Pope Francis and the Holy See continue to press for an end to the horrendous practice of human trafficking today, July 30, 2018: World Day against Trafficking in Persons.
The day is promoted by the United Nations. Pope Francis noted it after praying the noonday Angelus on July 29, 2018, with a crowd of 25,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square:
“This plague reduces many men, women, and children to slavery for the purpose of labor and sexual exploitation, the sale of organs, of vagrancy and forced delinquency, also here, in Rome. Migration routes are also often used by traffickers and exploiters, to recruit new victims of trafficking. It’s the responsibility of all to denounce the injustices and to oppose firmly this shameful crime.”
Human trafficking is a crime that exploits women, children, and men for numerous purposes including forced labor and sex, according to the United Nations. The International Labour Organization estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labor globally. This estimate also includes victims of human trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation. While it is not known how many of these victims were trafficked, the estimate implies that currently, there are millions of trafficking in persons victims in the world.
Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims, the UN claims. Children make up almost a third of all human trafficking victims worldwide, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. Additionally, women and girls comprise 71 percent of human trafficking victims, the report states.
In 2010, the General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, urging Governments worldwide to take coordinated and consistent measures to defeat this scourge. The Plan calls for integrating the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programmes in order to boost development and strengthen security worldwide. One of the crucial provisions in the Plan is the establishment of a UN Voluntary Trust Fund for victims of trafficking, especially women and children.
At the same time, the Holy See has been outspoken in its concern about trafficking. During the May 28-29, 2018, meetings of Session I of the 1st Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), held in Vienna, Monsignor Janusz S. Urbańczyk, the Holy See’s permanent representative to the OSCE, stressed two key elements:
1) “Strengthen education and awareness-raising efforts, including human rights education, and develop and implement empowerment programmes which take into account the particular needs of women, men, girls, and boys, in order to enhance the capacity to recognize, prevent and fight human trafficking within communities”
2) “Promote multi-agency, cross-sectoral and multinational capacity-building programmes that foster measures to prevent human trafficking in all of its forms, with a particular focus on factors that make people vulnerable to trafficking”
Pope Francis has been involved in a very personal way in the outreach to victims of human trafficking, hosting many at the Vatican.
For 110 survivors of human trafficking, February 12, 2018, was truly a day to remember in a positive sense, as they were received by Pope Francis in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.
Those present had come to Rome for the February 8 Observance of International Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking. February 8 is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron of the victims of human trafficking.
This was the first time the Holy Father met with victims of human trafficking in conjunction with the observance of the International Day, according to Vatican News and his message was clear and consistent: “I have never lost the opportunity to denounce this crime against humanity.”
In answering questions from those present, the Pope suggested that the lack of action to address human trafficking isn’t just because of ignorance of the problem, but also an unwillingness of some to face the issue. Much of the challenging is fighting criminal organizations and corruption.
Other Church leaders have joined the Pope to express the need to solve the crisis of human trafficking.
“We are doing this for the sake of victims and survivors and we will not be deflected,” said Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and president of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales and president of the “Santa Marta Group,” in an exclusive interview with ZENIT on February 10, 2018.
Pope Francis encouraged the work of the Santa Marta Group on February 9, 2018, in an address to its members in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. The group, established by the Holy Father in 2014, to battle trafficking and slavery.
“Experience shows that such modern forms of slavery are far more widespread than previously imagined, even – to our scandal and shame –within the most prosperous of our societies,” the Pope said. “As leaders in law enforcement, research and public policy, and pastoral assistance, you offer an essential contribution to addressing the causes and effects of this modern-day scourge, which continues to cause untold human suffering.”