The call to combat human trafficking was echoed again at the Vatican this week.

Urging participants to step up the fight and support trafficking survivors, the Vatican held a video conference Tuesday recalling the first World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30, reported Vatican Radio on Wednesday.

America’s top official on monitoring human trafficking, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, hosted this event which was organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, along with the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and the ecumenical Global Freedom Network.

Speaking from his Washington office, he discussed the recently released U.S. Report on Trafficking in Persons, highlighting the journey that trafficked people make from victim to survivor.

The report, which tracks progress being made in 188 countries, focuses on a triple paradigm of ‘prevention, protection and prosecution.’ Moreover, it includes personal stories about men, women and children who’ve escaped from slavery and are now helping in the fight against the traffickers.

Human trafficking affects virtually every part of our global community, whether it’s child soldiers in Africa, exploitation in the United States, sex trafficking in the Middle East or Eastern Europe, child labor in Southeast Asia, or organ trading in Central America. At recent Vatican conferences held on it, Pope Francis personally met with victims.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who visited the Pope in Rome on May 9, stressed in a statement the need to cut off funding for traffickers and to tackle the causes of human trafficking, such as poverty, inequality and ignorance.

Talking to journalists about the millions of people still falling victim to this crime, Ambassador CdeBaca said there has been an important shift in the way trafficking is being defined. He said, “Trafficking was defined as moving people across international borders… that defined out hereditary slavery in Mauritania, Mali and other parts of West Africa ….”

While the ambassador listed numerous countries that have introduced new anti-trafficking laws, he was quick to admit there is still not enough political will to tackle the more hidden forms of this widespread phenomenon.

To illustrate, he said, “What we’ve seen around the world is that governments will always try to reclassify things.” They ensure “they are not defined as human trafficking to protect their fishing industry, to protect their palm oil industry, to protect their charcoal industry, to protect their ability to bring in nannies or people to come and build their stadiums for upcoming sporting events.”

However, Ambassador CdeBaca applauded the important role the Church has played in defining trafficking as a crime against humanity, pushing it higher up the public agenda.

He stressed, however, that collaboration with those dealing with the problem must continue because effective prevention strategies are critical.

“My biggest concern is that as a global community we tend to chase the last tragedy,” the ambassador said. 

Although some reforms occur after each given tragedy, he acknowledged, there is a need for greater systemic change, without which, he claimed, goals will not be achieved.