Pope's Peace Message on Slavery Seen as Invitation to Live in Fraternity

World Day of Peace Statement Presented at Vatican

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Pope Francis’ message for the 48th World Day of Peace, «concerns not only the foundation of peace but its concrete realization in inter-personal relations,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, at a conference today to present the letter.

The World Day is marked Jan. 1 and this year will have the theme “No Longer Slaves but Brothers.»

According to the cardinal, the Message is intended as “an invitation to transform social relations from a relation of dependence-slavery, and of denial of the other’s humanity, to a relation of fraternity lived between brothers and sisters as children of the same Father.”

Stressing the implication of “less humanity” and of “rupture of fraternity and rejection of communion,” with which the Pope describes slavery, Cardinal Turkson added that the family “in as much as it is the first school of life and primary place of fraternity,” cannot become a “place in which life is betrayed, scorned, negated, manipulated and sold as if one could dispose of this gift according to one’s own interests.”

A “common commitment” is required against the scourge of slavery, which involves both “the local level – families, schools, parishes,» as well as “the global level of State institutions and of civil society.”

In concluding his intervention, Cardinal Turkson recalled the example of Saint Josephine Bakhita who, from being a slave became a “free daughter of God,” to spur humanity to “work together and never tire while a person is reduced to slavery in this world.”

The Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Monsignor Mario Toso, observed that the Church has been committed against slavery since her origins, “however, this very sad phenomenon has never been eradicated definitively.”

Notwithstanding the numerous agreements signed by the International Community, there are still millions of people who “in different ways are deprived of their freedom and constrained to live in conditions resembling slavery,” stressed the prelate.

The phenomenon has a thousand facets and declinations that, in extreme synthesis, can be categorized as:

a) Exploitation of men and women workers, also minors, whose rights are not in keeping with the norms and minimum international standards.

b) Inhuman conditions in which many migrants are constrained during their tragic trips, undertaken in the hope of a better future, in which often they suffer hunger, are deprived of liberty, are stripped of their goods, and abused physically and sexually.

c) Exploitation of prostitution, to the point of the phenomenon of little girls given forcedly as wives.

d) Involvement of minors and adults in practices such as begging, organ transplants, enrolment in various armies, sale of drugs, as well as various masked forms of international adoption.

e) Kidnapping by terrorist groups in view of ransom, in the case of women, of reducing them to sexual slaves.

Notwithstanding the efforts of the Holy See, of many Governments and a good part of the International Community, “all have the moral imperative to commit themselves profoundly, so that our generation is finally the last one to have to fight the shameful commerce in human lives,” concluded Monsignor Toso.

Vittorio V. Alberti, official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, offered a philosophical point to the conference. If on one hand liberty exists “in virtue of the possibility of doing wrong, it is the same that must be built to eradicate its opposite, namely slavery.”

If liberty is to be built, it must “necessarily deal with the bad.” The moral duty of humanity, therefore, is “to liberate both the slave as well as the enslaver,” added Alberti.

Sister Gabriella Bottanio, a Comboni missionary and member of the International Network of Consecrated Life against the Trafficking of Persons and in charge of the Talitha Kum project, closed the press conference.

The “cry” of persons reduced to slavery is a cry that “remains suffocated, mute” and the women religious of Sister Gabriella’s group have chosen to “receive these disturbing voices, because they tell us that this socio-economic system is an enormous human failure. The suffering endured by the victims de-legitimizes, at the root, power built on profit.”

Talitha Kum, explained the religious, was born officially in 2009 as a network of networks; at present it has 23 and is present in 81 countries in all the continents, with more than 1,000 women religious members of different committed Congregations.

“The activities engaged in are diverse according to the context in which we operate: support to survivors of trafficking; preventive projects of formation and sensitization; commitment to more effective social policies against trafficking,” continued the Comboni missionary.

In conclusion, Sister Gabriella reported the testimony of a young woman who survived being trafficked for the purpose of illegal adoption and was a victim of abuse by the adoptive family. Profoundly moved in face of the commitment against trafficking of some women religious in Brazil, she  exclaimed: “in you, the Church is coming to meet me, this is curing my profound wounds, and has opened a new path of freedom to me.”

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Pope’s message: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-message-for-world-day-of-peace–2

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Luca Marcolivio

Roma, Italia Laurea in Scienze Politiche. Diploma di Specializzazione in Giornalismo. La Provincia Pavese. Radiocor - Il Sole 24 Ore. Il Giornale di Ostia. Ostia Oggi. Ostia Città (direttore). Eur Oggi. Messa e Meditazione. Sacerdos. Destra Italiana. Corrispondenza Romana. Radici Cristiane. Agenzia Sanitaria Italiana. L'Ottimista (direttore). Santini da Collezione (Hachette). I Santini della Madonna di Lourdes (McKay). Contro Garibaldi. Quello che a scuola non vi hanno raccontato (Vallecchi).

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