Reflection from Katholikentag in Germany, Regensburg, May 28th – June 1st 2014


“More than 1,000 individual events combine to make the German Katholikentag a place of bridge-building; on behalf of society, faith and community. Being a Christian means dedicating oneself out of faith in God and Church and Society. Every Katholikentag is a platform for political, social and Church dialogue…”(Bridges of Encounter and Change; Katholikentag 2014).
The above quotation set the expectations for the Katholikentag of 2014. The founders set the bar to a high standard , which was lived up-to throughout the five days of the event.
At Katholikentag RENATE walked, worked and prayed in a place in which faith was enabled, encouraged, modelled, facilitated and taught. Hundreds upon hundreds of stalls and bright white tents were decked out colourfully and plentifully, welcoming and inviting us in, to engage, discuss, share and learn, affording us first-hand and memorable experiences of the diversity of life in Catholicism and in the contemporary Church.
RENATE is a European network of religious and lay people , committed to supporting each other in working against human trafficking and exploitation. RENATE was established to;

  • Develop awareness-raising activities against human trafficking and the growing demand within all levels of society in Europe, using all forms of modern technology and communications.
  • Network, share resources, skills and knowledge.
  • Research and implement actions against the growing demand for such abuse in the countries of origin and destination.

At Katholikentag, we came to learn and to share the work of RENATE and to involve more people in this work against the trafficking in human persons. We shook hands with hundreds of people from all sections of the church, shared meals with complete strangers who soon became friends and talked for hours with those equally passionate about Catholic Social Teaching and the journey of faith we are on, young and old alike; a journey of building bridges between God and humankind.
The intensity of such dialogue took us to places where we would rather not go; presented us with challenges and inevitably demanded that we give without limit as Christ himself gave for us.
Despite the incessant rain, we enjoyed the varied programmes of religious music, new music, pop, exhibitions, tours, cabarets, readings and Liturgies – Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Ecumenical.
We braved the rain and joined the thousands celebrating Mass at the University Stadium to commemorate Ascension Thursday. It was a fitting prelude to the presentations and workshops held that afternoon, with our own RENATE-Europe presentation staged from 14.00 to 15.30. The very attentive audience present clearly appreciated that very careful and thorough research had been done in order that a seamless presentation was achieved. The topic was Human Trafficking in Europe and from the Opening Address presented by the RENATE President, Sr. Imelda Poole, IBVM, through to the contribution of various other members of RENATE, there was a clarity of message and content maintained throughout the proceedings. Sr. Dagmar Plum MMM, the RENATE member from Germany, chaired the proceedings and gave input on her work with the Jesuit refugee service in Berlin, alongside other members who shared their local story of work in this field. It both challenged and invited those present, to think about what the presentation said to them as a group of audience members and invited their consideration and agency, in working as a network…the potential and the power of possibility.
We were blessed to have been joined by a five-person, male Acapella, who complimented the presenters with their selections of contemporary music and lyrics, ranging from Cold Play’s “Paradise” through to Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluiah” which concluded the proceedings. It also probably reflected the sheer relief of all five presenters to have completed that afternoon’s work! They did a magnificent job, sensitively speaking about the work of anti-trafficking across Europe and all the while, placing at the centre, the care of the victims.
Jesus revealed much about the reign of God through the Parables that He told. Amongst the most important are those that speak of extending the hand of friendship to others in need. The most obvious one that comes to mind, is the parable of The Good Samaritan. The ministry of RENATE-Europe is to be The Good Samaritan. Others have, and will continue to turn a blind eye and walk away from the challenges of Human Trafficking and the exploitation of one’s fellow human being, but RENATE is steadily sowing the seeds of a courageous stance, to work against Human Trafficking in Europe and maintain the dignity of the human person.
Imagination is the eye of the soul, according to Joseph Joubert and one of the great human realities is that we have the capacity for rich imaginings. It is a powerful source, which is often harnessed for good, but also often harnessed for less laudable purposes. Katholikentag provided us with a rich opportunity for networking and the opportunity to create new relationships, shared learnings and shared language codes with which to articulate our ministry.
…In the community
Everyone has a thousand hands
Everyone has a thousand feet,
No-one ever walks alone.  (Patrice Koyo, Cameroon)
Written by Anne Kelleher, Communications Person (pending formalisation of appointment).
5th June 2014

Campaign Against Human Trafficking at the Job Fair in Nitra, Slovakia


People are not for sale - Gift Box Slovakia
People are not for sale – Gift Box Slovakia

Job Fair: Job Expo 2014 in Nitra, Slovakia, April 29th to 30th 2014.
A Member of RENATE, Sr. Bohdana Bezáková CJ and workers from Caritas Slovakia participated in this event and tried to draw the attention of visitors to the dangerous phenomenon of human trafficking.
Simultaneously with the 4th annual job fair at the Agrokomplex, was an international job fair entitled European Job Days 2014 and also an exhibition of products and services of vocational schools –  Young Creator 2014. In the different halls, visitors could find accompanying workshops where experts advised candidates how to be successful at an interview, what to write in a resume or how to identify their own strengths and weaknesses.
About a hundred employers came to the job fair this year and there were many visitors searching for a job. Because of this the job fair was a great opportunity where a member of RENATE, Sr. Bohdana Bezáková CJ and workers from Caritas Slovakia, could inform visitors about the threats and dangers of human trafficking. They developed a campaign called “People are not for sale – Gift Box Slovakia”. The purpose of the campaign, was to spread awareness and to warn people about the possibility of being trafficked, and to present the reality of this phenomena through a static box inside which were authentic stories of the victims and their personal conversations. The more information people can obtain through this campaign, the more it is hoped that people are saved from becoming a victim of modern-day slavery.
Sr. Bohdana Bezáková CJ speaking with the visitors of the Job Fair in Nitra, Slovakia
Sr. Bohdana Bezáková CJ speaking with the visitors of the Job Fair in Nitra, Slovakia

Jeden Svet in Slovakia: Topic of HT at the Festival of Documentary Films


Jeden Svet Film Festival in Slovakia, 17-22 March 2014
Jeden Svet Film Festival in Slovakia, 17-22 March 2014

The seventh edition of The Jeden Svet (One World) Film Festival took place in Prievidza, Slovakia from 17th till 22nd March. This year its major theme was human rights and one of the specific topics was human trafficking. Participants could watch twenty seven documentaries which included two films about modern day slavery. These were: “Na bulvári zlomených snov” (On the boulevard of the broken dreams) and “0800 800 818” (Slovakian production). On Wednesday, 19th March Sr. Bohdana Bezáková, Manager of Stop Human Trafficking Project and Member of RENATE led discussion about this phenomenon. She unveiled campaign “Ľudia nie sú na predaj – GIFT box Slovakia” (People are not for sale – GIFT box Slovakia) in the House of Culture of Prievidza. This campaign was organised in collaboration with Stop The Traffick, Global OSN Initiative and Caritas. The aim is to draw attention of Slovakian citizens on the issue and inform about potential risks of travelling and accepting dream job offers from abroad.
Sr. Bohdana Bezáková introduces "GIFT box Slovakia"
Sr. Bohdana Bezáková introduces “GIFT box Slovakia”

More information about Film Festival in Slovakia available here: Jeden Svet

Be a Light in Their Darkness: Day of Prayer for the Victims of Human Trafficking


Be a Light in Their Darkness
Day of Prayer for the Victims of Human Trafficking

There are days that you cannot forget, they remain deep within you and shape your present. There are meetings, after which nothing remains the same as before; the new is unknown and unmanageable, filled with tension and stretched between giving and receiving, losing and gaining.
When leaving my mission in Osnabrück (Germany), where I had worked among victims of human trafficking and had run a shelter for them, I did not understand why God was arranging things in such a strange way. I could not grasp it and it seemed to be illogical; my feelings were telling me that I did not want to leave that mission. But in the perspective of faith, to say AMEN appeared to be the only possible thing to do. I did not understand … and yet, even then, somewhere deep inside, I sensed that this was not the end. And so it wasn’t. So it isn’t!
I worked for Solwodi, the international organization “Solidarity with Women in Distress”, where I met young women seduced, deceived, sold and forced into prostitution. Their longing for love, happiness and a better life was badly misused; they were dragged into hell on earth. Constant fear, threats, psychological and physical abuse, rape… all that was only a part of a nightmare they had to undergo. When our paths crossed, those I met had been already freed from the hands of the oppressors; they were safe in our house, but their hearts’ pain and hurt continued. At that time, their struggle was to rebuild faith and a hope that their lives could be regained. I accompanied them through those difficult moments in their feeling of being lost, towards a beginning of a new life. I journeyed with them and witnessed their tears, their joys and success, both great and small. I tried to tell them in many different ways that God, in his love, has the power to make all things new. For me, it was a challenging and yet a beautiful mission… I do not mention it only with sentiment, as now I know more… it was really thanks to the women (I wish I could name their names here) that God let me to find my mission in life. Their broken lives and their effort to look with hope to the future sank into my heart and played an important role. It was those real people and their tragedies that opened my heart to see the pain and suffering of so many modern slaves, robbed of dignity and treated as a commodity, as an object of one’s desires and fancies, as a source of profit, where the fact of what they feel and go through, is utterly disregarded. There where money and consumerism rules, some do not hesitate to go further than we can imagine.
I do not know how God, who is still surprising me, will lead me on, but I can say with St. Francis, “The Lord Himself led me among them”. Or perhaps it might be better to say, “The Lord Himself led them into me”. And He still shows me that there are many possibilities to be close to them and serve them. In God’s perspective, there are so many different ways of being and doing.
It is the memory of heart which becomes a prayer and develops the concern to find different ways to help, that have led me to something new: a prayer vigil, prepared for the European Anti-Trafficking Day, on the 18th of October this year. I had been thinking about what we could do for our suffering brothers and sisters on that occasion and one of my first inspirations was: let us replace the helplessness, which often accompanies us while facing the problem of human trafficking, with… THE POWER OF PRAYER! This is what the world needs so badly.
Poster encouraging to join in prayer on European Day against HT in Poland
Poster encouraging to join in prayer
on European Day against HT in Poland

With the help of my sisters (something I experienced to such an extent) and in collaboration with others, we decided to have a prayer vigil. An evening of prayer for the intention of all people who are abused, forced into prostitution and slave labour, stripped of dignity and basic rights. This was organised in several cities of our Province: Lublin, Zamość and Warsaw (Poland), as well as in Budapest (Hungary) and St. Petersburg (Russia).
Doubtless, raising public awareness on human trafficking, knowledge, prevention and understanding of specific life-stories of victims is a very important part of fighting against modern slavery and helping those who have been affected. Therefore our program associated with the European Day against Human Trafficking, included activities such as articles in the press, radio, educational banners and informational forums in the media. However, most importantly for me and for us on that day, was not to remain at the level of knowledge, discussion or action. We wanted to stay close to the victims and their traumas and to embrace them with our presence and prayer. We wanted to touch their wounds with compassion and care, to look for concrete forms and methods of help, and at the same time to believe that God is able to lead them out of their profound suffering, to redeem what seems to be lost and unrecoverable.
A lot of people answered the call “Be a light in their darkness.” I am pleased and grateful to everyone who joined the common call for the intention of the victims of trafficking of human beings – those who planned to spend the night in prayer and those who spontaneously responded to the invitation of volunteers met in the city. It is the volunteers, young people full of enthusiasm and convinced of the rightness of this matter, who committed themselves in the preparation and co-creation of the evening.
Our work led us to different places…  Here’s our sharing
In Lublin a few hundred people participated in the event. We started with the Eucharist at 8 pm in the Holy Spirit Church. Then until midnight there was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which was led by FMM sisters and a Gospel Team. The singing was really beautiful, deeply moving and helped us to pray. At the same time, in the streets of the Old Town, volunteers (organized into several groups) approached passers-by and after a short conversation about the problem of human trafficking, handed a leaflet with prayer and information on the subject. They also encouraged people to go into the church and through prayer and a lighted candle express their solidarity with all those who suffer as a result of modern slavery. Many passersby responded very positively to this invitation and joined in the prayer. People lingered at the tables with stories of individual victims and their faces were visibly moved. We finished the prayer at midnight placing all our trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, the One who has the power and the final word, even over the powers of evil. To Him we entrusted ourselves, the victims of trafficking, as well as those who perpetrate this evil. We firmly believe – the last word belongs to God, to Love!
Sr. Joanna FMM, Poland
Sr. Joanna FMM, Poland

In the Diocese of Zamość preparing for that day started much earlier. In August more than a thousand young people gathered at EXODUS, a diocesan meeting of the young, and for the first time heard the invitation “Be a light in their darkness.” The subject of Human Trafficking and Prevention has also appeared in three rounds of retreat for young people run by the FMM sisters and the week before the event 56 classes in three high schools received catechesis on the subject. The volunteers called through Facebook, rushed in crowds to the streets of cities with the invitation and leaflets. The event took place in Zamość, in the church of the Franciscan Fathers. Many people of different ages – young, old, as well as whole families participated in the prayer. We also had the joy of the presence of Bishops and many Priests of the local church. The celebration of the Eucharist by the Bishop was the highpoint. After Mass, many remained to share in the next part of the evening which included a presentation on modern slavery combined with the testimony of a Sister who worked directly with women forced into prostitution. The evening ended with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Lighted candles brought before the Blessed Sacrament lit up the darkness of the church. We were praying and singing together, united in a common cry to God, who knows the way to the hearts of all who live in anguish and darkness. Words of one of the people will remain long in my mind: “I was very touched that night! Despite the distance, despite the fact that I do not know these people or their faces and names, I experienced a special communion with them. I felt in myself their pain and loneliness in the struggle for life. I have not heard of it before, but … after this evening they will be in my prayers”. Someone else said, “It’s such an important time to be together. God can see their tears as, I believe, He has seen mine today.”
On the 18th of October we were also united with Budapest. FMM Sisters, in collaboration with the Franciscan Brothers, were able to hold an evening of prayer for the victims of trafficking in the center of Budapest. Thanks to this, a lot of people could take part in the prayer of the Rosary, as well as participate in the Eucharist and Adoration. The youth were involved in animation of the prayer. It was unusual to see so many prayerful people, staying such a long time in silence… They asked us, what else they could do for our brothers and sisters who are sold and abused. After the Adoration, a woman who is a member of the Ecumenical Relief Society against Prostitution handed a sister her business card with a note: “I would like to pray with you once again.” Budapest keeps the hope that it will come true.
In Russia, where the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings has not yet been implemented, there are no social initiatives related to this topic. However, on the 18th of October, a group of young people gathered to pray for the victims of trafficking and for their persecutors. In St. Petersburg, in the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, after the Holy Mass for the intentions of victims of trafficking, the film “Black Swan” was screened. The film, based on facts, tells the story of a missing girl, whose body was found years later. The film is dramatic, tragic- and yet it so much reflects the reality of Russia. Background information about contemporary forms of slavery and an invitation to prayer uttered by Father Cyril (Greek Catholic priest) resounded strongly. At the time of Adoration we were accompanied by a symbol of light – young people, saying their intentions, lighing candles next to the altar. A great hope for a better world was loudly expressed in our prayer, a hope that God’s mercy is greater than human evil. Finally, saying the Rosary, we turned to Mary – Comforter of the Afflicted, asking her to take into her heart all the anguished and the deprived of dignity, so that the wounds of their hearts could be healed.
In addition to the above-named cities, we know that also in other places our FMM sisters and different Congregations held a similar prayer. Other places, other people, but it’s the same experience… Experience of a special communion with those that our world tends to forget in everyday life, not hearing their cry. That day they became close to us in the spirit. The power of prayer lit up probably more than one life in darkness and gave courage and faith that life can be regained!
We ourselves have also gained much – this experience has extended our eyes and hearts.
I hope that this event will not be confined to this one day but will continue in daily prayer and remembrance of contemporary slaves and will become a stimulus to find ways of how to deal with human trafficking and how to help the victims.
Give us, O Lord, the imagination of mercy and to lead us on…
Sr. Joanna FMM, Poland
Prayer Card in Polish for the Victims of Human Trafficking
Prayer Card in Polish for the Victims of Human Trafficking

RENATE Training on Catholic Social Teaching & Fundraising


social teaching training 2013Catholic Social Teaching Training & Fundraising Training for RENATE members has now been organized and will take place in Čičmany, Slovakia, from Sunday, November 3rd – till Friday November 8th 2013. We expect 25 participants from thirteen European countries.
Trainers on Catholic Social Teaching: Dr. Nicola Rooney & Fr. Milan Bubák SVD
Trainers on Fundraising: Sr. Imelda Poole IBVM & Mrs. Ivonne van de Kar
Please see below the profiles of our external trainers on Catholic Social Teaching.
Dr. Nicola Rooney has been employed by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference as Research Coordinator for the Council for Justice and Peace and the Northern Ireland Catholic Council on Social Affairs since 2008. During this time, both Councils have been actively involved in advocacy initiatives relating to human trafficking, including the publication of a statement in November 2009 .
In addition, both Councils advise the Bishops’ Conference on this issue, leading to a joint statement by all the bishops in September 2012 calling for the criminalisation of the purchase of “sexual services” in both jurisdictions in Ireland. As a member of the Executive Committee of the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions, Dr. Rooney participated in an Exposure Dialogue programme in Ukraine in May 2009. Participants spent three days researching the problem of human trafficking while living with families who had been affected, before presenting their findings to a meeting of key stakeholders, including Church leaders, CEOs of relevant NGOs and the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.
Fr. Milan Bubák
Milan Bubák, SVD, born in 1956, is a catholic priest, a member of the missionary congregation Divine Word Society. As a priest he has rich experience in working with different people in different contexts. Last six years he served as the Coordinator for justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation for his congregation in Rome where he wrote a booklet entitled Human Trafficking – Present Day Slavery. Presently he serves as a Parish Priest in Bratislava.
HT Booklet_ENG
HT Booklet_ESP_

Latest Polish Trafficking Project – "beginning of a new crisis …"


A new joint funded EU project to help victims of trafficking

Aim of the project
The main objective of the project is to stimulate professional and social twenty women who are excluded or at risk of social exclusion (including min. 12 women, the homeless). term of the project will be divided into two editions, and its performance is For the period twenty-three months ie from August 2013 to June 2015 Project activities: When editing the participants will be surrounded by comprehensive support psychotherapist, lawyer, coach and counselor who will create for each Individual Professional Development Path . Moreover, 60% of the beneficiaries and their children will be guaranteed accommodation in the Centre of the Association. All participants have the opportunity to pursue professional courses and six month placement. Participation of women in the project is free of charge. Beneficiaries of the project: Women not employed / unemployed in the age group 15-64 years, residents of Silesia.Click on the image below for more information and application form
polish project