DONATE

 

Report from the Press Conference in Vatican, 2nd – 4th February 2015

 

Sr. Imelda Poole IBVM, President of RENATE, was invited by UISG (International Union of Superiors General) to be present and participate in the press release at the Vatican for the worldwide day of prayer against trafficking, the Feast of St. Bakhita. She spoke on behalf of RENATE and also about her work in Albania, which was named Talitha Kum Branch in the official reporting. Her interviews for the Vatican Radio and TV can be found here: www.radiovaticana.va (available as ”Presentation on the Day Against Human Trafficking”).
 
Links to the official reports:
Light a lamp to dissipate the darkness of human trafficking
CNA_EWTN News by Elise Harris

First International Prayer Day & Reflection on 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, tobe 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”.
Source: Vatican Information Service
Press Release 25th November 2014
L’Osservatore Romano 27th November 2014
Other links: in English & in French & in Italian
 

Vatican Symposium for Young People, 15th-16th November 2014

 

Youth Against Prostitution & Human Trafficking in Vatican, 15-16 Nov. 2014
Pope Francis invited young people from all over the world, aged 18 to 25, who are already active in the fight against trafficking and prostitution, to take part in a symposium at the Casina Pio IV, headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, on 15-16 November 2014. The idea is to make them and other young people aware of the dangers of the “globalization of indifference” and, in particular, of the new forms of slavery.
We are happy to announce that RENATE will be collaborating in this initiative which is the first of its kind. There will be a few participants present in the Vatican on behalf of our Network. They will speak from the perspective of their country of origin and at the same time they will receive a training that will enable them to defend the human and Christian freedom of every human being all over the world. Another goal of this Symposium is to work together to identify the best practices to adopt which will finally eradicate this crime against humanity.
Read more: Somervillian set to meet Pope after human trafficking work

Play for Life, Report Trafficking: Celebrate World Cup 2014 for a Dignified Life for All

 

Press Conference at the Vatican on 20th May 2014
Press Conference at the Vatican on 20th May 2014

Vatican City, 20 May 2014 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the Talitha Kum International Network of Consecrated Life against Human Trafficking campaign for the Brazil World Cup 2014: “Play for life, against trafficking”. The speakers were Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Kenneth Francis Hackett, the United States’ ambassador to the Holy See, Sister Carmen Sammut, MSOLA, president of the International Union of Superior Generals, Sister Estrella Castalone, F.M.A., coordinator of Talitha Kum, and Sister Gabriella Bottani, M.C.C.J., coordinator of the network Um Grito pela Vida, Brazil.
“This campaign shows the between consecrated life and the sentiments of our Holy Father regarding this crime, that he himself has defined as a wound on the body of contemporary humanity, a wound in Christ’s flesh”, said Cardinal Braz de Aviz. Sister Carmen Sammut emphasised that unfortunately “this crime is present everywhere, for the profits from it are enormous. Prevention of this type of human trafficking entails reducing the demands for sexual services. In order for this to happen, public opinion needs to be alerted”.
Recalling the Holy Father’s remark that it is impossible to remain indifferent in the knowledge that there are human beings trafficked like goods, Sister Gabriella Bottani pointed out that, according to official statistics, this serious crime affects around 21 million people around the world and that, with a better understanding of the phenomenon and its causes, methods of encouraging it to be reported to the authorities can be found. “We must forcefully combat the code of silence and fear surrounding this serious violation of human dignity”. The message of this campaign is a concrete and positive proposal for life: “A dignified and free life for all”. It is hoped that the World Cup in Brazil may offer a positive space for the promotion of the culture of rights and life, denouncing all forms of exploitation that devalue and reduce it to the status of a commodity and raising awareness among populations regarding the possible risks and how to intervene by reporting transgressions to the authorities.
Source: Vatican Information Service_20.05.2014

More here: Vidimus Dominum

Report from the Vatican Conference

 

Combating Human Trafficking: Church and Law Enforcement in Partnership
Venue: Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences, April 9th -10th 2014
Leaders in the church and law enforcement gathered from all over the world to create a joined-up and cross-border commitment to combat human trafficking. A declaration of intent was signed by both parties at the end of this conference.
1To authentic the proceedings and to keep in touch with the real, three victims of trafficking gave a stirring and mind-changing input which would have urged all participants to stay true to this commitment. Fortunately, Teresa May, the Home Secretary in the UK, was able to be present and also gave invaluable input. She offered hope to those gathered stating that the work against trafficking in human persons is a priority in the government. Finally, five religious sisters were present, all of whom worked at the coal face and represented UISG, RENATE, The International Congregation of the Adoratrix, and the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Nigeria.
The proceedings began with prayer followed by a brief statement from Cardinal Nichols who opened the conference and welcomed all present. He said:  “Our perspective in everything we do and say has to be informed by the voice of the victim”.  A short film followed this statement showing the disturbing experiences of four victims of trafficking. They were all caught up in the web of deceit which trapped them into the hope of a better life and greater opportunity but which had ended in misery, torture and a long road to recovery.
Dr Domenico Giani, the Inspector General of the Vatican Gendarmerie, made four important points: the need to extend the jurisdiction of certain offices in order to embrace, in its totality, the work to combat human trafficking; the power of finance in increasing the ability to commit the criminals; the need to confiscate the assets and re-deploy the money for the work; and finally the need for a strong finance base to combat terrorism.
Bishop Patrick Lynch, the chair of the Office for Migration Policy is a member of the Bishop’s conference Department of International Affairs in the UK. He spoke with passion about the need for a greater awareness of this issue in order to become convinced of the evil being perpetrated.  He saw the need for deeper compassion and to be collaborative in all the work.  For this to happen he spoke of the need to create good will amongst all of the protagonists.  He spoke of St Josephine Bakhita as our role model, a slave herself who was drawn by compassion to free herself from the hands of the slave owners. In the light of this he spoke of the work of women religious all over the world, engaged in the field, at the coal face with victims and in raising awareness of this crime.
2Teresa May quoted Pope Francis stating that our presence here today is to talk about “a crime against humanity”. This crime is complex, she said, and the numbers unthinkable.  It is a hidden crime in society.  She thanked the church for showing the lead. She declared that all difficulties which we face in combating the crime should not stop us from “Disrupting, convicting and imprisoning the criminal gangs to stamp out the crime”. Anti trafficking is a priority in the UK.  The draft bill on trafficking introduces tougher sentences, provides a tool for disrupting the crime by stopping the illegal travel across borders.  There will be a new Anti-slavery commissioner, she said, and a national anti trafficking crime agency.  Complex crimes need good intelligence and this will be put into place through these new means. She spoke of a  greater emphasis on cross border collaboration,  and the fact that specialist anti-slavery teams have now been appointed on all British borders. Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland is at the forefront of the field.  The Home Secretary spoke of the need to focus on the profits and to seize the assets.  At the heart of the work, she declared, there needs to be every means put into place for the protection of the victim.  All countries have to be involved.  In Europe they need to know that there are no safe havens.  A Santa Martha Group has been established and in November, in collaboration with the Catholic Church, people will be invited to work together against this crime.  A conference in London will launch much of this work in November.
Kevin Hyland, who currently leads the UK’s only dedicated Human Trafficking Teams based within the Met’s Specialist Crime and Operations Section, followed this positive call to action, with a summary of the work of this specialist unit, its’ successes, which were many and its’ challenges. He spoke of the new hub in London created with a multi-disciplinary and joined up approach including not only law enforcement services but also medical personnel, social services, education and all stake-holders.  He spoke of being in close collaboration with religious sisters in London and afar, who work in the field of anti trafficking. He gave hope talking about the compensation being given to victims through the mediation of employment tribunals. The partnerships being developed are multi-disciplinary and are making a real difference. Questions were raised from the floor about the possibility of a multi-faith approach and it would seem that, though slow, progress is being made to engage all faith traditions in this work. It was also said that that to make the work more effective bi-lateral agreements have been made across borders with Thailand and Nigeria. Kevin Hyland felt that intelligence sharing needs to be expanded and made more effective.
Roland Noble, The Secretary General of Interpol, began his input with perhaps one of the most moving and informative films on child trafficking.  He spoke from a global perspective. Quoting Martin Luther King, he said:  “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. International solidarity is rising yet slavery is still ever present and it is still hidden.  It is creating such a huge economy and there are huge numbers involved.  The spread and the involvement of the traffickers are beyond precedence.  Human slavery feeds on misery. Merchants will always be able to find men, women and children desperate to find a better life.  These stolen lives are frightened as they become indebted to the merchants who constantly follow them. There is a constant fear for the victims that they will be arrested.  Trafficking is a deep, complex, self-created criminal machinery.  Roland Nobel continued by asking the question: How do we implement the strategy, cross borders, beliefs, cultures? There is no such thing as an unstoppable machine.  Prevention is the answer.  Stop the flow before the victims reach the merchants. Raise  awareness, and have a global awareness raising campaign.  Let everyone have a role to play.  The knowledge of this crime needs to be spread.  We need the knowledge from the eyes of the victims with a much greater interaction amongst all people. To support the law enforcement and the re-integration of victims, networks need to be expanded across every discipline.  It is a difficult struggle.  Let us be ambassadors of hope.  Mr Noble mentioned, in particular, the Roma community, calling for civil rights in their regard. He said that these people are very vulnerable to the work of the criminals.  Law enforcement and governments need to focus on safe migration and carefully integrated programmes for the migrants.
Commissioner of the Federal Police in Australia, Tony Negus, spoke of their response to this crime in the ASEAN Region. He spoke of four key features of the policy in this work: On –going explorations of the extent of the problem, taking a whole-of-government approach to combating trafficking; implementing a well-resourced anti trafficking strategy, collaborating with many of the destination and origin countries and looking in particular, at the extent of labour trafficking.  Victims have been increasingly identified in agriculture, construction, hospitality and domestic service. The Australian government provides $150 million for this work. There is a highly developed network in their region, he said, to ensure the safety of the victim and to implement rehabilitation programmes ensuring everything is in process long enough to free the victim to denounce the criminal. Since January 2004 more than 340 investigations and assessments into allegations of trafficking in persons have taken place but these have only yielded 17 convictions. Since the last year this has greatly increased and 92% of identified victims are voluntarily participating in an investigation or prosecution during the last year. 52% of these were for labour trafficking, 48% for sexual exploitation. Many other crimes such as fraud and money laundering are also picked up during these investigations. Special immigration officers have been posted from the Australian police in Thailand, China and the Philippines. There is an especially close relationship in this work between the Thai police and the Australian Federal Police.
Mr Ranjit Sinha, the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation in India declared that the problem in human trafficking in his country was huge. The country takes a multi-faith and multi-disciplinary approach.  Now it recognises the need for and has set up an anti trafficking system which includes tool kits for awareness raising, handbooks and a mapping is in progress to look at all of the vulnerable factors in India which have led to such mass crime. One million children have gone missing in India. Now there is a missing children alert throughout the country. Kerala and Bombay are the most vulnerable regions for the trafficking in human persons. India is in great favour of global networks being developed to combat the crime.
Mr Marius Roman, Chief Superintendant and Head of the Anti Trafficking Unit of the Romanian Police spoke of the present reality in his country. In Romania there is a strong  law enforcement but they can see and detect an increase in the phenomena of human trafficking.  They see that the tricks of the traffickers have changed and that there is more mental than physical abuse.  In the recent past there have been 1,000 investigations with a huge increase recently. In this time only 200 traffickers have been brought to trial. The challenges they face are based on the knowledge that this is a hugely lucrative crime.  The proceeds from this crime are used to finance other crime.  The criminal syndicates are highly mobile and active in several jurisdictions and especially where the legislation is permissive.  All the cases which go to court are based on a victim’s testimony.
Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences gave Interpol figures revealing that 30,000 victims have been trafficked from the Sudan and that 3,000 have undergone extreme torture perpetrated by their captors. Many victims have been killed in order to sell off their organs. 4,000 children are known to have been sold from the Sudanese refugee camps in Jordan.  It is a $6 million turn over from this crime alone. Law enforcement bears witness to this fact in the Lebanon where thousands have been trafficked from the camps. The question was asked: How can Europol and Interpol be involved collaboratively and globally in the sharing of instant information?
At the end of this first day of the conference the Bishop of South Africa raised the issue of seafarers and that to his knowledge thousands of them were at ransom globally in their work far away from home and unpaid for the work. This is especially happening with many shipping companies who have gone bankrupt.  It was added that Scotland also has this problem.  It is a difficult problem to identify as the ships move on at a fast rate. Cardinal Nichols suggested the involvement of the Apostleship of the Sea in this work. Bishop Diarmuid Martin from Ireland confirmed that this was also an issue for them.
Bishop Sorondo referred back to the inter-faith agreement which has recently been signed  to work together within a global context to combat this crime.
At the end of this first day Cardinal Nichols spoke of hearing the words from the Scriptures ringing out throughout the proceedings of the day:  “The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor”. He suggested we take this to heart and listen to the cry of the poor.
Day Two:
There was a shift of emphasis on Day two which was dedicated to hearing the woman’s voice. Three victims of trafficking gave a stirring account of their experiences and the way forward for the forum present.  Two female religious spoke of their congregations work against trafficking and Mira Sorvino United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Against Human Trafficking, spoke of her work in awareness raising and advocacy in combating the crime.
The day opened with prayer led by Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher from the Canadian Bishop’s Conference. Mira Sorvino following this, stressed in her closing remarks the need for partnerships.  She said that the traffickers have billions of dollars and criminal networks to achieve their evil.  She called for all resources from each group or individual in society, working in concert, to level the playing field, learning and building from each other. Only together can we rebuild a healthier society which eradicates slavery. She added that a survivor friend had said to her that the common thread among victims is abuse/neglect in the family. So prevention starts there.
The first victim of trafficking confirmed this point being made by Mira.  She had come from a home of abuse, children’s homes and foster care.  Later her Father had tried to kill her.  A ‘Friend’ offered her work in the UK to escape from this tortuous reality. She was sold to Hungarian Gypsies and trafficked into the sex industry from then on. The second victim had been sold by her sister.  She could not believe that this could happen and lost all trust in humanity.  She was bought and sold on, by men in London who hurt her badly every day.  She was totally controlled and never given any money.  The money she came with was also stolen from her.  She was starved to make her more thin for the work and even a 3 year old boy, part of the family of the trafficking ring, abused and scoffed at her daily.  The effect of all of this is still with this young woman every day. The third victim was tricked to come to Rome for work and was trafficked onwards to the UK where she was used and abused by Czech traffickers in the city of Gloucester. They took her, they took her money, beat her and gave her little food.  She was frightened for her life.  Her experience has led her to feel less than a person and more like a machine to make money, she said: “You are an amount of money – you are valued by the amount of money you make”. She spoke of losing faith and having no belief in the possibility to run and escape.  It left her in total darkness with no one to help her.  She spoke of the police being the key to freedom for the trafficked victim.  She called on the police to be more present in a visible way, in all the brothels and all possible places where the sex trade may be taking place.  The only person the traffickers fear is the police.  She asked the church to pray for them.  Now that she is free she is happy and she desires this for all trafficked victims.  She is now a student but has no papers and therefore in this healing process she still feels like a criminal in Britain. She felt that the laws in Britain do not protect the victim.
Sr Florence Nwaonuma: the General Superior of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, an indigenous congregation in Nigeria reflected on the fact that in Italy 80% of trafficked victims are Nigerian.  The pattern of the traffickers in Nigeria has assumed a different dimension.  Now the trafficked victim is rarely related to the curse of Juju but thousands of Nigerians are travelling voluntarily for a better life but are easy targets for the traffickers who promise them so much. She sees the need for greater awareness raising, to be aware of the use of social media by the traffickers.  She spoke of the wonderful work which the sisters are doing in the empowerment of women and in the shelters and places of safety for the victims. She spoke of the work being an epiphany of God’s love and that the key text to remember is: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat”.  All peoples want to escape from poverty and hunger. She said that we are the silent witnesses and eloquent denouncers of evil in the midst of a country with unjust structures.
Sr Aurelia Agredano the vice general of the Congregation of Adoratrices spoke movingly of her congregations work in every aspect of the field of trafficking, as a response to the call coming from the charism of her congregation.  The sisters work in direct action in shelters for trafficked victims in many parts of the world and also in awareness raising, advocacy and on-going protection of the victim.  She spoke in detail of these many works being carried out in extreme and difficult situations.  She said” Our task as men and women followers of Jesus is a matter of the practice of liberation. Healing, and re-structuring of life.  We cannot remain on the sidelines of the road as bystanders..  We need to question our way of being in the reality and say with Jeremiah: “ wipe away the tears; there is hope for the future.”

Pope Francis at the Vatican Conference
Pope Francis at the Vatican Conference

The final word was given to Pope Francis who came at the end of this day’s proceedings to speak to the gathered forum.
“I greet each of you participating in this Conference, the second such gathering held here in the Vatican to promote united efforts against human trafficking.  I thank Cardinal Nichols and the Bishop’s conference of England and Wales for organizing this meeting, and the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences for hosting it.
Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the Body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.  The very fact of our being here to combine our efforts means that we want our strategies and areas of expertise to be accompanied and reinforced by the mercy of the Gospel, by closeness to the men and women who are victims of this crime. Our meeting today includes law enforcement authorities who are primarily responsible for combating this tragic reality by a vigorous application of the law.  It also includes humanitarian and social workers, whose task is to provide the victims with welcome, human warmth and the possibility of building a new life.  These are two different approaches, but they can and must go together. To dialogue and exchange views on the basis of these two complementary approaches is quite important.  Conferences such as this are extremely helpful, and, I would say, much needed.
I believe the one important sign of this is the fact that, one year after your first meeting, you have regrouped from throughout the world in order to advance your common efforts. I thank you for your readiness to work together.  I pray that our Lord will assist you and that Our Lady will watch over you”.  (Pope Francis)
Finally it is good to remind ourselves of the estimated facts:
According to the first edition of the Global Slavery Index, which provides an estimate country-by-country, of the number of people living in modern slavery today, the greatest number rank in the following ten countries: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Taken together, these ten countries account for 76% of the total estimate of 29.8 million enslaved people. Over time, the Global Slavery Index report will fill gaps in information about the size and nature of the problem, risk factors and the effectiveness of responses. The intention is to inform and empower civil society groups working on this issue, and to assist governments to strengthen their efforts to eliminate all forms of modern slavery.
We finish with the words of Pope Francis: Human trafficking is an open wound of contemporary society. A scourge upon the body of Christ.  It is a crime against humanity.
Vatican Conference on Human Trafficking, 9th-10th April 2014
Vatican Conference on Human Trafficking, 9th-10th April 2014

Written by Imelda Poole IBVM (Loreto), RENATE Representative at the Conference
 

The Pope Urges Action Against Human Trafficking

 

Vatican City, 5 March 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis has sent a message to the faithful in Brazil on the occasion of the annual Lenten “Fraternity Campaign”, which this year takes on the theme of “Brotherhood and human trafficking”, and whose slogan will be “For freedom Christ has set us free”.

 

“During the next forty days, we will seek to be more aware of the infinite mercy God has given to us and asks us to give to others, especially those most in need: ‘You are free! Go and help your brothers to be free!’. In this sense, and wishing to mobilise Christians and persons of good will in Brazilian society against the social ill of human trafficking, our Brazilian brother bishops propose this year the theme ‘Fraternity and human trafficking’”.

 

“It is not possible to remain indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold like goods! I think of the adoption of children for the extraction of their organs, of woman deceived and obliged to prostitute themselves, of workers exploited and denied rights or a voice, and so on. And this is human trafficking. ‘It is precisely on this level that 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 this injustice’. Moving on to the family level, entering into the home, how often do we see that even there, often there is abuse. Parents who enslave their children, children who enslave their parents; married couples who, forgetting their duty in receiving this gift, exploit one another as if they were products for consumption, disposable products; the elderly ,without a place in society and children and adolescents without a voice. How many attacks to the basic values of the fabric of family life and social coexistence. Yes, there is a need to profoundly examine our consciences. How can one proclaim the joy of Easter, without lending support to those who are denied their freedom on this earth?”.

 

He continues, “Be sure: if I offend the human dignity of others, it is because I have previously divested myself of my own. And why have I done this? For power, fame, material goods … in exchange for my dignity as a a son or daughter of God, whose salvation comes at the price of Christ’s blood on the Cross and is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who calls inside us, ‘Abba, father!’. Human dignity is the same for all human beings; if I trample that of another, I also trample my own. Christ freed us so that we might live free in freedom! … I hope that Christians and persons of good faith may make efforts to ensure that men, women, young people or children may never more be victims of human trafficking. It is the most effective foundation for re-establishing human dignity and proclaiming Christ’s Gospel in towns and country, because Jesus wishes to sow life in abundance everywhere”, concludes the Holy Father.

 

Report from the Vatican Workshop

 

Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery.

Destitute Peoples and the Message of Jesus Christ.

2nd – 3rd November 2013 Casino Pio IV (Vatican City)

The initiative for this awareness raising workshop on Trafficking in Human Persons was taken by Pope Francis who called on the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences together with the FIAMC (The World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations) to organise, in this initial stage, a preparatory workshop.  This workshop examined human trafficking and modern slavery in order to establish the real state of this phenomenon and to follow an agenda to combat this heinous crime. The overall coordinator was Very Reverend Marcel Sanchez Sorondo who worked painlessly to keep each person attending the workshop in constant communication with all necessary information before the event. We thank him for the acceptance of our application and for his extraordinary care to the detail in every manner required.

Vatican, Nov. 2013
The Assembled Group meeting with Pope Francis

Approximately 100 people attended this event of whom 20 presented papers and represented the organisations mentioned above, whilst the others had registered as observers. It was encouraging to know that on arriving at the assembly room, all observers were called participants, all had a voice and all had the opportunity to submit proposals for the conclusion of the days together.
Three members of RENATE attended this workshop, Sr Marie Hélène Halligon, (Good Shepherd – Paris), Sr Patricia Mulhall, (Brigidine – UK), and Sr Imelda Poole (IBVM – Albania). The ‘observers’ were mainly from grassroots non-profit organisations, NGOs or mission groups, working in the field of anti-trafficking, representing a variety of organisations such as social services, the police, law and the justice system, people working in shelters (safe houses) in direct action with victims. Among them were Members of Parliament desiring to make changes in the law, on the side of the victim, NGOs working in the field, and bishops and clergy from the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.
Every continent in the world was included and all continents reflected on their experiences of trafficking in human persons within their own cultural differences.  It really exposed the manner in which traffickers are sharp in using conditions of poverty, the ‘culture’ of vulnerability and weaknesses in the law are prevalent, thereby enabling the exploitation and trafficking of people to maximum effect.
Many statistics were shared regarding the extent of this evil. Many millions have been identified as trafficked in the EU yet the number of victims declared as trafficked in the courts had fallen in the recent past by 32%.  The issue of corruption was explored both at the level of government and within other statutory systems. Global poverty and a breakdown of values were seen to be the root causes for the increase in the trafficking in human persons.  Many of the vulnerable succumbed to the deceits of traffickers with promises of ‘a way out’ of poverty, leading to a better life for their families and for themselves.
The conference reflected on the phenomena of migration and movements of peoples around the globe, which has reached momentous proportions and which is truly historic in this 21st century. Globalisation and the issues of cross border protection laws are impacting on the journey taken by the migrant.  The migrant is also suffering from a global culture that rejects the migrant and which has lost the concept that all people are made equal and all are created in the image of God. The ‘commodification’ of the human person has forced the migrant person into the underworld of the illegal market and often into the hands of traffickers. In addition, the secularisation of many societies and the challenge for the people on the edge of society, facing an inhuman and undignified life has created an ambience ripe for the traffickers to be successful in their trade. The change in the numbers living below the poverty line plus this explosion of secularisation in many countries has led to a growth in the culture of individualism. This culture has replaced a fair and just society which emphasises care of the vulnerable and which puts the community at its heart.  The belief that we have a global crisis of values was discussed at length. Many would see this as being one of the prime reasons for the growing phenomena of human trafficking today.
Many questions were asked, including: Where do we stand in the midst of this evil practice?  Are we on the side of the victim?  Do we look for compensation for the victim?  Has every country, including the Vatican State, signed the European Convention Against trafficking?  How do we view the immigrant? Are we aware that the only way forward is to build partnerships to combat this crime? Are we in partnership with others in the field, networking with them or are we working in isolation?  Are illegal employment agencies operating in our vicinity?  Who is making checks and who cares about the exploitation of the migrant worker? What about the question of ‘Demand’ – the engine that fuels the ‘supply’ of people who can be easily exploited and manipulated into the ‘trade in human persons’ (to use Pope Francis’ words)? The trafficking in organs was also an important issue discussed during these two days.
Several organisations were represented and some shared the fruit of their work in prevention or direct action against trafficking.  Two examples of organisations attending the conference DNA Prokids and Walk Free Foundation gave input on their work
DNA-Prokids (http://www.dna-prokids.org), an international project on human trafficking prevention and fight using genetic identification of victims and their relatives. DNA testing ensures ‘lost’ children can be reunited with their families and taken out of ‘risk’ of being stolen or adopted for profit. One case story from ProKids related to Haiti at the time of the Earthquake in 2010. Twenty-five children told their parents had perished in the Earthquake, were stolen from the Haiti, taken by bus and found in Columbia. Of the twenty-five, 18 were reunited with their families. The remaining 7 children, whose parents could not be traced, were given legal protection by the Columbian government to be adopted by Columbian families.
The ‘Walk Free Foundation’ launched in 2012, Perth, Western Australia, is making a scientific analysis of those trafficked, the countries from which they are trafficked, the routes they take and the destinations they reach in ‘The Gobal Slavery Index 2013’. This document was made available to the conference. Their website encourages joining in a world-wide campaign to end modern day slavery. Over a million have joined to date. (cf websites for both organisations)
Professor Suarez-Orozco (University of Los Angeles, California) presented a paper examining the devastating psychological and cultural effects on trafficked children who are deprived not only of their present, but also of their future as many of them do not have the mental, physical or psychological means to overcome such trials. Describing the phenomenon of human trafficking, Suarez-Oroaco said it amounts to a $30 billion enterprise – larger than the GDP of Jordan.    It is the third-most profitable global criminal enterprise, after drugs and armaments. The professor highlighted the fact that up to 75 per cent of all detected trafficked people are women and children. (an estimated 27 million trafficked people in the world today) He noted that the percentage of children is increasing, saying: “In the U.S., it is estimated that of all the detected trafficked people, 50 per cent are under age.”
(http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/11/05/human_trafficking:_an_ancient_infamy_with_a_new_face/en1-742628  of the Vatican Radio website).
Vatican, Nov. 2013
Sr Marie Hélène Halligon, presenting the Mosaic to Pope Francis

An added privilege during the weekend was meeting with Pope Francis – the lead person for this event. Sr  Marie Hélène Halligon had bought with her a mosaic made by girls who were trafficked in Paris. She presented this mosaic to Pope Francis. Sr Patricia Mulhall and Sr Imelda Poole also had the privilege of meeting Pope Francis and asked for his blessing on the work of RENATE.
Vatican, Nov. 2013
Sr Imelda Poole giving greetings from RENATE with Sr Patricia Mulhall in the background

Several proposals were submitted at the end of this workshop and all were collated into one single document. This document was accepted by the participants. No proposal was omitted.  The conclusion reached was that all proposals should be submitted to Pope Francis as an outcome of the workshop with an introductory paragraph to be written after the workshop had been concluded. This paragraph would be agreed by the participants of the conference before submission. The workshop closed on Sunday evening, 3rd November. The networking achieved by the members of RENATE is still having effect as we return to our various countries of work. We feel very grateful that we were welcomed into this forum.
Marie Hélène Halligon (Good Shepherd), Patricia Mulhall (Brigidine), Imelda Poole (IBVM)
 

Pope Calls for Anti Human Trafficking meeting at Vatican

 

Pope Francis Human TraffickingWe are pleased to announce that two members of the RENATE Working Board will be present at this workshop and will keep the Network in touch with the conclusions and the future work at the Vatican in this important field of TIP and how we as a Network can collaborate in this work.
 
From the Vatican Radio Website
August 23, 2013 – On the request of Pope Francis, Catholic Church experts will gather in November with the aim of better tackling the growing scourge of human trafficking. “We must be grateful to Pope Francis for having identified one of the most important social dramas of our time and that he has had enough trust in our Catholic institutions to ask us to arrange this working group,” said Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The academy along with the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations will meet to discuss a Vatican action plan to help combat what is often referred to as the modern slave trade. “Trafficking in human beings is a terrible offense against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights,” Bishop Sánchez Sorondo told Vatican Radio on Thursday. “In this century, it acts as a catalyst in the creation of criminal assets.” The group will meet at the headquarters of both the academies in Vatican City.
Bishop Sánchez Sorondo observed that the United Nations has begun to be aware of this growing crime “only in 2000,” together with the effects of globalization. “The alarming increase in the trade in human beings is one of the pressing economic, social and political risks associated with the process of globalization,” he said. “It’s a serious threat to the security of individual nations and a question of international justice.”
A 2012 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on human trafficking says around 20.9 million victims are forced into labor globally. Each year, about two million people are victims of sex trafficking, 60 percent of whom are girls. The practice is not limited to poor and underdeveloped areas, but extends to all world regions. “Some observers argue that, in a few years, trafficking in persons will exceed the trafficking of drugs and arms, making it the most lucrative criminal activity in the world,” the bishop warned. (Source: CNA)