First Lady Cecilia Abbott And Faith Leaders Announce GRACE Initiative To Combat Human Trafficking

December 13, 2019 | Austin, TExas | Press Release

Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott hosted a listening session with faith leaders from across the state to discuss strategies to end child exploitation and sex trafficking in Texas. The listening session coincided with the launch of the Governor's Response Against Child Exploitation (GRACE) Initiative, a collaborative effort between the Office of the Governor and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to empower and mobilize communities of faith in the fight against child sex trafficking.

“The Lone Star State is a leader in the fight against child sexual exploitation, but it takes all Texans working together to bring an end to this horrific act,” said First Lady Abbott. “Our faith leaders have a vital role to play in our efforts to protect vulnerable children, and I am grateful for their insight and collaboration through the GRACE Initiative. Together we will work to eradicate child sexual exploitation and human trafficking in the state of Texas.”

As part of the listening session, faith leaders from different religious backgrounds shared their perspectives on the role faith-based communities can play in addressing the exploitation of children. These leaders also shared information about existing efforts within their congregations, and provided recommendations to help the state of Texas better engage communities of faith on this important issue.

The Governor’s Child Sex Trafficking Team and DFPS will use the insights gained from the listening session to strengthen strategies to protect and serve vulnerable youth and support the work of the GRACE Initiative. 

The following faith leaders participated in the listening session:

  • Jay Abernathy, Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church Lubbock
  • Jennifer Allemon, Executive Director of the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • Rabbi Neil Blumofe, Senior Rabbi of Agudas Achim Austin
  • Leigh Kohler, Founder and Executive Director of the Freedom Church Alliance
  • Father James Misko, Vicar General of the Diocese of Austin
  • Imam Islam Mosaad, Religious Director and Imam of the North Austin Muslim Community Center
  • Bishop Joe Vasquez, Bishop of the Diocese of Austin
  • Bishop Shelton Rhodes, Bishop of the Texas Southwest Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ
  • Bishop Geoffrey Stirrup, Bishop of the Texas Southwest Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ
  • Susan Peters, Elder of Antioch Church Waco, National Director of Unbound Ministries
  • Doctor Paul Osteen, Associate Pastor at Lakewood Church
  • Jennifer Osteen, Global Director of Lakewood Church
  • Allison Dougherty, J.D., Human Trafficking Liaison for Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church
  • Jaime Masters, Commissioner of DFPS