St. Mary's Academy photo
St. Mary's Academy students take part in a walk to end human trafficking.
St. Mary's Academy photo
St. Mary's Academy students take part in a walk to end human trafficking.
Portland has long been known as a hot spot for human trafficking in the U.S. It's a port that welcomes ocean-going ships and sits at the intersection of two Interstate freeways.

The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary wanted to respond and made the fight against trafficking one of their major causes. More than 300 Sisters and associates of the congregation gathered at the Embassy Suites in Portland last month to address global, church, and community issues.  

The Sisters partnered with the leadership of Embassy Suites in Portland to deepen awareness of the horrors of human trafficking, to share resources for awareness training for hotel staff, and to move to action plans the hotel will take when the need arises.

Hilton Hotels, parent company of Embassy Suites, has signed the Child Protection Code of Conduct against sex exploitation of children, which commits to training, action and annual review of the commitment.

The Sisters applauded the leadership of the Embassy Suites in Portland for quickly providing awareness training for employees.

This is the latest action on the Sisters' watch taken against trafficking. They once filled a downtown Portland square to speak out against the use of humans for sex and domestic labor.

Parishes around the region have hosted talks on the subject. That includes St. Matthew in Hillsboro and St. Henry in Gresham.

Students at Catholic high schools have taken on the issue. In fall 2012, five St. Mary's Academy seniors hosted a "Walk to End Slavery" in downtown Portland. More than 300 people joined. The walk also raised about $1,000 for Athena House, Janus Youth Programs' shelter for juvenile sex-trafficking victims in Portland. St. Mary's was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Names. In February, students from Jesuit High met with the staffs of U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and Senator Jeff Merkley to advocate for re-authorization of a federal anti-human trafficking law, which had expired.

In May, Pope Francis made a special appeal against slave labor and human trafficking.

"How many people worldwide are victims of this type of slavery, in which the person is at the service of his or her work," he said. "Work should offer a service to people so they may have dignity."