I am inviting the people and congregations of the Diocese of Newark to join in preparations for the Super Bowl, which will be played at Giants Stadium on February 2, 2014. Not the preparations for what we expect and can easily see – which is all the hoopla that surrounds the largest public event in the country every year. My invitation is to join in the preparation for what we don’t expect, probably won’t see and certainly don’t want: the influx of human trafficking which has accompanied each and every previous Super Bowl.
Estimates run to the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue through this illicit underground activity, which binds hundreds, if not thousands of teenage girls and young women (who are mostly from this country) in sexual slavery.
Our preparations will involve shining light on this life-denying darkness. It threatens to affect every community in the diocese. I suggest that congregations identify a team of parishioners to visit the local police chief, and ask how the congregation can be in partnership with their preparations. The same team of people might visit the local motel, inn or hotel (most of which are already booked as far west as the Delaware Water Gap), and alert the staff to this impending reality and work together to prevent any trafficking – and post phone numbers for women who are looking for an opportunity to escape.
If you can’t reach out, bring the reality into the congregation. Offer special intentions in your Sunday prayers. Hold forums on this issue. The New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking has an array of resources and volunteer opportunities, including the organizing of a public witness. Our Justice Board has posted information and resources on the diocesan website, and more will be added.
All of this is missional work. It is engaging the world. It is building relationships and partnerships with people outside the congregation. It is Gospel witness. The Super Bowl has dropped into our midst. With it comes lots of glitz, not to mention clogged roads and packed restaurants. Most of us will try to stay away from it. With the Super Bowl also comes a darkness and evil that most of us wish would just go away. It won’t. Even if we do something, human trafficking won’t go away.
But we can have an impact. If we respond.