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Feb. 1 social media ‘fast’ fights human trafficking

With the major objective of getting Catholics to make a one-day “fast” from using social media and texting, the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New Orleans will sponsor an Archdiocesan Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking on Feb. 1.

The idea of the social media fast, said Respect Life coordinator Debbie Shinskie, is to “raise awareness” among family members and friends about “the plight of trafficked victims, so many of whom are right here in our midst.”

Feb. 8 is the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. Because Feb. 8 is the day before Mardi Gras, the archdiocese will sponsor the one-day fast on Monday, Feb. 1.

Shinskie said fasting from social media will be a sacrifice but is an ideal way to “remember to pray for those who are victims of trafficking currently and those who have escaped and are working to rebuild their lives.”

Shinskie said the project focuses on a social media fast because traffickers typically “recruit, advertise, organize and communicate primarily, or even exclusively, via mobile phone, effectively streamlining their activities and expanding their criminal networks.”

“Human traffickers and criminal networks are taking advantage of technology to reach larger audiences and to do illicit business more quickly and efficiently across greater distances,” she said.

Sounds of silence
Through coordination with the archdiocesan communications office, all archdiocesan social media platforms will participate in the fast and most of the archdiocesan 501(c)3 agencies will as well.

“It will be 24 hours of silence on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts in order to raise awareness of this important issue in our society,” said archdiocesan director of communications Sarah McDonald. “Once we decided to participate in the ‘fast,’ we asked other Catholic agencies to do so in solidarity with us, and we received quick and enthusiastic support, especially from Project Lazarus and Catholic Charities.”

The communications office has posted messages on social media, using facts to raise awareness of the day and encourage participation from archdiocesan parishes and schools as well as individuals.

In the week leading up to Feb. 8 International Day of Prayer, the archdiocese will use its social media platforms to promote facts about human trafficking. The timing of the campaign to raise awareness of the issue is especially good as research shows that events like the Super Bowl (Feb. 7) and Mardi Gras (Feb. 9) cause an increase in human trafficking activities.

“This isn’t just a Catholic issue but a real issue for all of society to be aware of and to take a stand against,” McDonald said. “We’re hoping this first year will be successful so that we can grow the initiative in years to come to reach not just NOLA Catholics but people of all faiths around the country.”

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