Tag Archive: Pope Francis

Pope: Human Trafficking ‘Disfigures Dignity’

March 14, 2023

Pope Francis has launched an appeal to combat “the shameful scourge” of human trafficking, decrying that it “disfigures dignity.”

The Pope’s cry came in a video message for the ninth World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, released Wednesday, 8 February, the feast of St Josephine Bakhita.

The Catholic Church’s annual observance was first introduced by Pope Francis in 2015 when he invited women and men religious of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the Union of Superiors General (USG) to mark the day on the liturgical memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint for victims of human trafficking.

The United Nations separately marks its own World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July.

‘Journeying in dignity’

The Pope began by recalling this year’s theme “Journeying in dignity,” which involves young people as protagonists.

The Holy Father addressed young people in a special way, encouraging them “to care for dignity, yours and of every person you meet.”

Being committed to protecting human dignity and against human trafficking, he said, “you can contribute to keeping hope alive, and I would also add joy, which I invite you to preserve in your hearts, along with the Word of God, because the true joy is Christ!”

Read the full article by Deborah Castellano Lubov on Vatican News.

November, 2021 Monthly Reflection

November 4, 2021

The Beauty and Challenges of the Autumn Season

By Kathleen Coll, SSJ

The autumn season is a favorite of mine. Usually, the weather here in the mid-Atlantic is mild with cool evenings, Autumn can also bring cold rainy days with colder days ahead. We need to remain open to what the season holds. Yes, the burst of color surrounding us is amazing! Everywhere you look the trees adorn themselves with beautiful shades of red, orange, brown and yellow. Under the canopy of this beauty exists the reality of what one human being can do to exploit another to enrich themselves.

Commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) or sex trafficking is a serious form of modern slavery that does not discriminate. Along with labor trafficking, sex trafficking happens to children, women and men. Pope Francis said, “It is not possible to be indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold.” He calls it “a global economic system dominated by profit.” The Pope strongly condemns this new form of slavery urging people of all religions and cultures to denounce and combat it.

As director of Dawn’s Place, a house for women survivors of CSE or sex trafficking, I see them struggle daily to heal from the trauma caused by the extreme poverty, neglect, abuse and exploitation that they have experienced. Being open to what lies ahead; working through challenges, and keeping hope alive have been hallmarks of the residents of Dawn’s Place. I thought you might like to read a few of their reflections.

One of the residents writes: “I was lost for so many years feeling like I was destined for a life of abuse, drugs, and self-hatred. I just accepted that I deserved that way of life. I’m now working hard in therapy, with the steps in recovery and group work. Today I am becoming a different person. I’m finding a new way of life and my self-esteem is growing.”

Another writes: “As I progress through the program, I am learning not only how to take care of myself, but more importantly how to love myself. I am finding my self-worth. I also have something I never had before and that is hope. I now have hope for a brighter future than I ever would have dared to dream about before.”

One resident who recently returned to Dawns Place writes: “I am so grateful Dawn’s Place took me back a second time. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity for a better life then the life I was living. I’ve been learning a lot about myself and how to be a better woman. It’s probably the closest I’ve felt like home in a very long time.”

The mission of Dawn’s Place is to extend hope and healing from sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. By offering individual trauma-informed and group therapy, along with providing yoga and music therapy as well as life skills, Dawn’s Place works to support women in their journey of healing and becoming that new person.

Our desire for every woman who comes to Dawn’s Place is that she will find the courage to break the cycle of violence, recover from trauma, reclaim her dignity and go on to live as a healed, independent and productive member of society. Do we succeed with every woman who comes to Dawn’s Place? No, but we try. (ahomefordawn.org)
Kathleen Coll, SSJ, a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, is a member of the USCSAHT Board of Directors.

Pope Renews Calls For End To Human Trafficking

August 31, 2021

Pope Francis joined religious and world leaders in calling for an end to human trafficking on 30 July, the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

He tweeted: “I invite everyone to work together with the victims to transform the economy of trafficking into an economy of care.”

Between 20 and 40 million people are estimated to be trapped in modern slavery today, an illegal billion-dollar business where traffickers exploit vulnerable people for labour, prostitution, and trade in organs.

Talitha Kum, the global Anti-Trafficking Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons, launched a campaign entitled #CareAgainstTrafficking last week.

Its international coordinator, Sr Gabriella Bottani, urged people of goodwill “to come together and tackle the systemic causes of human trafficking, to transform the economy of trafficking into an economy of care”. She asked governments “to commit to long-term support for survivors”, including access to education, jobs, justice and healthcare.

Read the full story by Ellen Teague on The Tablet.

Making The Fight Against Trafficking A Priority For 25 Years

June 24, 2021

Soon after his election in 2013, Pope Francis held his first workshop on human trafficking, and I went to the Vatican to take part in it. Before I left Paris, I asked the “survivors” living in our shelter what message I should give to the Holy Father on their behalf.

They didn’t give me an envelope with a written message, but a mosaic depicting an empty boat in front of a lighthouse. It represented the island of Lampedusa, one of the primary points of European entry for many migrants. It weighed heavily in my bag!

On the first day of the workshop, we had the joy of meeting Francis. Gathering all my courage, I presented the mosaic to him and explained who had made it.

I took photos of the encounter back to the shelter to share with the residents. After that, the young woman who had made the mosaic was baptized and had her son baptized.

I am a sister in the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. The organization of our congregation into provinces had kept us more focused on the national level. But as part of a “European Circle of Sisters in Apostolic Situations,” we had been meeting regularly to see how we could work together on the European level.

During one of these meetings, maybe in 1994, we read a newspaper article that said 500,000 women from Eastern Europe were victims of trafficking in Western Europe. As Good Shepherd Sisters, dedicated to the service of vulnerable women, we could not ignore that information!

We reported to the council of our congregation that we wanted to make trafficking the topic of our next meetings, but it had not been among the priorities of the previous General Chapter. Not discouraged, we continued insisting — and the next General Chapter made the fight against trafficking its first priority!

One of the sisters of the province had been called to be part of a European group that was being formed — under the aegis of the Union of International Superiors General (UISG) and under the leadership of Consolata Sr. Eugenia Bonetti. But soon, that Good Shepherd sister was elected provincial, and asked me to replace her for this mission.

Read the full story by Marie-Hélène Halligon on Global Sisters Report.


The Pope, The NFL and the FBI: Stop Human Trafficking Now

February 7, 2021

Though National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month has ended, Pope Francis, the FBI and the NFL continue to draw attention to this insidious societal problem. But every citizen, business and organization can do more to alleviate this global crisis throughout the year.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion industry that profits from 25 million victims worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization. More than 100,000 children are sold for sex in the U.S. each year. Eighty-three percent of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are U.S. citizens, according to the Polaris 2019 Report.

As a licensed counselor, researcher on domestic abuse and participant in domestic violence committees, including Illinois Religious Women Against Human Trafficking, I see the critical importance of awareness and prevention.

Pope Francis recently wrote in the preface of an autobiography of a trafficking victim:

“Since there are countless young women, victims of trafficking, who end up on the streets of our cities, how much does this reprehensible reality derive from the fact that many men, here, require these ‘services’ and show themselves willing to buy another person, annihilating her in her inalienable dignity?”

Supporting the pope’s vision through advocacy are U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, among many others. They support human trafficking survivors through direct services such as providing shelter, counseling, spiritual support, job placement and educational scholarships.

The upcoming Super Bowl in Tampa will highlight the efforts of the NFL to grapple with human trafficking. Prominent athletes support the It’s A Penalty campaign that has played a role in eight major sporting events. Together with its partners, the organization has facilitated the rescue of almost 17,000 victims of trafficking and exploitation and prevented thousands more from becoming victims.

Read the full article by Helen Lavan on Ms. Magazine

‘Make Every Effort to Protect Children – They Are Future of Our Human Family’ — Pope Francis’ Appeal to Institutions

June 12, 2020

Every effort must be made to protect children … They are the future of our human family

The Pope launched this appeal to institutions for the World Day Against Child Labour, held this Friday, June 12th, during today’s weekly General Audience which took place this morning in the Library of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. The Pope continued his cycle of catechesis on prayer, focusing on the theme: “The prayer of Jacob” (Gen 32: 25-30).

After his catechesis, the Holy Father addressed special greetings to the faithful, in which he launched the appeal.

“This Friday, June 12th, is the World Day Against Child Labor, a reality that deprives boys and girls of their childhood and jeopardizes their integral development.”

Given the current health crisis in various countries, the Argentinian Pope recognized, “many children are forced into jobs that are inappropriate for their age, so as to help their own families who are in conditions of extreme poverty.”

Many cases, the Pope stressed, are forms of slavery and confinement, resulting in physical and psychological suffering.

“We are all responsible for this,” he said.

To read the full story by Deborah Castellano Lubov on Zenit: Click Here

April, 2020 Monthly Reflection

April 5, 2020

What Does Earth Day Have To Do With Human Trafficking?

by Maryann Mueller

On April 22 people around the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day to demonstrate their support for protecting our environment.  But what does protecting our environment have to do with human trafficking? 

According to the Office of United States Foreign Disaster Assistance, the total environmental disasters reported each year has been steadily increasing in recent decades, from 78 in 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, to 409 in 2019.1  The United Nations Environment program asserts that human trafficking increases by twenty to thirty percent as people are displaced during natural disasters.2

Human trafficking is always an exploitation of vulnerability and those displaced in an instant due to a storm, tsunami, flood etc. are among the most vulnerable populations.  The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) warns of significant increases for human trafficking especially among women and children as families are separated and displaced during natural disasters.3   

Meanwhile, the United States Government Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons finds that labor trafficking and the exploitation of natural resources appears “even more likely when the yield is obtained or produced in illegal, unregulated, or environmentally harmful ways and in areas where monitoring and legal enforcement are weak.”4

In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, thousands of temporary guest workers flooded the city, eager for construction jobs. A combination of fractured infrastructures, an overextended law enforcement, the temporary suspension of numerous employee protections in the Gulf Coast region created the perfect storm for exploitation and human trafficking of migrant workers. Human traffickers in New Orleans used the internet to negotiate shelter and relief in exchange for sex after Hurricane Katrina while sex trafficking rings from around the United States relocated to New Orleans to capitalize on devastated areas.5

By the time Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017, measures were in place to hopefully curtail trafficking.  Prior to the hurricane, the Houston police were concerned enough to speak throughout communities about the dangers of trafficking after a disaster.  Signs warning of trafficking were posted on lights at major intersections warning of labor trafficking, while the mayor’s office distributed a press release “to ensure that evacuees understood the nexus between displacement due to natural disasters and human trafficking.”6 At evacuation sites, notes were left each day on each cot in both English and Spanish warning of sex trafficking, while warnings were also displayed in the halls on all monitors and screens.

In the encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis calls for an integral ecology that sees the interconnectedness of protecting our environment with human trafficking and all other economic, social, moral and ethical issues.  “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature.   Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”   (139) The protection of the environment is then seen as “an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.” (114)  As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this year, as well as the 5th anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si, let us have the vision to think about comprehensive solutions to both the environmental and the human crises.

  1. https://www.livescience.com/414-scientists-natural-disasters-common.html
  2. UN Environment Program, 2011
  3. http://www.unep.org/pdf/rra_gender_screen.pdf.
  4. https://2009-2017.state.gov/j/tip/rls/fs/2014/227667.htm
  5. Human Rights Center of the University of California at Berkeley
  6. http://www.houstontx.gov/mayor/press/human-trafficking-flooding.html

Pope Francis Has Called For An End To Human Trafficking As He Visits Major Trafficking Destinations In Asia

December 19, 2019

POPE Francis called for migrants to be welcomed and for women and children to be protected from exploitation, abuse and enslavement as he began a busy two days of activities in Thailand on Thursday.

The pope pleaded for action against one of the region’s greatest scourges, human trafficking to fuel the forced labour and sex trade industries, as he began a week long visit to Asia.

He praised the Thai government’s efforts to fight human trafficking in a speech delivered at host Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s Government House offices. However, he appealed for greater international commitment to protect women and children “who are violated and exposed to every form of exploitation, enslavement, violence and abuse.”

He called for ways to “uproot this evil and to provide ways to restore their dignity.”

“The future of our peoples is linked in large measure to the way we will ensure a dignified future to our children,” he said.

The United Nations considers Thailand a key trafficking destination as well as a source of forced labour and sex slaves, who are trafficked at home or abroad. The UN anti-trafficking agency says migrants come from Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia or Vietnam, with Cambodian women and children in particular trafficked to beg in Thai cities.

To read the full story by Nicole Winfield on The Independent: Click Here

Pope Commends Nuns For ‘Standing On Front Line’ Against Human Trafficking

November 18, 2019

Speaking to a network of religious sisters that helps human trafficking victims, Pope Francis on Thursday told them to work closely with the local church, because this is necessary for their project to be successful.

“I want to reiterate that the journey of consecrated life, both female and male, is the path of ecclesial insertion,” Francis said. He discussed how religious must work within the bounds of officialdom. “Outside the Church and in parallel with the local church, things do not work.”

The pope also praised the network of religious sisters that combats human trafficking for being “on the front line.”

The pope was speaking to the first general assembly of Talitha Kum, a project started in 2001 by the International Union of Superiors General. Today, it’s a worldwide network coordinating the efforts of religious communities committed to the fight against human trafficking, which affects an estimated 40 million people.

Talitha Kum now coordinates 52 religious networks present in more than 90 countries on six continents. There are currently some 2,000 operators in the network who have helped more than 15,000 trafficking victims and given formation to over 200,000 people in prevention and awareness programs.

The network met in Rome Sept 21-27 for its first general assembly. The meeting sought to set the main objectives of the network for the next five years, identifying priorities and evaluating the path traveled so far.

To read the full story by Inés San Martín on Angelus News: Click Here

Address Of His Holiness Pope Francis To Participants In The First General Assembly Of “Talitha Kum” The International Network Of Consecrated Life Against Human Trafficking

October 21, 2019

Dear Sisters,

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