Jim Nicholson, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, is organizing an international congress on this subject for mid-May, at the Gregorian University. Here, the ambassador explains the problem.
Q: What is the meaning of the U.S. president´s decision?
Nicholson: It is an act that testifies to the U.S. administration´s determination against the traffic in human beings, this grievous plague that strikes men, women and children, and represents a detestable form of new slavery.
It is estimated that there are between 700,000 and 4 million people in the world today in conditions of total slavery. Treated like objects, they are sold and purchased by cruel unscrupulous personalities and are destined to forced labor or the prostitution market. Given the dimension and gravity of the phenomenon, civil and democratic nations must redouble their own efforts to put an end to this grievous plague.
Q: What can developed nations do to contribute to eliminate this horrible phenomenon?
Nicholson: The problem is complex and must be addressed at different levels. Above all, it is clear that it manifests itself primarily in areas of the world that suffer poverty and hunger. An international policy capable of creating development, contributing to nutrition, reinforcing the conditions of education, [and] developing a family policy is an essential condition to render the earth scorched around the traffickers.
Then, greater international cooperation is necessary at the legislative level and in collaboration among policemen, including the exchange of information and data on the phenomenon. Clearly, in face of a criminality that is globalizing and knows no boundaries, such as that of trafficking in human beings, there can be no response except with measures of an international character.
Q: There is concern in the Catholic world about the possibility of the extension of the military conflict outside of Afghanistan.
Nicholson: Two days after the tragedy, the Pope said to me personally that the very serious attack of Sept. 11 was not just an attack against the United States but against the whole of humanity. We have assumed the responsibility to inform the Holy Father immediately of any possible development in the war on terrorism.
Clearly, on the part of the Vatican there is special sensitivity to topics of peace. No one likes bullets and bombs. I can tell you that up until now the Holy See has understood our reasons and has been very understanding in regard to our commitment in Afghanistan.
Q: And if military operations should be extended?
Nicholson: Let us not prosecute intentions. President Bush said that the struggle against terrorism will not cease until there is a condition where it cannot attack and end more innocent lives. If decisions are made on new military interventions, we will try, as in the past, to explain our reasons, our motives, conscious that the Holy See is an attentive interlocutor open to dialogue.