Lagon Denounces Human Trafficking

Ambassador Mark Lagon, director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Human Persons, explored the escalating problem of slavery Wednesday afternoon in the Leavey Center, confronting the issue of human trafficking of migrant workers.

Lagon said migrant workers often become victims of human trafficking as a result of poverty and debt.

“Debt is not just a minor burden,” he said. “It captures the indebted worker.”

Nearly 800,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked across national borders each year, Lagon said.

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” Lagon said. “It is an acute form of exploitation, where victims lose control of their lives.”

Lagon said the United States and the international community need to make greater efforts to aid victims of human trafficking. “We need to find some of the human solutions in the service of human dignity to close windows of vulnerability in migrants to human enslavement through national and international law,” he said.

While he emphasized that there is more work to be done, he said the introduction of “T visas” in the United States has been a major step.

“T visas give victims a place of refuge in the aftermath of gross exploitation,” he said. “They allow victims to remain in the country and assist in the prosecution of their exploiters.”

Lagon was invited as this year’s William V. O’Brien Lecture in International Law and Morality, which was established in memory of Georgetown graduate and government professor William O’Brien (SFS ’46) in 1993.

Lagon said O’Brien was one of his mentors during his time at Georgetown.

“O’Brien is a part of the rich, Catholic tradition that has embraced social justice, specifically the innate dignity of human life,” he said.

– Kathleen Nahill

GU Groups Look for Ways to Help Hurting Charities

With an increase in gas prices, a slow economy and a higher demand placed on food pantries across the nation, organizations, such as the Capital Area Food Bank of Washington, D.C., have felt the weight of the sluggish economy.

“High diesel prices affect us by putting a strain on the number of times our drivers can deliver food. Agencies we deliver to are also cutting back . on the number of times they come to the food bank because gas prices are so high,” said Marian Peele, director of agency relations for CAFB.

To help ease the pressure of the financial woes, one Georgetown University group is lending a hand. The Knights of Columbus launched a food drive on March 19, and will continue collecting donations until this Sunday, April 13.

“This came into my mind because we did a service project with a food center in Alexandria, and it turns out donations to the food bank dropped 50 percent from 2006 to 2007, and at the same time demand for food is going up because of the economy. We really wanted to do something to make up for the lack of donations,” said Joe Kapusnick (SFS ’10), chancellor of the Knights of Columbus. Kapusnick oversees the Knights’ service projects.

The Catholic Service Fraternity is aiming to duplicate the 435 pounds they previously sent to the Capital Area Food Bank.

“[We saw] the Archdiocese was doing a similar drive as a gift to the Pope, and that served as inspiration,” Kapusnick said.

– Johnny Solis

Former Child Soldier Shares Experiences

A former child soldier shared his experiences of the Liberian civil war during a panel discussion on child soldiers Wednesday in the Walsh Building.

Eric Gibson made the decision to leave home when he was 16 years old. “The rebels had 80 percent of the country and the resources,” he said. “I said to my mom, `I have to leave, I have to go behind rebel lines.’ What I didn’t know was that you go behind rebel lines, it’s like you’re going into hell and you can’t go back to heaven.”

Gibson said he was shot and stabbed during the conflict and witnessed numerous murders.

any former child soldiers flee to the United States, but that does not guarantee great improvements in their quality of life, said Ruthie Ackerman, a Pulitzer Center reporter who has studied Liberian youth in the wake of the war.

“Many refugees came to America thinking this is the land of opportunity, and then they came here and there really isn’t any counseling or support,” Ackerman said.

Staten Island has the largest concentration of former combatants in the United States, according to Jon Sawyer, founder and executive director of the Pulitzer Center.

“What I’m here to say is [that] it’s a global problem, not isolated. . It will come back and affect our own communities,” Ackerman said. “What I’ve found is a lot of the issues I’ve found in Liberia, I’ve also found in Staten Island.”

The Georgetown University chapter of Amnesty International, the School of Foreign Service, the African studies department and the Program on Justice and Peace sponsored the event.

– Emily McGinnis

Students Plan Mural In Response to Pope’s Speech

As Catholics prepare for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Washington, D.C., next week, a group of Georgetown students plan to paint their own picture of Georgetown’s place as a Catholic university.

When they learned that the pope would be visiting the District, 10 student groups – including the Georgetown chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, GU Pride, H*yas for Choice and Take Back The Night – came together to form the group Expressions of a Better Georgetown.

“After reading the article in The Washington Post that announced the pope’s visit to D.C. and numerous bishops’ criticism of Georgetown for establishing a gay resource center and allowing for the production of ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ we thought it would be important for us to let our voices be heard on that day as well,” said Marion Cory (COL ’10).

“Basically, Expression of a Better Georgetown stemmed from our idea that Georgetown has been through a lot this year, and it has a long way still to go,” Cory said.

Group members plan to work on a mural early next week and hope to complete it in time for the pope’s arrival in the District on Tuesday.

“We understand that [University President John J.] DeGioia and other leaders of Catholic universities face a lot of pressure to uphold certain Catholic ideals, and we just wanted to do something that would represent our visions of Georgetown in a positive but still critical way,” Cory said.

Cory said the group wrote a letter to DeGioia supporting his work on LGBTQ issues this year, much of which drew criticism from Catholic leaders.

As of early this morning, the Facebook group “Expressions of a Better Georgetown” had 138 members.

– Kathleen Nahill and Evan Regan-Levine

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