Religious Launch Campaign to Combat Human Trafficking During 2014 World Cup

Championship Seen as Opportunity to Raise Awareness and Prevent Modern-Day Slavery

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The 2014 Soccer World Cup, to take place in Brazil June 12 – July 13, will provide an occasion to sensitize the public about human trafficking, say campaigners against the modern-day slavery.

For this reason, a campaign called “Play for life, against trafficking”, promoted by Talitha Kum, an international network of consecrated persons, has been launched to put an end to this social scourge. The campaign is being run under the aegis of the General Union of Superiors General  (UISG).

Presenting the initiative May 20th at the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, recalled the many appeals made by Pope Francis on the subject of the traffic of persons, which he has described as “a wound in Christ’s flesh.”

The cardinal said men and women religious worldwide are “committed in their mission amid all forms of poverty, and touch with their hands the humiliation, the suffering, the inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted on women, men and children of this modern slavery.”

Among the supporters of the Talitha Kum campaign is the U.S. embassy to the Holy See. “It has been evident for years that this crime involves every country of the world, making close to 27 million victims,” said Ambassador Kenneth Hackett, in a message read out during the press conference.

Confirming the collaboration between the United States government and the Holy See in the struggle against the traffic of human beings, Hackett expressed his hope that this partnership can be “another way to share the best practices and to identify volunteers and benefactors,” in the hope of being able to single out the victims worldwide and “give them the help of which they are in need.”

For her part, the President of the UISG, Sister Carmen Sammut, MSOLA, explained human trafficking is something that “touches us because we believe in the dignity and liberty of every human being,” specifically of those men and women who have the misfortune to have been “sold as sexual objects in other countries” and who are being helped “to come out of the hell in which they live.”

The profits of sexual exploitation are “enormous,” therefore an endeavor of “prevention” is necessary, she stressed. If there is no awareness of the value of human dignity, then “the World Cup Final risks becoming a terrible embarrassment, rather than a celebration for humanity.”

The program of Talitha Kum against the traffic of human beings, as explained by the coordinator of the project, Sister Estrela Castalone, FMA, has the general objective of “sharing and optimizing the resources that religious life possesses in favor of interventions of prevention, sensitization and denunciation of the traffic of persons and the protection and assistance of the victims and of vulnerable persons.”

Concretely, Talitha Kum promotes the setting up of accommodation and hospitality centers for healing and recovery, in unison with pastoral care, in centers of detention for illegal immigrants and refugee centers.

A course of formation for more qualified religious and laymen is planned for the purpose of preventing human trafficking, together with campaigns of instruction and sensitization, programs for child protection, and ways to generate revenue in the less developed geographical areas. These are aimed at helping the most vulnerable and economically poor to avoid falling into the network of exploitation.

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, coordinator of the network Um Grito pela Vida (A Cry for Life) in Brazil, 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.

At the end of the press conference, Sister Bottani illustrated how her network will operate during the Soccer World Cup.

The network is present in Brazil in 19 of the 26 federal states; it is a member of Talitha Kum and acts on the local as well as the national and international level. It is divided into nuclei of men and women religious and laymen working in the pastoral, and collaborates actively with ecclesial, governmental and non-governmental organizations. A Cry for Life promotes preventive actions of awareness and formation and supports people who denounce human trafficking.

This year the commitment against human trafficking in Brazil has been manifested in the Campaign of Fraternity, which has as its slogan “It is for Freedom that Christ Has Set Us Free.”(cf. Galatians 5:1).

Beginning this month, groups of the network, and all those who have adhered to the campaign, will be active over all the national territory and in other Latin American countries, with interventions in the twelve Brazilian cities that will receive the teams of the World Cup. “We await the great event of the Soccer World Cup with great emotion and joy; it is a great celebration that infects everyone, small and great, old and young,” said Sister Bottani.

“However, we want our voice to be raised not only with the winners, but that it be raised together with that of all those who do not accept that life is like a soccer championship, where only the best one wins,” she added.

“We all have the right to win, to have life in abundance: the right to have a home, to be cared for, to have a quality school, access to fitting work that is justly compensated, to migrate … we have the right to be free!”, concluded the religious. 

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