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Salesian Brother involved in the Advocacy against Human Trafficking

By Bro. David O’Brien, SDB

Melbourne, Australia, 27 May 2017 -- In 2010 I had a sabbatical year in New Mexico (USA), a place called Sangre De Cristo. Fr Michael Crosby OFM Capuchin was one of the speakers. He struck deeply in my heart: "We need to do justice not just talk it!" That made me think, so when I got back to Australia I thought I should make some contact perhaps with a group working with refugees. However a sister who was also on the Sangre De Cristo sabbatical program Sr Tania De Jong (Good Shepherd Sister) told me about ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against the Trafficking of Humans), I was invited and so began my apostolate.

ACRATH was started in 2005 as a direct result of the CRA (Catholic Religious Australia) and the awareness of the problem of Human Trafficking. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, St. Brigide Sisters, Franciscan sisters of the divine Motherhood, Presentation Sisters, Sister of Charity, Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of St Joseph were the pioneers. Later became involved also lay people and other male religious including a Christian Brother and one Salesian of Don Bosco.

With ACRATH we are involved in action on behalf of Trafficked people like:

  1. Engaging in a broad-based community education campaign
  2. Advocacy and lobbying for visa reform based on human rights for all survivors of trafficking
  3. Establishing safe houses
  4. Building NGO and support agency networks in the Asia Pacific region
  5. Supporting Millennium Development Goal (MDG) initiatives to reduce poverty and hence reduce the vulnerability to trafficking in source countries.
  6. Investigating ways of supporting research into TIP in Australia.
  7. Visits to Detention centers and Asylum seekers groups

Work of this group started from Sydney and Melbourne, then expanded since 2005 nationwide. The group continues to work in whatever way is appropriate, with State police, Australian federal police, lawyers, judges.

The strength of ACRATH consist in empowering the particular gifts of its members. We offer support to each other and encourage each to claim personal giftedness. None of us has all the knowledge or abilities necessary to eradicate trafficking in Australia and regions. We are convinced that if we continue to review and evaluate our work and to continually welcome new women and men into the network we will become an ever greater force in the Australia-Asia-Pacific region in this work. We will indeed be the heart, voice, hands and feet of Jesus who desires the fullness of life for all and particularly for the marginalized and most vulnerable.

So in 2011 after I got home from the USA I began my work with ACRATH the first project I became involved was the area of Fairtrade chocolates (cocoa was not picked up by child labor) in local parishes around Easter. Then I became involved in the Local Ethnic Radio mission.

ACRATH launched in 2013 the Australia’s first multi-language anti-trafficking radio awareness project in a bid to create awareness about the risk of sexual and labour exploitation in Victoria State (Australia). Radio Project works with local ethnic radio programs to broadcast community service announcements, in specific languages, to create awareness within local communities most at risk of exploitation. With the help of local volunteers The RAP has produced community service announcements in Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese (Mandarin). In 2017 we try to broaden it to more languages and to incorporate the area of forced marriages.

In 2015 I put together a book "One in a thousand stories: a tale of human trafficking" I called it a Picture book for grownups the pictures are in Needlepoint (a skill we learned in Sangra De Cristo) it spoke of two women from Thailand (Or a similar country Indonesia, Vietnam etc.) who were trafficked to Australia (Melbourne) it is a fictions story but based on fact. This book was launched on Feb 5, 2015 during the General Assembly of ACRATH by the AUL Provincial, Fr. Greg Chambers.

In the future I hope to continue to participate in this activities also through the Radio. I hope too, talk to the young Salesians especially coming from those countries with people who are being trafficked, to let them know what are the ways they may be able to help.

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