Religious institutions in the world are committed to raising awareness about human trafficking; they inform against traffickers and protect victims.
Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has strongly denounced human trafficking. “Human trafficking – he said – is a crime against humanity. We must join forces to free the victims and to stop this ever more aggressive crime, which threatens not only individual persons, but also the foundation values of society, as well as international security and justice, along with economy, family structure and social life.”
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), nearly 21 million people, often the poor and the most vulnerable, are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation or forced labor, illegal organ trade, forced begging, domestic work, forced marriage, illegal adoption and other forms of exploitation. Sixty per cent of the 2.5 million transnational human trafficking and modern slavery detected every year, are women and children. They often experience abuses and violence. Human trafficking constitutes one of the most lucrative criminal business in the world, estimated to be worth 32 billion US dollars per year, the third most profitable “business”, behind only the illicit sale of drugs and arms.”
Italian Consolata Sister, Eugenia Bonetti, and chairperson of the ‘Slaves No More ‘ non-profit organization, says: “We must acknowledge that the slaves of our time are much more numerous than the Africans transported, three centuries ago, to British North America to work in cotton and sugar cane plantations. Slavery is present in more sophisticated forms nowadays and produces huge illicit incomes. Once again the poorest and most vulnerable are those most at risk, while our societies are losing moral values, humanity and show lack of respect and a sense of hospitality.”
Consecrated Religious from different congregations and nationalities have created the Talitha Kum network to counteract human trafficking. The network was organized by UISG (Union of International Superiors General).
The general aim of the network is sharing and maximizing the resources that Religious Life has on behalf of prevention, protection and assistance, awareness raising and denouncement of human trafficking.
To date Talitha Kum includes 24 networks composed of 240 congregations in 79 countries with more than 800 men and women religious, all committed to stopping the trafficking in persons. According to UISG President, Sister Carmen Sammut, “It is important to make people aware of the direct link that there is between prostitution, human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women. Reducing the demand for sexual services helps to reduce human trafficking.”
Sister Gabriela Bottari, Comboni Missionary, coordinator of the network in Brazil, says: “It is necessary to analyze the deepest causes of human trafficking, and to denounce this crime in the strongest way. Abuses and violations remain too often unpunished because victims are afraid to denounce their exploiters. The Talitha Kum campaign wants to sustain and promote the culture of the right to dignified life for all, by raising awareness about any form of exploitation, and by denouncing any violation of human rights.” (M.L.)