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Talitha Kum: Network of nuns leading the fight against human trafficking

2014-02-11

Chapter 5 of the Gospel, according to Mark, describes when Jesus resurrected the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus, saying "Talitha Kum,” or "Little girl, rise.”

Fast forward 2,000 years later, a network of nuns is doing the same, helping girls and women rise again, after becoming victims of human trafficking. Very fittingly, they call themselves Talitha Kum.

SR. ESTRELLA CASTALONE
Coordinator, Talitha Kum
"Sisters have opened their houses to welcome victims of human trafficking. Those who have chosen to leave the circle, those who are able to escape, and those who the sisters are able to rescue.”

Statistics are unreliable, but its a lucrative business, second only to weapons trafficking. Now in its fifth year, Talitha Kum has morphed into world-wide network, not just helping trafficking victims, but to prevent it from happening in the first place. 

They started off with courses, but quickly took a hands on approach. As a network, the sisters rely on each other to do their part. Each congregation has specific resources to contribute, including hospitals, schools, social centers or even convents. But they say their biggest resource are the empowered sisters themselves.

SR. ESTRELLA CASTALONE
Coordinator, Talitha Kum
"What could be our cutting edge in confronting human trafficking and we think it would be our prevention initiatives, because we have the resources to prevent. We have schools where we can teach our young people, the values which are higher than the monetary offers that they receive from traffickers.” 

In their programs, they especially target young people in countries known for human trafficking. Their idea is that if they're educated about the dangers, and taught important life-skills, they'll be less prone to falling victims.

But they've also developed strategies to get others involved. Notably, one of the regional groups in Africa works with truck drivers to teach them how to recognize the signs of trafficking. With their advocacy and prevention work, there are no shortages of threats, even against their lives. But it won't stop these sisters.

SR. ESTRELLA CASTALONE
Coordinator, Talitha Kum
"We are committed to working against trafficking persons because it is trampling upon the dignity of the child of God. We believe that every person has a right to be respected as an image and likeness of God. Human trafficking treats them as objects, as commodities as merchandise to be bought and sold.”

In just five years, they've achieved great success. Though their work focuses on the protection and prevention. There is another P word, they look to expand on: partnership. As a Catholic charity, they rely on donations and assistance to continue running their programs.

With criminal networks behind human trafficking operations, Talitha Kum considers itself a "network of salvation” that will keep fighting to stop it.


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Up: AFP
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