Five University of Dayton faculty members will travel to Brazil on Sunday for a 10-day trip to examine slave labor and sex trafficking and discuss the opportunity for the school to aid in researching ways to combat the problems.
Their trip is aimed at helping people see the “real cost” of the items they use every day that are produced in some way by slaves in Brazil — from the steel in cars to leather in shoes, according to UD.
“We so seldom see where the products we purchase come from. There is so much slave labor involved in goods we take for granted,” said Vince Miller, UD’s Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture. “In a global world, we’re already in relationship with these people. We’re already relying on that labor and a significant part of that is slave labor. So we’re profiting from their suffering.”
UD was one of three U.S. Catholic universities selected to participate in the pilot program through Catholic Relief Services, the official relief and humanitarian development arm of the Catholic Church. It comes from the partnership called Scholars for Global Solidarity, which includes UD, the University of San Francisco and St. John’s University in New York.
According to UD, the scholars will split into three groups: one will head to the area in Brazil where the Catholic Church helps poor landowners defend farms threatened by large ranchers and logging operations; another will visit a project that resettles trafficking victims; and a third will work with advocacy groups preparing to combat sex trafficking during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, which will be held in Brazil.
Brazil, which legally allows prostitution, made news this week after the health ministry launched and quickly dropped an online campaign called “I am happy being a prostitute” urging the use of condoms, according to the Associated Press. The message was aimed to reduce the AIDS-related stigma suffered by prostitutes.
The U.S. representatives also will meet with Brazilian government and church officials who are working to free the slaves and stop sex trafficking.
“This isn’t just an academic exercise,” said Mark Ensalaco, director of UD’s human rights studies program. “We expect a tremendous impact.”
Ensalaco said faculty will bring what they learn in Brazil back into the classroom at UD.
Making the trip along with Miller and Ensalaco are: Sister Laura Leming, F.M.I., associate professor and chair of the sociology department; Danielle Poe, associate professor of philosophy; and Kelly Johnson, associate professor of religious studies.