Today is International Human Rights Day — #HumanRightsDay — which is celebrated each year on December 10th.
This day leaves me thinking about Immokalee, Florida and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The Coalition of Immokalee workers (CIW) is a worker-based human rights organization. They are devoted to community organizing and sustainable food practices. They are also a major leader in the growing movement to end human trafficking and modern day slavery due to the abuses they witness on a day to day basis in their work with farmers.
When I was a student at John Carroll University, I was privileged to attend an Immersion Experience to Immokalee during my senior year. Immokalee is located in southwest Florida about an hour away from Naples. We spent our week with volunteers from Humility of Mary. The experience focused on helping us gain a better understanding of the reality of life for the people who live in Immokalee, by allowing us to meet many migrant farm workers and their advocates, who make up a large portion of the city population.
We also learned about the Campaign for Fair Food, which educates consumers on growing issues of farm labor and exploitation. Prior to this experience, I had very little understanding of how large companies played such a large role in helping farm workers earn fair wages for their families. We learned about how the Campaign for Fair Food has encouraged large companies to sign Fair Food Agreements, which help establish human labor standards and fair wages for farm workers, specifically in the tomato industry.
Another large portion of our experiences was learning about the CIW’s Anti-Slavery Campaign. Modern day slavery is real. It is present in our world. It is present in the United States. the CIW works diligently to uncover, investigated, and prosecute those who are involved in farm worker slavery and trafficking victims.
Perhaps the biggest hidden secret of the Catholic Church is our seven themes of Catholic Social teaching. They are all powerful and beautiful teachings, but in this case “The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers” stands out. For farm workers in Immokalee, they are fighting daily to have humane working conditions and a fair wage. The CIW is working around the clock to insure this is a reality and not just a dream. Each of us has a right to decent and fair wages and should be treated with honor and respect as a child of God.
What does this all have to do with peace?
God’s light shines in the darkness. His peace overshadows all the heartache and pain that we see in this world, especially among our brother and sister migrant farmworkers. Although this situation brings me such great sorrow, I find peace knowing that He is with each individual who is fighting for justice and He is helping them to carry their grow daily. In our deepest sufferings, He is our peace.
When we are presented with great opportunities for service in the work of justice and peace, it is my hope that we can take advantage of these chances to stand up for the cries of the poor, the hungry, the sick, and event the prisoner. May our blindness be lifted so that we can turn these opportunities into chances to following Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as yourself.
Today my prayer is for peace in the hearts of the Immokalee farm workers and their advocates. May all those involved experience wisdom and courage in their day to day life, knowing that they are children of God who are worthy of dignity and respect.
May we continue to sew seeds of peace in our world and in our country.
Linking up with Blessed Is She and #BISsisterhood