RIVERSIDE - Many of the parishioners worshipping at St. Francis de Sales Church on Sunday were dressed in the traditional attire of their home countries. In the pews, women wore large and colorful Nigerian head wraps called "Gele." Some women wore traditional dresses from Korea or "Hanbok." Filipino men wore formal embroidered dress shirts called "Barong."
Chigo Obih, 13, was wearing a traditional Nigerian outfit.
"We're here to celebrate everyone's culture," Obih said.
Father Earl Henley, the chaplain of the Soboba reservation at San Jacinto, said the event builds unity for the diocese.
"This is a bridging of communication and appreciation for each other's different customs and languages," Henley said.
The goal of the annual event is to celebrate the myriad of cultural traditions practiced by parishioners of the Diocese of San Bernardino, which includes the faithful from Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Even with celebration, however, the theme of the sixth annual event was to raise awareness on the problem of human trafficking.
Prior to the Catholic mass, human trafficking victim Florencia Molina told the hundreds gathered of how she was enticed to come to California a decade ago from her home in Puebla, Mexico, after she was promised a job.
Instead Molina ended up working under inhumane conditions in a sweat shop in Los Angeles.
Molina's shifts stretched to 17 hours and she was locked


into the sweatshop at night. Molina's identity documents were taken by her manager. Molina eventually fled after telling her supervisor she needed to pray at a church. By cooperating with the FBI, who were investigating the sweatshop, she was able to receive government help to remain and work in the U.S.
She now travels to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to speak about her experience to lawmakers.
Kathy Scarpace, coordinator of a "justice for immigrants" campaign at the diocese, said human trafficking awareness is part of an effort by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to work on comprehensive immigration reform.
During the mass, Bishop Gerald R. Barnes, who oversees the Diocese, said most of the people in the United States are the descendants of migrants from other countries, but some, like African slaves, came not of their own will.
"We know that migrants seek that new hope they seek that new life, but there are others that are forced to move here and who have no choice," Barnes said. "They didn't ask to come to us. They were not trying to escape their homeland. They were forced to come here without any kind of respect to who they were as a person and they were forced into slavery."
The Diocese of San Bernardino is among the most culturally diverse in the nation, said Anna Hamilton, a youth program coordinator with the Ministry with Youth Office. Many of the participants of the mass were young people who wore the traditional clothing of their ethnic home countries.
"It was a beautiful day where all can be with others to experience the music and the sounds," Hamilton said. "It really depicts what our diocese represents and what we stand for."
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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