(Photo: REUTERS/FBI/Handout via Reuters)
Human trafficking for labor and sex, considered a worldwide epidemic, is of such heightened concern for this year's Super Bowl that one Catholic social activism group has trained more than 400 volunteers to canvas the New York and New Jersey region during the week-long extravaganza to raise awareness. Other groups, including churches, are taking aim at the problem as well.
In another instance of action against the form of modern-day slavery, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale in Florida, is using the month of January, tagged Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and coupled with their own Super Bowl efforts to encourage Christians to join a team planning to meet in Brazil for the World Cup.
"You've read the devastating statistics (An estimated 27 million are enslaved in the world today; Approximately 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women and are children (boys and girls); human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world-second only to drug trafficking.)," states Calvary Chapel on its website. "But did you know that this epidemic is running rampant at one of the largest sporting events in the world?
"As we gear up for Super Bowl festivities on Feb. 2, there's a grim reality veiled behind the hype of this iconic sporting event: human sex trafficking. As hundreds of thousands of sports fans descend upon New Jersey and the surrounding area, traffickers are among them. And they're not coming to watch the game," the post on the church's website continues.
"They're coming to buy and sell human beings, most of which are underage girls. The horror doesn't just masquerade itself within the weekend revelries – it goes on for weeks and months after the game clock has run out."
Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, led by Pastor Bob Coy, believes it's time for "the Body of Christ to step in and step up."
"One million foreigners will travel to Brazil this year for the World Cup," the church states. "The churches of Brazil need help, and we'll be sending a team from Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale to do just that.
The church plans to send a mission team to take part in evangelism, soccer clinics, youth ministry, and ministry and community outreach in slums. "We will also be present at the stadium and at fan zones during the World Cup. We'll take a stand against the human trafficking that happens at these large events. We'll connect with the locals and visitors and share the love of Jesus," the church says.
During this year's Super Bowl, "a large network of religious women and men and varying congregations," including an alliance of Roman Catholic institutional investors in greater New York, which use their influence to address social concerns, will focus on human trafficking, according to NJ.com.
"We plan to track activities before, the day of, and after the Super Bowl," said Caldwell Dominican Sister Patricia Daly, the leader of the alliance.
The group has been enlisting and training volunteers "to interface" with individual motels, hotels and large chains and "educate everyone on the staff from management to bell hops to housecleaning so they can spot when women and girls are being trafficked for prostitution," reports Rev. Alexander Santora. "They plan to concentrate on lodgings within 50 miles of MetLife Stadium."
"The Hotel Outreach" has so far more than 400 volunteers, Santora reported, who have been trained and near their goal of personally contacting more than 1,200 hotels and motels. The goal is to raise awareness in the lodging industry. A national hotline (1-888-373-7888) has been setup to take anyone's call reporting suspicious activity.
The alliance has also initiated "S.O.A.P Super Bowl 2014," partnering with S.O.A.P (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution), by offering motels free bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline phone number printed on the packaging, according to NJ.com.
Other facts on human trafficking provided by Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale include:
Human Trafficking yields an annual income of over $32 billion.
Many drug traffickers are now re-purposing their underground networks to sell humans because it's more profitable.
Drugs are only sold once. Humans are sold over and over and over again.
Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 victims are trafficked worldwide every year.
An estimated 14,500 – 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year.
The number one destination for sexual tourism for American men is the U.S.
Over 100,000 children are being sexually exploited every year in the U.S.
As many as 2.8 million children run away each year in the U.S. Within 48 hours of running, one third are lured into pornography and/or prostitution.
The average age of entry for children victimized by sexual exploitation in the U.S. is 12 to 13 years old.
Human trafficking is happening in nearly every state in the U.S. and every nation in the world.
In the U.S., human trafficking happens everywhere-including suburban and rural areas across all socioeconomic demographics.
Profits of and demand for pornography is the dominant driver for sex trafficking of women and children.
Florida ranks third in the nation for labor and sex trafficking.
If there were no demand, supply would drastically dwindle.
Human trafficking is fueled by lust and greed.
Human trafficking is the reduction of human life to a mere commodity to be bought and sold.
Human trafficking is modern day slavery.