Groups’ prayer effort during CWS targets problem of sex trafficking

There’s a dark, little discussed side to large groups of people gathering for big sporting events – from the Olympics to the Super Bowl to the annual College World Series (CWS) in Omaha. It is an increase in human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking.

And an ecumenical effort supported by the Archdiocese of Omaha is inviting people to attend an 11-day prayer series during the CWS to raise awareness and bring the power of prayer to the issue.

"The CWS is an exciting event for Omaha, but sex trafficking increases, with young girls trafficked into our hotels and motels," said Notre Dame Sister Celeste Wobeter, who is helping to organize the prayer series. Prayer will be led by representatives of a number of faiths in two-hour blocks from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 14-24 at the Salvation Army Chapel at 3612 Cuming St. in Omaha.

People are invited to join in the prayer at the chapel at any time, for whatever length of time they can, Sister Wobeter said. Information, including groups signed up to lead the prayer sessions and an invitation to help lead sessions, is available at traffickprayerseries.com.

Sister Wobeter said she is a member of a local committee dedicated to combating human trafficking that also includes the Servants of Mary and Catholic Charities. And the archdiocese has been drawing attention to the issue, including sponsoring an April 22 conference on human trafficking in Omaha that drew more than 90 representatives of parishes, homeless shelters, religious orders and several religious denominations.

Mary Beth Hanus, victim outreach coordinator for the archdiocese and director of its anti-pornography committee, said she is encouraging people to participate in the CWS prayer series, and she is sharing information about the prayer sessions with people who attended the archdiocese’s conference.

"It’s one action that can assist all of us as we address this issue," Hanus said.

Catholic-related groups already signed up to lead sessions include the Notre Dame Sisters, Pope Paul VI Institute and St. Pius X Parish, all in Omaha.

Interreligious campaigns against human trafficking have been held around the world in recent years, including sites for the Super Bowl, the Winter and Summer Olympics and the World Cup.

Efforts against human trafficking will continue to grow in Omaha, Sister Wobeter said. People concerned about the issue, for example, plan to continue lobbying the Nebraska Legislature for harsher penalties for human trafficking, and in the future to line up educational opportunities for hotel and motel officials as a way to provide tips on spotting human trafficking activity.

And prayer is important and powerful, Sister Wobeter said.

"We hope it can make a difference in the lives of these young people," she said.

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