DAYTON, Ohio (CNS) — Marianist-run University of Dayton and Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency, will work together to address an increase in labor trafficking that human rights advocates expect to see in Brazil during two upcoming international sports events.

Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Daniel J. Curran, Dayton’s president, and Bill O’Keefe, CRS vice president for government relations, have signed an agreement for a two-year program that will commit university faculty to research labor trafficking and work with CRS to support efforts in Brazil and surrounding nations to eradicate forced labor.


“We reached out to Catholic Relief Services some time ago to ask what more can we do. We told them we would like to conduct research to make their efforts more effective,” Mark Ensalaco, university director of human rights research, said in a statement.

CRS will call on the university’s expertise to help identify products made through forced labor that end up in the U.S. and to identify best practices of organizations in the region. The goal is to raise consumer, producer and investor awareness about products contaminated by slave labor in the supply chain.

The University of Dayton is piloting the program with CRS. The agency has engagements and programs at 100 colleges and universities, but the initiative on labor trafficking is a unique program, according to CRS.

In June, faculty from Dayton and St. John’s University visited Brazil to examine the work of CRS and its other partners in combating slavery/forced labor. From that trip, the University of Dayton’s Human Rights Center developed a proposal to also conduct field research for CRS. On Oct. 4, the Baltimore-based agency and the university signed an agreement to begin the project.

“For us, we can bring the expertise of others — scholarly research, evidence, training, evaluation — to help make sure we are providing the highest quality, most effective and sustainable overseas response. We need to get to the root causes of the social injustices we are pursuing,” O’Keefe said in a statement.

Having Dayton’s students participate in “the vocation of helping the poor around the world and the vocation of addressing the root causes of social injustice and the terrible human rights abuses we face … is the center of what we are about,” he added.

During the Brazil trip, five CRS scholars in global solidarity from the University of Dayton spent 10 days examining the conditions of slave labor that contribute to the production of consumer goods for the U.S. market and labor trafficking. They visited areas of Brazil known for these problems and met with government and church officials to discuss ways to combat them.

One group visited a region where the Catholic Church helps poor landowners defend farms threatened by large ranchers and logging operations.

In the areas in particular, slave labor is used in the production of beef, leather and hardwood that end up in American homes, according to Vincent Miller, who holds Dayton’s Gudorf chair in Catholic theology and culture.

Another group visited a project that resettles trafficking victims, and third group talked with advocacy groups on preparations already underway to combat trafficking during the World Cup and the Olympics.

Human rights education has been a priority at the University of Dayton for several years. It began offering one of the nation’s first bachelor’s degrees in human rights studies in 2008. It started the country’s first undergraduate human rights program in 1998.

The university is one of three Catholic colleges that are part of a new CRS Scholars in Global Solidarity Program.