International day of prayer against human trafficking
The 8th of February,feast of St Josephine Bakhita has been declared an international day of prayer against human trafficking: Vatican City, 26 November 2014 (VIS) – The Pontifical Councils for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and for Justice and Peace, in collaboration with the international male and female Unions of Superior Generals (UISG and USG) have convoked an international conference for prayer and reflection on human trafficking, to be held on 8 February 2015, feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, the Sudanese slave canonised in 2000.
According to a press release, “human trafficking is one of the worst examples of slavery in the XXI Century. This concerns the whole world. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) roughly 21 million people, often very poor and vulnerable, are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labour and begging, illegal organ removal, domestic servitude and forced marriages, illegal adoption and other forms of exploitation. Each year around 2.5 million people are victims of trafficking and slavery: 60 are women and children. They often suffer abuse and unspeakable violence. On the other hand, for traffickers and pimps, this is one of the most lucrative illegal activities in the world, generating a total of 32 billion dollars a year. It is the third most profitable ‘business’ after drugs and arms trafficking”.
“The primary objective of the International Day is to create greater awareness on this phenomenon and to reflect on the overall situation of violence and injustice that affect so many people, who have no voice, do not count, and are no one: they are simply slaves. Another goal is to attempt to provide solutions to counter this modern form of slavery by taking concrete actions. For this, it is necessary to stress the need to ensure rights, freedom and dignity to all trafficked persons, reduced to slavery. On the other hand, we must denounce both the criminal organisations and those who use and abuse the poverty and vulnerability of victims to transform them into goods for pleasure and gain”.
It is shameful, shameful, the depths of depravity and cruelty to which humankind is capable of sinking. Shameful to think that we have to have a day to raise awareness of something which is in our midst. It is no longer ‘out there.’ However, I do believe that people will respond better to individual stories of trafficking if we were to hear them. It is a sad fact that statistics do not move the heart (and then to action) as much as hearing the story of one person who has been treated as less than human.
It is also a good time to reflect on and recognise our own attitudes as Catholics to others, to women, to children, to those of a different ethnic or social background. We are all in need of constant reminders of the message of the Jesus we are trying to follow, all in need of a good shake-up from out of our own navel gazing and comfort zone.
Human trafficking shows that we as a whole fail to challenge the root structures which allow us to constantly reward exploitation. Slavery is not all about bad individuals doing bad things to good people. You can’t eliminate slavery without fundamentally changing how our societies and economies are organised. The distribution of political and economic power includes a global economy that depends on the exploitation of poor people’s labour to maintain growth and profit.
Every billionaire in our midst owes his financial status to this very exploitation. The question should be whether we are ready to attack a global system that works to keep existing structures in place?
A LIGHT AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING Information Website
As part of the new international day of prayer on 8th February the religious leaders have launched a new website that contains stories of those who have been trafficked, prayers about the issue, and suggestions for how to take action. http://a-light-against-human-trafficking.info/