading into still other areas of exploitation – sex tourism, child prostitution and the abuse of mail order bride and adoption programs.

In Oakland, Holy Names Sister Cecilia Calva hopes to educate parishioners at St. Andrew-St. Joseph, where the neighborhood has been afflicted by prostitution. Sister Calva wants to work with parish groups to inform them of the causes and help them understand the issue of human trafficking. “Prostitution is trafficking,” Sister Calva said.

Sister Schafer, along with Salvatorian Sister Sheila Novak, moved to Watsonville from Wisconsin in order to be close to the Bay Area, a major entry point for persons trafficked from abroad. The Sisters are planning to hold workshops on trafficking in the Oakland, San Jose and Monterey dioceses, and Holy Names Sister Jean Cather hopes to do the same in San Francisco.

“We want to share the information and hopefully get action,” Sister Cather said. “There’s a lot going on and things people can do, but first you have to know about it. So the first thing is education.” The workshops are to inform and train groups of parishioners who return to their communities to pass on what they learned.

The Salvatorian Sisters have prepared a packet of information listing actions that parishes can take to fight trafficking, and the Justice and Peace Team of Holy Names Sisters in California has compiled educational resources on trafficking in women and children. In addition, Sister Jean Schafer produces an online newsletter with articles on trafficking. A recent issue discusses the danger tsunami orphans face in South Asia.

Many religious congregations of women have taken up the fight against trafficking, responding to a statement adopted at a 2001 meeting of superiors general in Rome. “They wrote a declaration highlighting their stance against human trafficking,” Sister Schafer said. “Many went home and said, ‘What are we going to do?’ So our congregation took it up.”

At least 10 women’s orders have formed the group UNANIMA, which works with the UN to end trafficking, and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, regionally and nationally, has taken up the issue. The U.S. bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services provides information and resources to combat trafficking and sponsors the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking. The coalition includes several religious orders, Catholic Charities U.S.A., Catholic Relief Services and others.

In California, four religious orders of women are sponsoring a symposium next month on the trafficking of human persons, and in the Bay Area, the Justice Conference of Women Religious has chosen trafficking for its focus this year. In Southern California some religious communities are quietly rescuing victims and sheltering them in safe houses.

Government officials and agencies have also joined the fight against trafficking. Assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D-San Jose) introduced a bill last month that would make human trafficking a felony, expanding existing laws against slavery. The new law would also provide restitution to victims and require that law enforcement officers be trained to recognize and deal with human trafficking.

This past October the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created a Northern California task force of law enforcement agencies to address the problem of trafficking. In the East Bay a task force has been formed to fight child prostitution, and last fall Oakland police received a $450,000 federal grant to address the problem of human trafficking.

Education is a big first step in combating the problem, Sister Schafer said. “The effort is first to make people aware that this is happening.” Police need to know that women discovered in brothels may be there against their will. Health professionals need to be aware of signs that patients are victims of trafficking. And ordinary citizens should know how to recognize evidence that trafficking may be taking place in their neighborhoods.

Another step is to support legislation like Lieber’s assembly bill. Although the federal government has outlawed trafficking and has an active program – “Rescue and Restore - 1” - to combat it, most states lack similar laws and programs. This works against the victims, Sister Cather said.

“If we wait for the federal government,” she said, “these cases take forever, and in the meantime these people haven’t got support in their own state.” Local laws also alert police, Sister Schafer said. “The more it gets into the mainstream of laws at the local levels, the more likely it is that they will investigate and get to the bottom of it.”

The Salvatorian Sisters have made it easy for parishes and individuals to oppose child sex tourism and sweatshops. They have produced a packet with informational fliers, letters and lists of actions to use in approaching travel agencies, asking them to sign a code of conduct and to inform clients of laws against child sexual exploitation.

The best weapon against sweatshops, according to the Sisters, is to promote fair trade products, which guarantee that producers receive just payment. The packet lists fair trade suppliers of coffee, chocolate and other items and encourages actions such as writing letters to the editor and spreading the word about exploited farmers and laborers who provide many of our goods.

Fair trade is also a way to combat other forms of trafficking. When developing countries provide a livable income for their residents, traffickers will no longer find it easy to prey on those who are desperate to escape from poverty.

The Holy Names Sisters lay out a three-pronged approach – preventing trafficking, protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers. This involves a number of actions, such as training police, educating the public, expanding economic opportunities for women, and keeping girls in school.

“We’re trying to build the network, build awareness and get people involved in action,” Sister Schafer said. “We’re trying to offer them more than information.”



Trafficking of men and women
global and a California reality

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Human trafficking takes place around the globe, from the Ukraine to China, Bangladesh, Honduras and Thailand. It also takes place in California, and notable cases of trafficking have occurred in our own communities, where some of the victims lived and worked in plain view, until the crime was exposed.

From 1986 to January 2000, Lakireddy Bali Reddy, a Berkeley businessman, brought young Indian women into the U.S. with fraudulent documents and exploited the women sexually. He was discovered when 17-year-old Chanti Pratipatti died from carbon monoxide poisoning in one of Reddy’s Berkeley apartments.

Reddy, the owner of apartment buildings, a downtown Berkeley restaurant, and other businesses, pled guilty to four counts of using fraudulent visas and bringing young women into the country. One of his victims was 13 years old when he smuggled her into the U.S. The women and girls, from his native village, were forced to have sex with him and to work in his businesses.

In 2001 Reddy was sentenced to 97 months in federal prison and $2 million in restitution payments for his criminal activities, which spanned 15 years. Three years later some survivors and their families received an out of court settlement of $8.9 million for civil claims against the Reddy estate.

In the Sacramento River Delta area, hundreds of farm workers were enslaved at Victoria Island Farms during the 2000 growing season. The workers were recruited, mostly from Mexico, by JB Farm Labor Contractor of Stockton, housed in substandard conditions and forced to harvest asparagus for virtually no pay.

Large amounts were deducted from the workers’ weekly paychecks, ostensibly for transportation and other "debts," and one worker reported that he received $120 a week in wages but had to pay $55 weekly for living in a labor camp and $10 a day for food. JB managed the camps on Victoria Island land.

Some workers escaped during the harvest season, and some filed a civil case against JB and Victoria Island Farms. The case was settled when the defendants agreed to pay workers the wages owed to them. Victoria Island terminated its contract with JB and agreed to pay $540,000 in back wages and spend $260,000 to clean up the camps.

More recently, in January 2004, federal agents raided four suspected brothels in San Francisco, where they found women who had been smuggled into the U.S. from Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Korea, Thailand and Shanghai. The immigration agents had conducted surveillance on the sites since they had received information from a tipster.

Neighbors of one of the raided brothels in the Sunset District said they had been suspicious of activities at the house. The residents never spoke and kept windows and doors shut, the neighbors said.

In 1989 the wife of Thailand’s ambassador to Sweden, Supawan Veerapool, brought a domestic worker to Los Angeles, confiscated her passport and forced her to work 24 hours a day, six days a week, until the woman escaped in 1998. The following year, Veerapol was sentenced to eight years in prison.

A growing crime

Each year the U.S. State Department reports to Congress on global human trafficking. Human rights groups also gather statistics on the practice. The numbers they produce sometimes vary widely, but all agree that the crime is growing throughout the world.

Who is trafficked?
Where do they come from?
Where do they go?

• An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Some groups place the estimate as high as 4 million.

• 80 percent of those trafficked are female and 70 percent of the women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

• People trafficked into the U.S. each year range from 14,500 to 17,500.

• 8,000 to 16,000 people are trafficked into Canada each year and the illegal trafficking of women
and children for sex in that country yields as much as $400 million annually.

• 30,000 women between the ages of 15 and 25 were found in Italy to be victims of trafficking from Nigeria.

• 17,000 to 30,000 children arrive in Europe each year accompanied by persons not their parents.

• Brazil is the largest Latin American source of women in the sex trade in Europe and is responsible for 15 percent of Latin America’s human exports.

• A growing number of sex tourists are going to Central America, partly because of recent
restrictions on sex tourism in Asia.


Victims of bondage lured by promise
of freedom, new life

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Many victims of trafficking are following their dreams when they are lured into slavery. Some are looking for a way out of poverty or a chance to see the world, and others are planning to spend their lives with a new spouse or fiancé. Their stories are varied and some of their histories, with the names of the victims changed, are found below:

Katya had a two-year-old daughter and was trapped in an unhappy marriage in the Czech Republic. When an acquaintance told her she could make good money as a waitress in The Netherlands, she agreed to go to Amsterdam. Once there, she was taken to a brothel and told she had to work as a prostitute or her daughter would be killed.

After years of threats and forced prostitution, Katya was rescued by a friendly cab driver. She is now working at a hospital and studying for a degree in social work.
Bopha, from a rural village in Cambodia, was married at 17. Her husband took her to a hotel in another village and abandoned her there. When she discovered that the hotel was actually a brothel, she tried to escape but was told she had to pay off the price the owner had paid for her.

Her debt for food, clothing and other needs kept increasing, so she was not allowed to leave. When she was too ravaged by AIDS, she was thrown out on the street and made her way to a shelter in Phnom Penh, where she was receiving treatment but growing ever frailer.

Ricardo tried to enter to U.S. illegally to find work but was abandoned in the desert by his coyote. Another agent found him and said he would help, for a fee. When Ricardo was unable to pay, the man handed him over to a trafficker who took him to Florida, where he was sold to a labor contractor for $1,000.

In Florida, Ricardo worked on tomato farms 14 hours a day. He was paid $80 a week but charged $40 for his debt and $30 for rent, water and food. Ricardo finally managed to escape with five co-workers and eventually found freedom. He still receives death threats from the traffickers, however.

Alice, a civil engineer, left the Philippines when she was 25, after seeing an advertisement for a job with higher pay in Kuwait. She signed up with an agency that arranged for her travel if she would agree to pay half the cost of her travel up front and the rest after arriving in Kuwait.

Once in Kuwait Alice was sent to work as a domestic servant. She never had a day off and often worked 20-hour days. She managed to pay off the remainder of her debt to the agency and leave after two and a half years of work.


How to spot – and stop –
human trafficking in our midst

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

Victims of human trafficking may have a rare chance to escape from bondage when they are caught in a police raid or when they appear for a medical appointment. This is the moment, activists say, when professionals should look beneath the surface for clues to the real circumstances of their lives.

The Department of Health and Human Services gives warning of this in a flier aimed at doctors and other health professionals: "As a health care practitioner, you may have treated victims of human trafficking without realizing their circumstances and therefore have lost a chance to help them escape a horrific situation."

The flier goes on to give tips on how traffickers operate, what to look for, and where to go for help when health care workers suspect a person is a victim of trafficking. Similar fliers are aimed at police and social service organizations, and all of them are tools used in the federal government’s Rescue and Restore Campaign for trafficking victims, a project launched under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

"A victim of trafficking may look like many of the people you help every day," the flier for health professionals reads. It then lists clues to look for:
• Evidence of being controlled
• Evidence of an inability to move or leave job
• Bruises or other signs of battering
• Fear or depression
• Non-English speaking
• Recently brought to this country from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, Canada, Africa or India
• Lack of passport, immigration or identification documentation

Health care workers are advised to talk to the person "in a safe and confidential environment," to try to get them away from someone who appears to be in control, and if necessary, to find an interpreter who is not involved with the possible trafficker.
If they suspect the person is a victim of trafficking, they are to call a toll-free hotline for information on local social services and other help.

Police are advised that they may come across persons in bondage during raids on prostitution rings, through "false" 911 calls, when a supervisor insists on speaking for migrant workers, and in other circumstances. The Rescue and Restore Campaign asks law officers to look at several issues, such as living and work conditions, who possesses the legal documents, who provides information, and whether the workers are frequently moved.

Victims may be fearful of police, hesitant to come forward, afraid for their families and unaware that they are even victims and have rights. With this in mind, officers should reassure victims, telling them that they are safe now, no one will hurt them and they can get protection for their families.

"While trafficking is largely a hidden social problem," the flier states, "many trafficking victims are in plain sight if you know what to look for." And it notes that help is available – housing, health care, immigration, food, employment and legal services. This is all offered under Rescue and Restore, but the flier says, the victims "must first be found."

The U.S. Bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services also lists signs that may indicate a person is the victim of trafficking. In the case of children these include evidence of abuse, lack of schooling, living at the workplace or with an employer, a sense of general fear and living with multiple people in a cramped space.

The State Department campaign is working with agencies to get the word out and enlist help. In the Bay Area this includes Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, the Asian Women’s Shelter, the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, Standing Against Global Exploitation and other groups.

The Trafficking Act requires the State Department to monitor cases of trafficking worldwide and report to Congress yearly on which countries have the most offenses and which types of trafficking are prevalent. It also sets criminal penalties for trafficking in the U.S.

The law distinguishes between smuggling and trafficking in regards to illegal immigrants. Those who were smuggled over the border are considered victims of trafficking if they were defrauded or coerced into forced labor.

This is true even if they paid the smuggler to enter illegally.

As of September 2003 the federal government had prosecuted 110 traffickers under the Trafficking Act and other recent laws, and as of April 2004 the U.S Department of Justice had 153 open investigations in progress, double the number in 2001. Investigation and prosecution takes from eight months to three years.

But activists say the federal program is not enough. Local enforcement is critical to stop trafficking and help victims, and some states have adopted their own laws to bolster the effort. In California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D-San Jose) has introduced a bill, AB 22, to make trafficking a felony. Lieber is chair of the Assembly’s Select Committee on Human Trafficking.

The Rescue and Restore program’s toll-free hotline for victims is (888) 373-7888. The same number should be used if you believe you have encountered a possible victim of trafficking.

Learn more about human trafficking:

Anti-Slavery International:

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women:

Ecpat International, a network of groups fighting child sex exploitation:

Free the Slaves:

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

U.S. State Department Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking:

Who to call: 
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set up a toll-free number where victims of human trafficking can call for help. The same number can be used to report a suspected incidence of human trafficking.
The hotline number is 1-888-373-7888.


Priest returns from delivering tsunami aid

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Smashed boats. Fishing nets tangled in palm trees. Devastated lives. Father Mathew Vellankal has witnessed a host of natural and human tragedies caused by the Dec. 26 tsunami in his native state of Kerala, India.

Father Vellankal, parochial vicar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Fremont, had originally planned his annual January vacation around officiating at a nephew's first Communion and enjoying a family reunion. But the disaster widened the scope of his plans and the priest was soon arranging to join in relief efforts.

His Fremont parishioners provided the priest with a head start. The day after the tsunami, parishioners showed up at daily Mass and dropped by the rectory, unprompted, with donations for him to take to India. Friends from Pittsburg brought money as well. These spontaneous gestures netted Father Vellankal with $3,800 within a few days.

With financial assistance in hand, he headed for Kerala and Tamil Nadu in southern India. News reports had not prepared him for the wholesale damage to shacks,concrete houses, fishing boats, and human lives. He was exhausted at the end of each day.

His saddest experience took place in Kollan, Kerala. A middle-aged man who had been shopping when the tsunami hit lost his wife and three children.
“Father, why should I live?” the man wept. Weeks later, the priest said he is still haunted by the man's tragedy.

During his visit, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish did not forget about their priest. They collected an additional $10,803 for him. The funds have gone to two local parishes in Pondicherry to help set up temporary shelters.

It wasn't easy traveling around India, said Father Vellankal. It took 14 hours to get to one town by bus. “The trip was tedious, hot and humid,” he said. But despite the hardships and difficulties, he feels a real sense of satisfaction from helping his people.

He will continue to send assistance to India. Two classes at Our Lady of Guadalupe School are raising money for relief efforts and for school supplies.

CRS says funds focus on long-term
tsunami relief

By Voice staff

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has raised more than $65.9 million to help survivors of the Dec. 26 tsunami that devastated 12 countries in Southeast Asia and Africa. The agency plans to spend up to $80 million for relief work there.

“While we continue to provide emergency aid to those in need, we are already moving into a longer-term recovery phase that will require millions more than originally estimated,” said Ken Hackett, CRS president.

In the weeks following the tsunami, CRS assessed how best to assist victims with both immediate and long-term aid. The $80 million will support a variety of programs to help re-establish livelihoods, rebuild roads, bridges, public facilities and homes, and improve self-sufficiency. Programs will expand as needs change or become better defined in the coming months, Hackett said.

Catholics throughout the U.S. provided the bulk of the funds through parish collections and personal donations.

CRS, the international aid agency of the U.S. Catholic Church, has worked in South and Southeast Asia for more than 60 years.

New administrator named
for St. Mark Parish

By Carrie McClish
Staff writer

Within days of arriving at his new parish, Father Ramiro Flores heard gunshots - an unfortunate reality of the neighborhood surrounding Richmond's St. Mark Church -- and quickly understood one of the major problems facing his parishioners who live in the high-crime Iron Triangle.

“I knew it was going to be a challenge,” the priest said of his Feb. 1 arrival as parochial administrator. “There is a need here.”

But he also learned that the parishioners refuse to surrender their homes to the violence around them. The parish is “very justice-oriented,” he said. “I like that.”

St. Mark is an active member of the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO), an ecumenical group working to respond to crime, safety and other issues of area residents.

Like his predecessor, Father Jesus Nieto-Ruiz, Father Flores intends to support the parish's involvement in CCISCO. “I will continue what Father Nieto-Ruiz did here” to address problems of
violence and poverty, he said. Father Nieto-Ruiz is now pastor at St. Anthony Parish in Oakland.

It was at St. Anthony's, as parochial vicar, that Father Flores saw social justice in action as he witnessed parishioner participation in the Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), a CCISCO counterpart. OCO addresses such neighborhood concerns as education, affordable housing, gangs and violent crime.

Social justice ministry not only allows people to make a difference in society, but also nurtures leadership and “helps people meet their potential” by working together, Father Flores said.
A native of Chalchihuites, Zacateca, Mexico, Father Flores, 38, credits his grandmother for encouraging his religious vocation. “She gave me values.”

Because there were no schools in his hometown, Father Flores and his eight siblings attended schools in the town where his grandparents lived. He spent a good deal of time with his grandmother who talked to her grandchildren about God and prayer. “We would pray the Rosary with her daily,” he recalled.

His grandmother had books on religion in her home that also encouraged Father Flores to explore his faith. “I read her books and learned about the saints,” he said.

His journey toward ministry took him to the seminary in Aguascalientes, Mexico, where he studied for two and a half years before moving to the U.S. He completed his studies at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, Texas. To honor his grandmother he returned to Mexico for his ordination in 1995 by Oakland Bishop John Cummins.

He began his priesthood as parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Concord. He also served as parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Pinole and St. Ignatius in Antioch, as well as St. Anthony.
His major priority as he begins his work in Richmond is to listen to parishioners so he can understand their concerns and needs. He already feels welcomed. “I feel pretty much at home here,” he said. “I'm in a good place.”

Catholics mourn death
of Virgin Mary visionary

By Peggy Polk
Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY-Pope John Paul II joined Catholics throughout the world in mourning the death of the last of the shepherd children said to have received prophecies from the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.

Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopez declared Feb. 15 a day of national mourning for Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, who died Dec. 13 at age 97.

Lucia and her two younger cousins became celebrated throughout the Catholic world for reporting that they had seen visions of and heard messages from the Virgin Mary in the Portuguese countryside starting on May 13, 1917.

The Shrine of Fatima built on the site of the visions is one of Catholicism's most visited sanctuaries. It attracted 3.75 million pilgrims from throughout the world last year.
It wasn't until 2002 that the Vatican disclosed the “Third Secret of Fatima,” which was widely expected to prophesy the end of the world.

Vatican doctrinal authorities said, however, it foresaw the suffering of the Catholic Church and the world in the 20th century and the failed attempt to assassinate John Paul, who is described in the message as a “bishop clothed in white-under a hail of gunfire.”

“Those who expected exciting apocalyptic revelations about the end of the world or the future course of history are bound to be disappointed,” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said at the time.

Lucia, reporting the first two messages in 1941, said the Virgin Mary showed the children the torments of the damned in hell. She told them that World War I would soon end but, in what was taken as a warning of the impending Russian Revolution, said that unless Russia was consecrated to Mary's immaculate heart there would be “wars and persecutions of the Church.”

The pope-who was shot and seriously wounded by Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981 -- has credited Our Lady of Fatima with deflecting the bullet from his vital organs.

Making a pilgrimage to Fatima in 1982, “to thank the Madonna for her intervention to save my life and restore my health,” he consecrated the world to the immaculate heart of Mary. He donated the bullet extracted from his abdomen to be placed among jewels in the crown of the virgin's statue.

On May 13, 2002, the pope returned to Fatima to beatify Lucia's cousins Jacinto and Francisco Marto. At the time of the visions, Lucia was 10, Francisco, 9, and Jacinto, 7.
Except for martyrs, the Marto children, who died in an epidemic of Spanish influenza in 1919 and 1920, were the youngest ever to be declared blessed.

Lucia died in the Carmelite Convent of Santa Teresa at Coimbra in central Portugal, where she had lived a life of prayer and contemplation since 1948. She had been blind and deaf for some years.

John Paul, who was making a Lenten retreat in the Vatican at the time of her death, prayed for her and named Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa to represent him at the funeral, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said. Cardinal Bertone said John Paul gave him a hand-written message to take to the funeral.

In his former post of secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Bertone visited Lucia a number of times to coordinate publication of the Third Secret. He said that, “knowing that her end was near,” the pope recently sent Lucia his “special blessing.”

The Portuguese prime minister and other party leaders suspended campaigning for the Feb. 20 national elections for two days, and Santana Lopez declared Feb. 15 a day of nationwide mourning for Lucia

Vatican issues instructions
for annulments

By Peggy Polk
Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican has issued a book of instructions guiding the granting of an annulment, which decrees that a true marriage never existed in the eyes of the Church.

The instructions make diocesan tribunals more rigorous in deciding whether to grant the requests of Catholic couples seeking such annulments.

Cardinal Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, told a Vatican news conference that the book does not change Church law, but “contains interpretations, clarifications of dispositions of the law and further dispositions on procedure for their execution.”

Entitled “Dignitas Connubii (The Dignity of Marriage): Instruction To Be Observed by Diocesan and Interdiocesan Tribunals in handling Causes of the Nullity of Marriage,” the book consists of 308 articles and an index. The Latin and English version has 223 pages.

It was prepared over 10 years by Cardinal Herranz's council working closely with four other Vatican bodies, the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the two Vatican tribunals dealing with annulments, the Roman Rota and the Apostolic Signatura.

The Roman Rota is a court of appeals for annulment cases originally heard at the diocesan level while the Apostolic Signatura acts as the Vatican's supreme court and has jurisdiction over the Roman Rota's decisions.

Addressing the Roman Rota as it opened its judicial term on Jan. 29, Pope John Paul II warned Church courts against letting “false compassion” influence their judgment in annulment cases. He also deplored falsification of evidence and said that speeding up the annulment process could lead to injustice.

The Church does not accept divorce. But annulments are granted for specified reasons ranging from refusal of a spouse to have children to psychological immaturity.

Bishop Velasio Del Paolis, secretary of the Apostolic Signatura, told the news conference, Feb. 8, that 800 diocesan and interdiocesan courts ruled on more than 56,000 requests for annulment in 2002. Of the more than 46,000 annulments granted, 30,968 were in North America and 8,855 in Europe.

Bishop Del Paolis blamed the preponderance of cases in America and Europe on “a widespread secularization that permits mistaken conceptions of marriage with respect to the ideal proposed by the Church.”

Bishop Herranz, a member of the Opus Dei Prelature, underlined the difference between civil divorce, which is the dissolution of a marriage, and an annulment under Church law, which decrees that a true marriage never existed.

In too many diocesan and interdiocesan courts, he said, “the difference between annulment and divorce could be merely nominal. Through a capable manipulation of the annulment case every failed marriage could be annulled.”

Effort begins to legalize
assisted suicide in state

By Voice staff

California Assembly members Patty Berg (D-Sebastopol) and Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) are planning to formally introduce a bill in a few weeks that would allow physicians in the state to help terminally ill people end their own lives.

The bill is modeled on Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act and is expected to include requiring that the patient has less than six months to live, is mentally competent and is informed about alternatives. The patient would self-administer the medication.

The California Catholic Conference (CCC), which has opposed previous attempts to legalize “assisted suicide,” intends to oppose the proposed bill.

“Legalizing ‘assisted suicide’ in California is not good public policy because of the inevitable social injustices that will follow,” said a statement on the CCC website.

“The pressure to make the ‘choice’ will increase with the burden of illness, age or diminished economic status.”

Conference to focus
on family planning

By Voice staff

The California Association of Natural Family Planning (CANFP) will hold its 11th annual conference March 18 and 19 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.

Workshops and presentations will address both the philosophical and the practical aspects of human sexuality, with particular emphasis on the use of natural family planning to either delay or achieve a pregnancy, as well as its role in the diagnosis and treatment of gynecological disorders. Separate programs will be offered for clergy, medical personnel, and NFP teachers and users.

Speakers include Dr. Thomas Hilgers, director of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction and co-developer of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System; Father Luke Dysinger, a Benedictine monk at St. Andrew’s Abbey and retired board certified family practice physician; and Camille De Blasi, president and co-founder of Healing the Culture.

Dr. Carlos Aldana-Venezuela, who provides NFP services in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, will be featured in the Spanish track. The program culminates with the Palm Sunday Vigil Mass on March 19, with Cardinal Roger Mahony presiding.

For registration information contact the California Association of Natural Family Planning office by phone: (877) 33-CANFP, e-mail:, or website: