Pope Francis has announced that the first "International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking" will be celebrated in all dioceses and parishes in the world, in the groups and schools on February 8, 2015, the Feast Day of Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave, freed, who became a Canossian nun, and was declared a Saint in 2000. The initiative is promoted by the Pontifical Council of Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General.
The statement says, “the primary objective of the International Day is to create greater awareness on this phenomenon and to reflect on the overall situation of violence and injustice that affect so many people, who have no voice, do not count, and are no one: they are simply slaves. Another goal is to attempt to provide solutions to counter this modern form of slavery by taking concrete actions". You can read the full announcement by clicking here.
As the Augustinian Promoter of Peace and Justice, I have gathered some documents and resources to help us in our thoughts, prayers and meditations on this topic. I have taken some of them from the Diocese of London, Ontario Canada as a first step in confronting this issue.
1. Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, harboring and/ or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labor or illegal organ removal, domestic servitude and forced marriages and illegal adoption. It is often described as a modern form of slavery.
2. Extent of the Problem
Estimates at the end of 2013 are that approximately 20.9 people world-wide have been trafficked (USCCB, Polaris Research). At any given time, 2.45 people are being trafficked (Government of Canada).According to UNICEF; 1.2 million children are victims of traffickers.
- Psalm 139. “Lord, you examine me and know me, you know when I stand and when I sit, you read my thoughts from far away. Such knowledge is beyond my understanding.” Pope Benedict XVI “All human beings… are clothed in the same personal dignity”.
- Ecclesiasticus 4:1. “My son, do not refuse the poor a livelihood, do not torture the needy”. We hold the tears of those who are bought and sold for profit as we pray to know how we are called to stop the demand for trafficking.
- Isaiah 61:1. “He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken”. We pray for the grace to work for freedom and to stop the demand that enslaves so many of our brothers and sisters.
- Mark 10:14. “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs”. Those who profit from the sex industry drive the demand and destroy the lives of thousands of children. We pray to remember the innocence that is destroyed by trafficking and by the demand for children.
- What patterns in our society contribute to the destruction of dignity and the reverence of life?
- What elements in our particular culture promote the increase in demand for sexual trafficking?
- How do you see God calling you as you reflection these passages?
- Intercommunity Peace & Justice Centre - American Religious Communities
- Sisters of the Good Shepherd - USA & Canada
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- UNANIMA International - 19 Congregations of Roman Catholic Sisters headquartered in New York
- RCMP website of Human Trafficking (Canada)
Prayer to End Trafficking
God of freedom and love, we are saddened to know that more than one million people are trafficked into slavery each year.
The effects of contemporary slavery are felt in every country around the world.
As sisters and brothers, we are tormented by this reality that will leave devastating repercussions for generations to come.
Our hearts grieve for what our minds can barely comprehend, particularly when we hear of women, men, and children who are deceived and transported to unknown places.
We recognize this sexual and economic exploitation occurs because of human greed and profit.
We are sorrowful and our spirits angry that human dignity is being degraded through deception and threats of force.
Help the violators to be transformed and enlightened to realize the scope of their unjust actions.
Allow them to see the value and the dignity of every human person.
As a people in solidarity with God's poor, we must protest this atrocity and work against the demeaning practice of human trafficking.
God of Life, strengthen those whose hearts have been broken and lives have been uprooted.
Give us the light, grace, and courage to work with you so that we can all participate in the goodness of creation.
Fill us with the wisdom and courage to stand in solidarity with the victims so that we may all enjoy the freedoms and rights which have their source in your Son, Jesus Christ.
Adapted from a prayer by Sr. Genevieve Cassani,