Church Seen as Needing More Ministry on Streets

Human Trafficking Is World’s 3rd Most Lucrative «Business»

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 1, 2008 ( Though the Church already has an active ministry for problems related to the streets — homelessness, prostitution, etc. — a continental congress on the theme concluded that an even greater presence is necessary.

This was the primary conclusion of the first Latin American-Caribbean conference on ministry on the streets, which took place in Colombia in October. The Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers made public today the final document of the convention.

This statement affirms that ministry to the homeless and exploited is one of the signs of the times, to which the Church is called to give an answer.

The final document gives special emphasis to prostitutes and «street kids,» and other groups who suffer exploitation.

«People trafficking, especially of women, minors and children, has turned into a powerful global industry, the world’s third most lucrative criminal activity after arms trading and drug dealing,» the statement noted. «It consists of powerful networks that operate in countries of origin, of transit and/or of destination.

«Prostitution is not a new phenomenon. However, what is new is that it has been turned into a complex worldwide business that takes advantage of the poverty and vulnerability of its victims, who have become the slaves of the 21st century. Deceived and thrown onto the streets, they are a living example of the unfair discrimination against them, imposed by a consumerist society.»

One of the walls that must be overcome, according to the conference conclusions, is that of recognizing these people as «victims.»

«It is vital that sexual exploitation and people trafficking be recognized as acts of violence, especially against women, minors and children,» the statement continued. «As such, they are an offence against the dignity of the person and a serious violation of basic human rights. Church teaching has also condemned the various forms of exploitation of persons, who are so often turned into the object of trafficking and exploitation by criminal gangs, which do not even exempt children.»

Though participants recognized that certain areas of ministry are «extremely positive,» they affirmed that «the intervention of the Church and by governmental bodies has so far been inadequate and insufficient to achieve better results.»

«In general, Church ministers seem lacking in a deeper conviction to support this specific pastoral care,» the final statement suggested.

Moreover, the statement noted that the number of homeless people is increasing, and «require special care, attention and promotional work from the Church.»

On the other hand, the conference participants considered those who «use» the road and are often away for long periods from their families and parishes.

Among other initiatives, it was proposed that «pastoral reception in road transport stations, road safety and accident prevention campaigns, chapel vans and the celebration of the sacraments of the Eucharist and reconciliation in [pit stops] and service stations are creative practices that should be replicated in various countries of Latin America.»

«The Church,» the document affirmed, «wishes to be where people are and live, with their situations, difficulties, joys and suffering.»

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