By Mirko Testa
ROME, JUNE 8, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Men can no longer think of the trafficking of persons as an issue only concerning women, according to a Salesian priest.
Father Thomas Brennan, who represents the Salesians at the United Nations in New York, said this at an international congress in Rome last week on the trafficking of human persons.
The congress, titled “Network of Women Religious Against Human Trafficking,” was organized by the International Union of Superiors General and the World Organization of Migrations.
Religious from 20 countries and 31 congregations participated in the weeklong event, which aimed to educate religious in the fight against trafficking, reinforce existing national and regional networks and create the foundations for an international network.
The congress is the fifth of its kind. More than 4,000 women religious in 22 countries have participated to date. This year, male religious were also invited to attend.
Father Brennan told the participants that the what is needed now is “a new cooperation” between men and women religious.
He said “the crime of trafficking has become so linked with governmental and societal corruption that what we see now is a decided resistance in the face of denunciations and efforts to bring about change.”
The Salesian urged males religious congregations to get more involved as “too often it seemed to be just a problem for women,” while “a model that meant privilege and domination” for men was left intact.
Father Pietro Trabucco, general secretary of the Union of Superiors General, a confederation of male religious orders, agreed, “The next step will be a greater commitment on the part of the congregations of men religious, as far as they can, to fight against the commercializing and the exploitation of sexuality by men.”
The concluding statement of the congress affirmed that human trafficking and the exploitation of persons is “a violation of human rights and a disgrace for all humanity.”
It denounced human trafficking as one of the gravest current problems.
The text also noted “that governments have not done enough to get women off the street.”
Addressing the issue of stricter immigration laws, the religious said “repressive clamping down on immigration does nothing but aid an increase in illegal trafficking.”
First things first
“People are trying to escape poverty,” explained the text. “If the problem of poverty is not dealt with, there will be no solutions.”
It continued, “Human trafficking is one of the effects of the globalization of poverty and hunger. Governments have only waged a war of words against these problems.”
Mary Ann Glendon, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, addressed the congress with an expression of gratitude.
She assured the participants that President George Bush appreciates the work of the International Union of Superiors General, and that he “spoke with [Benedict XVI] about it during his recent visit to Washington.”
Glendon noted that not only has poverty contributed to the growth of human trafficking, but also the decline in moral values in society.
The project is supported by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and financed by the Office for Refugees and Migrants of the U.S. government.