dark side of the 2010 Games
By Paul Schratz
In less than a year, hundreds of thousands of visitors will be
arriving in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
If history repeats itself, the city will also see the underside of
the Olympics - a wave of exploitation as so-called sex tourists take
advantage of a worldwide commercial trade in defenceless women and
The Canadian bishops have issued a statement about this terrible
situation, and now the bishops of B.C. and Yukon have released a
pastoral letter on it.
The letter, published in The B.C. Catholic and available on line at
www.rcav.org, points out that human trafficking is considered by
many to be the fastest growing international crime.
Human trafficking destroys people all over the world, and its
tentacles reach into our very community, where many of Vancouver's
prostitutes are caught up in it. In fact, the words "human
trafficking" don't adequately describe the life these people are
trapped in, often addicted to drugs, physically and psychologically
terrorized, and essentially forced to work as sex slaves.
Fortunately, the problem of human trafficking is starting to gain
more media attention, much of it precipitated by the pending winter
Olympics. The Globe and Mail is currently running a series of
articles on the problems of Vancouver's downtown eastside, and in
particular the prostitution and human trafficking that fuels much of
that area's woes.
The newspaper is running separate articles examining what it calls
the Architecture Solution, the International Development Solution,
the Public Policy Solution, and the Education Solution.
As helpful and welcome as all these may be, there remains another
solution that needs to be kept in the forefront: The Dignity
At its root, the tragedy of human trafficking results from the
treatment of people as objects and commodities, based on a loss of
their God-given dignity as human persons.
The Second Vatican Council described the selling of women and
children as an infamy, while Pope John Paul II called it a "shocking
offence against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental
Catholic organizations around the world are combating human
trafficking, working at the highest levels of the United Nations,
all the way down to the very streets and ports where trafficking
The response demanded of this archdiocese is clear. While Catholics
are understandably brimming with enthusiasm as they count down the
days to the start of the Olympics, this is also a time when we can
take a firm stance and do something to help those enslaved by a
degrading commercial practice.
We need to tell our government leaders - municipal, provincial and
federal - that this critical human rights issue must be addressed
well in advance of the arrival of the world on our doorstep.
Politicians need to receive phone calls and letters demanding that
they do all they can to promote the dignity of the human person,
both at home and abroad.
The B.C. and Yukon Bishops' statement says that because of the
media's educational potential, they bear "a special responsibility
for promoting the God-given dignity of every person." That's why
it's also up to us as Catholics to inform the media - news,
entertainment, and advertising - that we reject the ongoing
exploitation of people in their work, the exploitation of women in
advertising, the trivialization of sexuality, attacks on the family,
and destructive patterns of consumption.
We also must offer prayer and pastoral support for those caught up
in sexual exploitation. Numerous organizations, locally as well as
internationally, are coming to the aid of these slaves in search of
freedom. Please offer them your time, treasure and talents.
The bishops' document calls on all to "live in solidarity with all
those who are exploited."
What better time than this Lenten season to embrace that sentiment.
In the words of St. Paul, "now is the acceptable time; ... now is
the day of salvation."
For all the victims enslaved in sexual trafficking, that day can't
come a moment too soon.
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