Denver, Colo., Jul 1, 2019 / 03:48 am (CNA).- Human trafficking is “happening closer to us than we think,” and Catholic groups are increasingly committed to fighting it through advocacy, prayer and action, global anti-trafficking leader Sister Gabriella Bottani, S.M.C., has said.
“What we should do, more and more, is to be aware and to try to understand what trafficking is in our reality, in our communities,” Bottani told CNA June 26 during a Denver visit.
“I think that since Pope Francis started to speak against trafficking there is an increasing commitment in the Church at all levels,” she said.
At the highest levels of the Church, the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is working on anti-trafficking issues and coordinating different agencies, including the anti-trafficking network Talitha Kum.
Bottani, a Comboni Missionary Sister, has been official coordinator of Talitha Kum since 2015. The network is led by religious sisters, with more than 2,000 of them being a part of the network. Talitha Kum has representatives in 77 countries and 43 national networks.
Members of the network have served 10,000 trafficking survivors by accompanying them to shelters and other residential communities, engaging in international collaboration, and aiding survivors’ return home. Bottani first worked in anti-trafficking efforts in Brazil, but she now lives in Italy.
At the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. June 20, Bottani was one of many leaders recognized individually as a Trafficking in Persons Report Hero by U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump.
The U.S. State Department report praised Bottani as “one of the most prominent and influential anti-trafficking advocates within the Catholic diaspora.” It noted her anti-trafficking work in Brazil which aided vulnerable women and children in favelas. She led a national campaign against human trafficking when Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014.
“Throughout her career, her work has inspired generations of anti-trafficking advocates within the Catholic faith,” the report said.
Bottani traveled across the U.S. with a State Department-hosted delegation of anti-trafficking leaders. She was among several speakers at a June 26 reception on the University of Denver campus hosted by WorldDenver, a World Affairs Council affiliate, and the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.
There, Bottani recounted to CNA the most recent case Talitha Kum managed at the international level: the repatriation of a young woman and mother from the Middle East to her home in Uganda.
In Uganda, this woman had lost her job and was questioning how she could support her young daughter. She received an invitation promising better work in the Middle East.
“Then when she arrived in that country, the situation was very different. There was no job for her, but there was domestic servitude,” Bottani said. “She had to be available more than 20 hours per day. She often had little food to eat.”
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