I am very pleased to receive you today on the occasion of your first General Assembly. I thank Sister Kafka and Sister Bottani for their introduction. Talitha Kum was born in 2001 from a missionary intuition of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). It flourishes today as a worldwide network that coordinates the efforts of Institutes of Consecrated Life against human trafficking. In just ten years it has come to coordinate 52 religious networks in more than 90 countries on all continents. The statistics of your service speak for themselves: 2000 workers, more than 15,000 victims of trafficking assisted and more than 200,000 people reached with prevention and awareness-raising activities.
I congratulate you on the important work you are doing amid very complex and tragic situations. Your work brings together the missions of different institutions and demands cooperation between them. You have chosen to be on the front line. Therefore the numerous Congregations that have worked and continue to work as the “avant-garde” of the Church’s missionary activity against the scourge of human trafficking deserve gratitude (see Address to Participants in the International Conference on Human Trafficking, 11 April 2019). This is also a model of how to work together. It is an example for the whole Church, and also for us: men, priests, bishops … You are giving a great example – keep at it!
In this, your first assembly, your main objective is to evaluate progress made and to identify missionary priorities for the next five years. In the various working sessions, you have chosen to discuss two main issues related to the phenomenon of trafficking. On the one hand, the great differences that still mark the condition of women in the world, which stem mainly from socio-cultural factors. On the other, the limits of the neoliberal development model, which risks undermining the state with its individualistic vision. These undoubtedly complex and urgent challenges require adequate and effective answers. I know that in your assembly you have committed yourself to identifying solutions and highlighting the resources necessary to carry them out. I appreciate this work of pastoral planning with a view to providing more competent and fruitful assistance to the local Churches.
While important, these are not the only challenges that face. The Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development recently published “Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking”, a document that sets forth the complexity of today’s challenges and offers clear pointers for all pastoral workers committed to working in this area.
I renew my encouragement to all the women’s Institutes of Consecrated Life that have organized and supported the commitment of their sisters in the fight against trafficking and in helping victims. While I invite you to continue this commitment, I also appeal to other Religious Congregations, both female and male, to join this missionary work, devoting personal service and resources so that they can reach remote corners of the earth. I also hope that foundations and benefactors will multiply and ensure generous and disinterested support for your activities. With regard to this invitation, I realize the problems that many Congregations have; indeed some, both female and male, may tell you: “We have so many problems to solve internally, we cannot…”. Tell them that the Pope said that “internal” problems are resolved by going out on the road, so that fresh air can enter.
To read the full statement from Pope Francis on Liberia EditricVaticana: Click Here
Talitha Kum’s General Assembly takes place from 21 to 27 September. It sees the participation of 86 delegates from 48 different nations and aims to present the work the sisters are doing in different countries and discuss how to implement new strategies in the fight against human trafficking and slavery.
A special award will be given to 10 sisters who in recent years have distinguished themselves for their commitment to the cause and have been instrumental in supporting anti-trafficking networks in different countries
Talitha Kum is a project of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), in collaboration with the Union of Superiors General (USG).
Pope Francis has repeatedly decried the trafficking of persons as an open wound on the body of contemporary society and called for action to stamp it out and sustain the victims.
It’s a phenomenon that currently affects at least 40 million vulnerable people, 70% of whom are women and children.
One of the participants in Talitha Kum’s General Assembly is Australian Sister Angela Reed. She told Vatican News that in order to stamp out trafficking a there is a series of preventive measures to be implemented.
Sister Reed explained that one of the first things to be done in the fight against human trafficking is to pinpoint and address the root causes that make a person vulnerable to be trafficked.
“We need to address vulnerabilities right from the time a child is born,” she said, pointing to the fact that right from the beginning of life, “There are certain conditions that must be present.”
“We must ensure that everybody has safe and adequate housing, we should ensure that every child has access to education, that they are part of a community and not left in isolation; we have to make sure there is decent work available in the future of young women so that they are not vulnerable to sexual trafficking,” she said.
To read the full story by Chiara Colotti & Linda Bordoni on Vatican News: Click Here
On September 29, 2019 the global Catholic Church will celebrate the World Day for Migrants and Refugees. This is a day to set aside time to focus on the reality of migrants and refugees in our communities and around the world, and take action to live the tenants of our faith which call us to welcome and offer hospitality to those in need.
Today, an unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Every 15 minutes a family is forced to flee their homeland. Many migrants and refugees are forcibly displaced from their homes by violence, climate change, oppressive governments, and poverty. They are the faces of Christ suffering in our midst today.
US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking recognizes that migrants and refugees are particularly vulnerable populations to both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Part of the work to prevent and end human trafficking involves providing adequate support systems for migrants and refugees looking for safety, shelter, and employment in order to care for themselves and their families. The better we can care for our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters, the less likely they will be taken advantage of by traffickers.
On this World Day of Migrants and Refugees, we want to remind you of some resources we created to help you reflect on the connections between migration, refugees, and human trafficking which are free and available for download on our website.
There are also a few ways you can take action to support refugees and migrants looking to resettle in the United States. Below are some opportunities for action for individuals and faith communities.
Invitation to Action:
Support the GRACE Act and NO BAN Act
US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking put together atoolkit for World Refugee Day back in June with information about the GRACE Act and NO BAN Act which would help raise the number of refugees accepted into the United States and repeal the ban on admissions from some Muslim majority countries. These acts have still not passed in either the House or the Senate, and we need you to continue to put pressure on your elected representatives, asking them to support the GRACE Act and the NO BAN Act. You can download that toolkit and learn more HERE. There are also prayer resources and personal stories available on that page.
Welcome and Support Migrants and Refugees in your CommunityJustice for Immigrants has prepared a number of resources to help you and/or your community take action on World Day for Migrants and Refugees including a guide on accompaniment and solidarity with migrants and refugees, hosting a welcome meal, prayers of the faithful, special rosary, and church resources. You can download all those HERE.
Download the official Vatican Tool Kit for World Day of Migrants and RefugeesThe Vatican Office for Migrants and Refugees has compiled a helpful kit of resources to aid in marking this important day. You can download that kit HERE.
Thank you for joining us in remembering migrants and refugees on September 29th and taking action to ensure that this vulnerable population is safe from human trafficking. As Pope Francis reminds us in his message for this year’s celebration, “It’s not just about migrants.” It’s about all of us, doing what we can, to face our own fears and courageously follow the path of love.
Human trafficking is a very real problem around the world and in our own city, said Notre Dame Sister Cecelia Liberatore when she addressed the First Friday Club of Cleveland on Aug. 29 at The City Club in downtown Cleveland. The topic of her presentation was “Human Trafficking: Human Tragedy, Human Hope.”
She was introduced by Helena Piller, a human trafficking survivor, client and volunteer at the Renee Jones Empowerment Center in Cleveland. Piller described Sister as “a prophet among us. She accompanies us,” Piller added.
Renee Jones founded the nonprofit center in 1998 as a weekly empowerment program at the Bishop Cosgrove Center. By October 2002, the programs had positively impacted countless people and it expanded into the Renee Jones Empowerment Center with Jones as the president and CEO. The center provides holistic restorative services for minors and adults who are human trafficking and sexual assault victims. Sister Liberatore has worked with the center for more than eight years and serves on its board of trustees.
Recently, the center moved from its office on West 65th Street in Cleveland into bigger quarters in a building owned by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at 3764 W. 25th St., Cleveland.
Sister Liberatore recounted the tragedy portion of human trafficking, sharing some sobering statistics and misconceptions. For example, she said some people blame the victims, claiming they knew what they were getting into, that the victim committed unlawful acts and was paid for services. Some also believe the victims have freedom of movement and/or chose not to take opportunities to escape. Others mistakenly believe that trafficking involves crossing borders or that United States citizens can’t be trafficked. In some cases, people believe the trafficker’s actions are “culturally appropriate” and it can’t be considered trafficking if the victim and the trafficker are related or married.
To read the full story on The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland: Click Here
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.”
To read the full story by Kevin Jones on Catholic News Agency: Click Here
What an amazing experience it was to attend Releasing Those Unjustly Bound, an international conference on the trafficking of persons from April 8-11, 2019, in Rome. It was organized by the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development at the Vatican.
These were extremely challenging and emotionally exhausting days, as participants faced the grievous reality of human trafficking throughout our world. Nevertheless, most left energized and hopeful, knowing that our Pope is calling all Catholics to become involved in the elimination of this “open wound on the body of contemporary society, a profound scourge in the humanity of those who suffer it and of its perpetrators.”
Pope Francis said trafficking “profoundly disfigures the humanity of the victim, offending his or her freedom and dignity.”
The conference was held at the Fraterna Domus in Sacrofano, on the outskirts of Rome, which was a very quiet, rural picturesque setting, in contrast to the intensity of facing the global reality of trafficking. After hearing presentations on various dimensions of human trafficking such as labour and sex trafficking, organ trafficking, child labour, or forced marriage, we were challenged to discern practical ways in which the Church could address these issues.
Our prime goal was to name concrete strategies for the implementation of the Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking (POHT), which was approved by Pope Francis and published in January 2019. The sessions, highly interactive and participatory with simultaneous translation, resulted in a draft of 42 proposals for action throughout the various organizations and institutions of the Catholic Church.
As Pope Francis stated in his 2015 World Day of Peace address, “we are facing a global phenomenon that exceeds the competence of any one community or country,” and therefore, “we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself.”
Among the 200 participants were representatives of Catholic organizations, experts on the various aspects of trafficking, men and women religious, priests and bishops, representing many different parts of the world. There were two representatives from Canada: Sister Pauline Gagne who represented PACT Ottawa, and I represented the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
To read the full story by Sister Nancy Brown, SC, on The B.C. Catholic: Click Here
ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis led Good Friday services dedicated to the victims of human trafficking and the plight of migrants, denouncing leaders with “armored hearts” who exploit their plight for political gain.
Francis, marking his seventh Easter season as Roman Catholic leader, presided at a traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) service at Rome’s Colosseum, attended by thousands of people holding candles.
The meditations read out by speakers during the 14 “stations of the cross” which commemorate the last hours of Jesus’ life were written by Sister Eugenia Bonetti, an 80-year-old Italian nun who has won multiple awards for her work with trafficked women and children.
At the end of the service, Francis read a prayer in which he spoke of the poor, the hungry, the elderly, abused children and the environment.
In it, he spoke of “the cross of migrants who find doors closed because of fear and hearts that are armored by political calculation”.
Francis has made defense of migrants a key feature of his pontificate and has clashed over the immigration with politicians such as U.S. President Donald Trump and Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini who leads the anti-immigrant League party and has closed Italy’s ports to rescue ships operated by charities.
To read the full story by Philip Pullella on U.S. News & World Report: Click Here
Image: Stained Glass of St. Josephine Bakhita, Saint John Paul II Chapel, Mundelein | photo by Fr. Gaurav Shroff
The title of this reflection is a direct quote from Saint Josephine Bakhita, a courageous woman of faith who suffered brutality for years at the hands of her captors who enslaved her, who stole her from her loving family in the Sudan when she was just a child of somewhere around seven or nine. The terrors she suffered caused her to forget her name. She would eventually break free and become a Cannosian Sister in Italy. She died in 1947. Thousands came to pay their respects. She was officially recognized as a saint in 2000.
Watch this 3 minute video to learn more:
A group of women religious asked Pope Francis to raise greater awareness in the church about the issue of trafficking by establishing a worldwide day of prayer. When Pope Francis asked them for a suitable date, they suggested February 8th, the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita. This year, 2018, is the 4th worldwide day of prayer. It is a day to pray for an end to the scourge of human trafficking.
We know this: Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery—a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and held against his will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom. Polaris Project
Take the month of February or the next 28 days if you read this later, to pray daily for eight minutes for an end to human trafficking. Pray for the victims, the survivors, the traffickers, the legislators, the doctors in hospitals. Pray that corporations have fair trade supply chains. Pray for the runaway kids. Pray for the raising of awareness. Of course, you might say you’ve been praying for years and you will continue beyond 28 days! Do this anyway, consciously, deliberately in union with people around the globe. Put a notice in your local church bulletin. Invite a family member to pray. Send the links in this little article to others. Ask Saint Bakhita and others like Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth to be allies in the transformative ending to human trafficking. Cover the world in prayer. It will generate action.
Bakhita found peace in God. Through prayer she found God’s love and she lived that peace and love, even after suffering brutality. United in deep prayer, we will know God’s peace. Prayer and peace will provide sustenance and will lead to greater clarity in knowing the actions that each of us and all of us must take to end human trafficking.
As we think of the Holy Family during the Advent/Christmas season, we often forget their need to flee their homeland shortly after the birth of their child, Jesus, because of a very jealous King Herod. Herod was considered an acceptable leader of his day: bringing Judea into the Roman Empire; copying the architecture and political styles of Greece; stabilizing the economy; reducing taxes; building trade; building the port city of Caesarea and that of Samaria. Yet, in jealousy, Herod had already killed his wife and two of his three sons. His brother narrowly escaped the same fate. Herod feared the announcement of a newly-born ‘King Jesus,’ as a threat to his power and position. This threat he determined had to be eliminated. What followed was the slaughter of Holy Innocents!
“When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’
“When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.’” Matt. 2: 13-18
Today people continue to flee political repression and open conflict. Studies show our world is witnessing the highest levels of human displacement on record: •1,200 people are forcibly displaced per hour per day; • 65.6 million have been forced from their homes; • 22.5 million are refugees (half under the age of 18) with 55% from the countries of Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan; • 10 million people are stateless and have been denied a nationality; * 460,000 live in the dangerous Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, the largest in the world; • 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims, a stateless people, are fleeing repression in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. Since August 2017 600,000 have arrived on foot and in boats into Bangladesh at a rate of 20,000 a day.
“For 4 days, I hid myself in the forest. Then, we tried to walk to the border. I was so scared,” says Rajida Begum, a 30-year-old mother who fled her village with neighbors when she was 9 months pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl under a piece of plastic sheeting in the middle of a rice paddy 5 days after arriving in Bangladesh. As she cradled her newborn baby, she looked relieved: “When I saw that she was healthy, I was so happy. I gave thanks to God.”
Abdul Rahman, 21, who lost his wife – shot by the Burmese army, now is the sole caregiver for his 4-month-old daughter. “The baby won’t stop crying. I’m asking lactating mothers to help with feeding her, but I’m so worried. I don’t know if she will survive. We have no food. We have nothing at all,” he said.
Refugees are men, women and children fleeing war, persecution and political upheaval who have been forced to cross borders to seek safety in another country. Most eventually go home when it is safe (as did the Holy Family); some stay in temporary refugee settlements; and a tiny fraction resettle in a third country, such as the U.S.
Refugees face innumerable dangers as they travel and as they attempt to find a place to live until they can return home. According to the United Nations, human trafficking and the exploitation by criminal gangs are intimately linked to the plight of vulnerable people running from political conflicts. While trafficking for sexual exploitation might be the first type of trafficking people think of, trafficking actually takes diverse forms in conflict situations. Children suffer a high percentage of the abuse, both in sexual exploitation and in labor-related settings.
Rohingya Refugees in Makeshift Shelters in Bangladesh http://www.crs.org/
Let us reflect on some of the contemporary situations of our refugee brothers and sisters, fleeing in fear, as did the Holy Family:
The Islamic State conflict has increased the vulnerability of groups like the Yazidi and the Kurds. Yazidi women are forced into what is called chattel slavery. They are bought and sold as property; forced to act as domestic servants, sex slaves, or wives of militants. Yazidi men and boys are forced to become militants and even suicide bombers. Now girls from the West are lured into ISIL-controlled territory by ‘boy friends,’ using methods similar to those used by online traffickers.
The Syrian conflict has produced thousands of refugees. Trafficked Syrian children are forced to work excessively long hours in abusive situations or are held for ransom until their families pay to have them released.
Boko Haram in West Africa enslaves people in areas they control. Women and girls are forced to marry militants, while boys are forced to become suicide bombers. Children are forced to beg in order to raise funds for the Boko Haram forces.
Congolese militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo force artisanal miners to search for tantalum, gold, diamonds, tin, and other minerals to make money to support the war effort. Children are trafficked and indoctrinated into the militias. A U.N. University report estimates that there are around 30,000 child soldiers in the DRC.
Criminal gangs operating in the refugee camps atCalais and Dunkirk, France have sexually exploited youth traveling alone or forced them to commit crimes in exchange for transportation to the UK. Many children are forced to work along the migration route to finance their journey north.
The Balkan Route—popular with Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees—runs from Turkey into Greece, Bulgaria, and north toward Germany. Children along the route were not only assaulted but also illegally and forcefully deported after they were arrested. Of the children treated by Doctors Without Borders, just over 75% were assaulted by either Serbian state police or border force officials, while 8% were hurt by traffickers. Most had visible signs of mistreatment, including knife and razor blade cuts, scars from severe beatings, and symptoms of dehydration and food deprivation.
Italian authorities discovered an organ trafficking ring involving traffickers from Libya and Eritrea, who charged migrants an up-front fee to get them from Africa to Italy. If migrants could not immediately pay the fee, they were given the option to pay once they arrived in Italy. Upon arrival, however, they were either exploited for forced labor, or their organs were harvested and then trafficked elsewhere.
Pope Francis Calls on People of Good Faith Are Called to Respond:
Pope Francis has spoken often on behalf of vulnerable migrants and refugees:
“It is necessary to respond to the globalization of migration with the globalization of charity and cooperation, in such a way as to make the conditions for migrants more humane.”
Pope Francis — Message for the 2015 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, September 3, 2014
“There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.” Pope Francis — Laudato Si #25, June 18, 2015
Pope Francis has made numerous appeals to promote the culture of encounter in an effort to combat the culture of indifference in the world today. It means seeing through the eyes of others rather than turning a blind eye. “Not just to see but to look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by, but to stop. And don’t just say ‘what a shame, poor people,’ but allow ourselves to be moved by pity.” – Pope Francis.
Learn more of the reality migrants and refugees face. à Rededicate our efforts to live out Catholic Social Teaching. à Join the ‘Share the Journey’ Campaign.’
On September 27, 2017 Pope Francis launched ‘Share the Journey,’ a two-year campaign to share the plight of the millions of migrant and refugee families who are seeking safety and a decent life. As people of faith, we see these people as our neighbors — our brothers and sisters.
The ‘Share the Journey‘ campaign, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities and the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the U.S. highlights Catholic teaching on migration and reaffirms the Church’s commitment to assistant our migrant brothers and sisters who have fled their homeland seeking safety.
Prayer for Migrant Families
Good and gracious God,
we thank you for the gift of families.
We are grateful for all of the joy and love they bring into our lives,
and we ask that you provide special protection for all families,
particularly those who face hardships as they move in search of a better life.
Show mercy to those who travel in danger,
and lead them to a place of safety and peace.
Comfort those who are alone and afraid
because their families have been torn apart
by violence and injustice.
As we reflect upon the difficult journey that
the Holy Family faced as refugees in Egypt, help us
to remember the suffering of all migrant families.
Through the intercession of Mary our Mother, and
St. Joseph the Worker, her spouse, we pray that
all migrants may be reunited with their loved ones
and find the meaningful work they seek.
Open our hearts so that we may provide hospitality
for all who come in search of refuge.
Give us the courage to welcome every stranger
as Christ in our midst.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen.
Remember that the Holy Family was once a refugee family in a foreign land.
In Jesus’ time, would we have found room in our home for the Holy Family?
Today can we find room in our hearts for refugees and respond to their needs in some meaningful way?
“Flight Into Egypt” Henry Ossawa Tanner (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1859–1937 Paris)
‘Flight into Egypt’ 1923 by Henry Ossawa Tanner, American, Pittsburgh, PA 1859–1937 ParisTanner’s painting depicts the Holy Family’s clandestine evasion of King Herod’s assassins, which was Tanner’s favorite biblical story. It expresses his sensitivity to issues of personal freedom, escape from persecution, and migrations of African-Americans from the South to the North. The painting, which reveals a concern for human emotions and an awareness of the mystical meanings of biblical narratives, also manifests Tanner’s affiliation with contemporary symbolism and the religious revival that occurred in response to challenges of the modern era.
by Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA – La Crosse Task Force to Eradicate Modern Slavery
Jean Schafer, SDS, and Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA, share at a Vatican anti-trafficking seminar.
This is a compendium of references about the efforts of Pope Francis to end modern slavery.
Commentators have attributed the term “the Francis Factor” to our current pope in describing his leadership in a world of transmigration, diversity, and violence. His approach encourages dialogical processes and a global response. Pope Francis frequently is hailed as prophetic, scientific, activist, and pastoral. However we wish to view it, we cannot doubt that he has broken the papal mold of leadership. Almost immediately after his election in March 2013, Pope Francis wrote this little note to the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
I think it would be good to examine human trafficking and modern slavery.
Organ trafficking could be examined in connection with human trafficking.
That’s how it all started at the Vatican. Under the auspices of the Pontifical Academies of Science and the Social Sciences, the Holy See launched a multi-pronged attack on human trafficking never undertaken by church leadership prior to this time. This Pope has dedicated more attention to the discussion of human trafficking than any other Pope or world religious leader before him.[ii] One year later he would again take up the specific theme of organ trafficking in Brazil[iii] and again make a strong reference to it in his World Day of Peace Message in 2015.[iv]
“a social scourge . . . a true form of slavery”; “a grave violation of the human rights of those victimized and an offense against their dignity, as well as a defeat for the worldwide community. . . shameful” . . . increasingly aggressive crime which threatens not only individuals but the basic values of society and of international security and justice, to say nothing of the economy, and the fabric of the family and our coexistence”[x]
“predatory and harmful . . .the frequently overlooked tragedy of migrants . . .”[xi]
Pope Francis not only names the issue, he gives us specific and particular ways that we can do something about it either personally, corporately, and/or politically. For example:
I ask my brothers and sisters in the faith and all men and women of good will for a decisive choice to combat the trafficking in persons in which ‘slave labor’ exists.[xx]
Exploiters and clients at all levels should make a serious examination of conscience both in the first person and before God! [xxi]
What is called for, then, is a shared sense of responsibility and firmer political will to gain victory on this front. Responsibility is required towards those who have fallen victim to trafficking in order to protect their rights, to guarantee their safety and that of their families, and to prevent the corrupt and criminals from escaping justice and having the last word over the lives of others. Suitable legislative intervention in the countries of origin, transit and arrival, which will also facilitate orderly migration, can diminish this grave problem.[xxii]
Fraternity needs to be discovered, loved, experienced, proclaimed and witnessed . . . marked by reciprocity, forgiveness, and complete self-giving . . .[xxiii]
. . . we need to make a good examination of conscience: how many times have we permitted a human being to be seen as an object, to be put on show in order to sell a product or to satisfy an immoral desire? The human person ought never to be sold or bought as if he or she were a commodity. Whoever uses human persons in this way and exploits them, even if indirectly, becomes an accomplice of injustice.[xxiv]
The United Nations really needs to take a very strong position on climate change with a particular focus on the trafficking of human beings as a problem that has been created by climate change. . . We cannot separate man from everything else. There is a relationship which has a huge impact, both on the person in the way they treat the environment and the rebound effect against man when the environment is mistreated.[xxvi]
. . . our communities of faith are called to reject, without exception, any systematic deprivation of individual freedom for the purposes of personal or commercial exploitation[xxvii]
Globalize fraternity, not slavery or indifference . . . There is also need for a threefold commitment on the institutional level: to prevention, to victim protection and to the legal prosecution of perpetrators. I invite everyone, in accordance with his or her specific role and responsibilities, to practice acts of fraternity towards those kept in a state of enslavement.[xxviii]
I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will, and all those near or far, including the highest levels of civil institutions, who witness the scourge of contemporary slavery, not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity. Instead, may we have the courage to touch the suffering flesh of Christ, revealed in the faces of those countless persons whom he calls “the least of these my brethren”[xxix] (Mt 25:40, 45). (12/8/14)
Society is called to form new legislation that penalizes traffickers and help rehabilitate victims.[xxx]
These realities serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the international level.[xxxi]
. . . we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. . . Today the 193 states of the United Nations have a new moral imperative to combat human trafficking, a true crime against humanity. Collaboration between bishops and the civil authorities, each in accordance with his own mission and character and with the aim of discovering best practice for the fulfilment of this delicate task, is a decisive step to ensuring that the will of governments reaches the victims in a direct, immediate, constant, effective and concrete way.[xxxii]
. . . strengthen the bonds of cooperation and communication which are essential to ending the suffering of the many men and women and children who today are enslaved and sold as if they were a mere commodity . . . [xxxiii]
Major Efforts led by Pope Francis
Pope Francis began his anti-human trafficking efforts by calling three international conferences to study the issue and make recommendations. The first preparatory workshop was held in November 2013 with the purpose to examine the status quo and develop an agenda to fight the problem. Early in 2014 a Vatican conference was designed for law enforcement agencies, and a third in July 2015[xxxiv] with mayors from around the world. Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Science, hosted the first of three international gatherings on trafficking and the marginalized. He said the pope’s focus on the issue is driven by a deep desire to be close to those who suffer, recognizing that Christ himself can be found in their wounds. “He really has always had this ‘nose for’ the people of the Beatitudes, those who are poor in spirit, the meek, the persecuted, and so on . . . this is his instinct.”[xxxv]
The Global Freedom Network convened on March 17, 2014 involved seven religious leaders (Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Orthodox) commonly willing to eliminate the underlying networks of human trafficking and related endemic issues. In collaboration with the heads of the Muslim faith, the Anglican Church, and the founder of the Walk Free Foundation, a resolution was proclaimed to end modern slavery by 2020. Nothing with such specific focus had ever been undertaken by any other pope or religious group. It outlined six necessary steps to accomplish the goal.
Awareness: Mobilizing faith communities
Ethical purchasing: Supply-chain proofing
Services/facilities for victims and survivors of forced labor, prostitution and organ trafficking
Lobbying: Law reforms and enforcement
Prevention: Education and awareness
Funding: private donors along with national and international organizations
Not only does Pope Francis speak about human trafficking in many venues, he has also written authoritatively about it in both of his encyclicals — the 2013 Evangelii Gaudium ¶211[xxxvi] and in the 2015 Laudato si ¶91, 92[xxxvii]. He continues to keep this grave evil and crime on the agenda of the nations of the world. As recently as April 7, 2016, Cardinal Vincent Nicols on the pope’s behalf addressed the special conference on combatting human trafficking and modern slavery at the United Nations in New York.[xxxviii]
Promoting continuity in prayer and awareness by faith communities around the world, Pope Francis endorsed an International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking by several Vatican congregations and global leaders of men and women religious on February 3, 2015[xxxix] – another example of Pope Francis’s empowerment of others.
Now, what do we do? Some suggested radical acts to end modern slavery
Some of these ideas are related to developing communities of trust. They are adapted here with reference to human slavery prevention and support for trafficked survivors.
Befriend a survivor who needs support.
Volunteer at a Boys and Girls Club and thereby provide friendship to youth who may at risk.
Get to know a registered sex offender in your neighborhood.
Connect with a group of workers for farmers who grow your food and visit them. Ask what they get paid.
Track to its source one item of food you eat regularly. Each time you eat that food, pray for those who helped make it possible to come to your table.
Become a pen pal with someone in prison.
Participate in a worship service where you will be a minority.
Confess something you have done wrong to someone and ask them to pray for you.
Share the costs of your health care through a network to assist human trafficking survivors.
Start conversations in your community with whom you need to deepen trust – law enforcement, troubled teens, a different political party, a different faith tradition.
Pope Francis knows that ultimately converting hearts and minds is what will determine whether people of all faiths, economists, businesses, police and politicians take action. Each of us needs to take action in some way.
[xiv] Conference held at the Vatican for law enforcement, church workers and charity representatives on April 10, 2014; To New Ambassadors Accredited to the Holy See. Clementine Hall. December 12, 2013; To the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, January 13, 2014; To Delegates of the International Association of Penal Law, October 23, 2014: L’Osservatore Romano, 24 October 2014, p. 4; Declaration on International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, December 2, 2014; UN conference in New York on April 7, 2016.
[xxvi] Kirchgaessner, Stephanie in Vatican City and staff. “Pope laments ‘meaningless lives’” in tying human trafficking to climate change.” THE GUARDIAN. July 21, 2015. Remarks by Pope Francis following conference with mayors. Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of Cities. July 16, 2015 in Rome.
[xxxiv] See #EndSlavery http://www.endslavery.va/content/endslavery/en/who.html that describes all the ways in which the pontifical academies of science and social sciences have been involved. #EndSlavery is an initiative of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and Pontifical Academy of Sciences for their work to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking, a task Pope Francis assigned to them in 2013.
[xxxvi] Evangelium Gaudium 211: I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labor? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.