Chatham’s Christ Church wants to go beyond saving souls for the afterlife and try to prevent the souls of children from being permanently damaged as victims of human trafficking.
The Anglican church at 80 Wellington St. W. is hosting a Human Trafficking Awareness Night on Sunday, beginning at 6:30 p.m., that will feature guest speakers Aua Burdett of the London Anti-Human Trafficking Committee and Shelly Gilbert of Legal Aid Windsor.
“It’s part of our mission and ministry plan,” said Rev. John Maroney on why the church is taking on this issue. “Historically, Christ Church has been about social justice, about looking beyond the walls of the sanctuary to those in need.”
Human trafficking sounds like such an “innocuous statement,” Maroney said, “but people don’t realize just how prevalent it is. … There are dudes walking Chatham looking for victims.”
He added these guys are looking for those kids, both girls and boys, walking down the street with their heads down and no friends around.
“They’re like the wolves that prey on the sick and the hurt.”
Maroney is the co-ordinator for the Diocese of Huron on human trafficking, noting the bishop has asked him to look into the issue.
He recently attended a human trafficking conference in Pickering that attracted speakers from around the world where Chatham was mentioned.
He said Chatham-Kent is part of the Highway 401 corridor, “which is quite notorious for human trafficking.”
Maroney said Sunday’s event is open to everyone interested in learning more about this growing problem and will take place no matter how many people show up.
“If we have only four people there, then we’ve educated four people that otherwise wouldn’t have known,” he said. “It will be a night of information and then we’ll go from there and see what we can do.”
With October being Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Maroney said the congregation will be putting together some backpacks with toiletries and other items for that police can give to victims who are rescued from human trafficking.
Maroney said it’s all about educating people about what’s going on so more action can be taken.
“If everybody says, ‘I can’t do anything,’ then nothing happens,” he said.