No one can imagine how a transcendent God could become human. But maybe you can imagine a smaller picture of the incarnation of God, smaller yet very powerful.
I speak of a company of nuns who pose as prostitutes and enter brothels to rescue women and girls trapped in sex trafficking.
Some 73 million people—one percent of the world’s population—are being trafficked for sex or labor. Seventy percent of these are women, half of those 16 or younger. Do the math: over 25,000,000 young girls are held against their will and forced into sex slavery.
Enter Talitha Kum (aka The International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons). This relatively new and aggressive group of nuns are challenging the evil of sex trafficking.
They take their name and identity from the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from death. The story shows Jesus’ compassionate action on behalf of a family and their young daughter: He took the girl by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” (Mark 5:41)
Talitha Kum began in 2004 in response to global sex trafficking. Today they include 1,100 sisters working in 80 countries. They plan to expand into the 140 countries that are calling for their engagement.
These women are involved in rescuing young girls and women from sex slavers. They buy young girls from the slavers. They set up homes for girls whose parents have sold them into sex trafficking. They work with local volunteers to interrupt the supply chain of young girls.
In addition to the rescuing, they provide rehabilitation for the women and children who were trafficked. This includes counseling, legal assistance and skills training to help their healing and their reintegration into society.
They are involved in advocacy to increase public awareness of this evil. They
- Offer seminar-workshops, public meetings, conferences and forums;
- Publish books and booklets, primers, posters, flyers and postcards;
- Produce videos, mini-films, theatre and street plays to increase public awareness and put vulnerable people on guard.
They also lead anti-human-trafficking campaigns to mobilize people for action to engage the “evil empire” behind the sex-trafficking network.
A network to end sex trafficking needs to be as powerful as the network that promotes it
Although the battlefield they engage is pernicious, many of their activities are relatively common to the world of charity and social justice. But in one arena their methods are outside the box and dangerous for the sisters. Some of their members pose as prostitutes, plying the streets to get access to brothels.
The Sisters of Talitha Kum are radically following Christ’s call and imitating his life. In a recent post, “Go and Do Likewise,” Steve Deace wrote, “These holy and chaste women are rescuing victims of human trafficking by posing as prostitutes in order to enter brothels and free children from the bondage of sex slavery.”
Investment banker John Studzinski, chair of Talitha Kum, notes that, “These sisters do not trust anyone. They do not trust governments, they do not trust corporations, and they don’t trust the local police. In some cases they cannot trust male clergy…. They work in brothels. No one knows they are there.” (Go here to read more.)
“They become invisible. They become a commodity, treated like objects for the ‘buy and sell’ business. They are no longer treated as human beings created in the image and likeness of God.”
Castalone argues powerfully for the need to build a network to end trafficking that matches the capacity of the network that supports trafficking.
“It is only through an equally well-organized network that links the countries of origin to those of transit and destination that we can prevent the weakest and the most vulnerable from becoming a human commodity.”
For more on Sister Estrella Castalone and the work of Talitha Kum see this three-minute video.
Steve Deace offers a fitting summary:
Can you image the richness of the prayer life of the sisters of Talitha Kum? Can you begin to comprehend the sense of purpose that greets them with the arrival of each new day? Does anything in your life come close to matching the cosmic gravity of the battle they wage, and the thorns they are willing to bear in their side, to achieve victory for the suffering and the lost?
They may be up to their eyeballs in the worst sort of filth that humanity can dish out, yet their lives put most of us to shame. We are lost. They are found.
For Deace’s full article go here.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ, may we remember what a radical birth this is, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
And may the life and work of the Sisters of Talitha Kum remind us of the radical nature of the calling he has on our lives.
To become part of the network see this.
- Darrow Miller