Morristown, N.J. (January 30, 2014) – The College of Saint Elizabeth "Stand for Dignity Candlelight Vigil" was held January 29, 2014, in Xavier Center Chapel on campus. The event, led by the CSE De Paul Center for Mission and Ministry, brought together more than 100 College and community partner members who joined in prayer, song and education – taking a stand in solidarity to end human trafficking and domestic violence.
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"The darkness we want to look at tonight is the darkness of modern day slavery," said Sr. Mary Katherine Hamm, SC, coordinator of education for LifeWay Network, an organization that provides safe housing for women who have been trafficked. She shared that 30 million worldwide including 300,000 youth are at risk in the U.S. "Even one in the darkness is too much. None of us is free until all of us are free."
Human trafficking and domestic violence intensifies around the Super Bowl, yet is a reality 365 days a year. Nita Belles, author of in Our Backyard: A Christian Perspective on Human Trafficking in the United States, emphasized that united, we can abolish these atrocities in our lifetime. She painted a vivid picture of a 14-year-old girl huddled in a sitting position, arms around her knees, unable to rest – knowing that any moment her pimp would arrive. Belles stressed, "It is for that little girl and all those we hope will never be that little girl that we do what we do to enable systemic change."
The College is one of seven non-profits partnering in the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Melanie Roth Gorelick, of the NJ Coalition, said, "We are grateful to have CSE as part of the Coalition ensuring education and participation of college-age students. These students are poised at this time to become empowered. They will become the advocates and leaders to end these violations to human dignity."
The Coalition initiated a project, the Halftime Challenge, to encourage advocates to tweet during halftime and raise awareness. CSE students took up the challenge. They will tweet during halftime and taught Vigil attendees about hashtags and tweeting, so all could take up the challenge of ending human trafficking.
Lissel-Thalia Devetori, '16, double major in communication and global studies, voiced that the event at CSE impressed her to think more deeply about the situation. "I am committed to this cause and encouraging others to be advocates and use social media during halftime so as to raise awareness and express opinion."
CSE President Helen J. Streubert, thanked attendees for their commitment to the cause. She reiterated how closely aligned the College's core values are to the abolition of human trafficking. Two such values include the promotion of women as full partners in society and the development of leadership in the spirit of service and social responsibility to others.
"We must be a voice for the voiceless wherever they are," said Dr. Streubert.