By Robert Frank Gabriel (Flickr: Nun Deep in Prayer) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Robert Frank Gabriel (Flickr: Nun Deep in Prayer) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Talitha Kum is worldwide operation of nuns working to save victims of sex slavery.

A number of nuns have discarded their habits to look like prostitutes. They then infiltrate brothels to rescue sex trafficking victims and purchase children sold into enslavement. It is a worldwide operation by Talitha Kum, a group consisting of about 1,100 religious sisters. The group works in a minimum of 80 countries and is now expanding to cover 140 nations.

Talitha Kum is chaired by John Studzinski, a philanthropist with roots in investment banking. The group was established in 2004. It estimates that about one percent of the total population of the world, 73 million individuals, is trafficked in varied ways. A majority of trafficked persons (70 percent) consists of women. Almost 50 percent of those trafficked are yet to reach 16 years of age.

According to Studzinski, his organization is active in a world which has lost its innocence and where dark forces lurk. He said that the main causes of such problems are lack of equality and poverty, but adds that the problem goes beyond that. He elaborated on the issue, citing a few cases of slavery and trafficking. Treatment of a few victims were more than horrific.

Studzinski gave the example of a woman sold into slavery as a prostitute. She was locked up for one week and not given any food. The reason: she declined to have sex with 12 clients every day. The woman was forced to eat her own feces to stay alive. In yet another instance, a woman was forced to have sex with 10 men simultaneously.

In such cases, Studzinski said, the sisters of the religious order would go to extreme lengths to rescue such women. To do this, they would dress up like prostitutes and venture out into the street with the purpose of integrating into the brothels. According to him, these foot soldiers do not trust anybody. They are distrustful of governments, corporations and the local police. In a number of cases, they are also distrustful of the male clergy. He added that Talitha Kum members prefer to concentrate on their work rather than promote themselves. They are effectively invisible.

The sisters of Talitha Kum are also active in trying to rescue the children who were sold into slavery. They have set up a network of homes spanning Brazil, India, Philippines and Africa to shelter the rescued children.

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