CARDINAL NICHOLS: “THERE ARE 42 MILLION VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING, THE MOST EVER” – CARDINAL THANKS POPE FOR LEADERSHIP IN FIGHTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND SLAVE LABOR – POPE FRANCIS: WE MUST EXAMINE HOW SOCIETY IS COMPLICIT IN, TOLERATES OR ENCOURAGES TRAFFICKING – COMMUNIQUE FROM SANTA MARTA GROUP

CARDINAL NICHOLS: “THERE ARE 42 MILLION VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING, THE MOST EVER”

Trafficking in humans has been the focus of the last two days in the Vatican as the Santa Marta Group met Thursday and again this morning in Vatican City and then at noon attended an audience with Pope Francis.

I wrote of the Santa Marta Group yesterday, noting that this is the fifth meeting of the senior law enforcement officers, bishops, religious women and key international organizations who comprise this group and whose focus is to update and share best practices in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.

Founded in 2014 in the UK, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster heads the group and led the press conference in the Holy See Press Office this afternoon. Cardinal Charles Bo of Myanmar was also present and Cardinal Nichols said his testimony was the most moving of all the stories told about trafficking in various nations.

The conference was actually very brief, with the two cardinals and other Santa Marta Group members available to the press afterwards for individual interviews for TV, radio or the print media.

However, in introductory remarks, Cardinal Nichols stated that during the two days of meetings, “we heard from every continent, from 30 nations. We heard their stories and learned about the interaction in the fight against the scourge of trafficking.”

The cardinal explained that there are 42 million victims of trafficking and slavery, stressing that never before in history has it been so widespread – “the most ever,” he said. He said he was astonished to learn that there are 4.4 million fishing vessels in the world, many of which are used in human trafficking.

Cardinal Nichols said he was impressed during the meetings to hear members speak of their failures as well as of their successes. “That is not always the case when an organization or institution meets. Often it is only the bright outlook, the successes that are mentioned.”

Looking out at the media and around the table at which he was seated, he said that “all of us, each one of us, is from a country that is a country of origin (of trafficking) as well as destination.”

In closing remarks, Cardinal Nichols stressed the importance of a partnership with the media to help create awareness on local, regional and national levels in order to combat this scourge.

CARDINAL THANKS POPE FOR LEADERSHIP IN FIGHTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND SLAVE LABOR

Following are Cardinal Nichols’ remarks to Pope Francis today, February 9:

Holy Father, we thank you for this gift of a meeting and for the privilege of greeting you, so as to express our respect and regard for you in your ministry at the helm of the Catholic Church throughout the world.

Our Santa Marta Group meeting has been a hard look at one of the dark faces of globalisation: the scourge of human trafficking and modern slavery. In contrast, Holy Father, we thank you for the many ways in which you make visible the truly human face of our world. Constantly in your actions and words, you remind us that the well-being of the human person must always be at the centre of every endeavour. You constantly point to the face of our true humanity, a face reflecting the infinite goodness and compassion of God, made visible in Jesus.

We thank you for your leadership and encouragement in the fight against human trafficking. In these last two days, this meeting of the Santa Marta Group, the fifth we have held, has heard of this work from every continent of the growing cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the resources of the Catholic Church. Achievements are considerable. The challenge is great. In all our efforts we try to keep before our eyes the faces of those who are enslaved, those who are rescued, those who are making the long road of recovery. It is they, our brothers and sisters, whom we wish to serve, as well as striving wholeheartedly to find, stop and prosecute the perpetrators of these evil and brutal crimes.

Holy Father, we are very conscious of so many who are involved in this world-wide campaign. Yesterday many of those people, present in Rome, gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass in the Basilica of St Peter, including many religious sisters, who are so often on the front-line of this work against modern slavery. We thanked God for their courage and we dedicated our work to the glory of God and to the service of the dignity which God gives to every person.

We have committed ourselves to deepen our cooperation, to promote truly local awareness and responsibility, to develop not only national partnerships, but also development them regionally in centres such as Argentina, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

We ask you, Holy Father, to continue to call Governments to a truly humane response to the victims and survivors of human trafficking in the support and protection they provide; to urge financial and business institutions to do all they can to eliminate slavery and its profits from their transactions; and to encourage all people of good will to become more alert to the presence of slave-labour.

Holy Father, we thank you from the depth of our hearts for the ministry and leadership you give in our world today. We assure you of our wholehearted support and promise you our prayers and prayers for all victims of human trafficking. We ask you to bless our work, our families and each one of us today.

POPE FRANCIS: WE MUST EXAMINE HOW SOCIETY IS COMPLICIT IN, TOLERATES OR ENCOURAGES TRAFFICKING

Dear Brother Bishops, Dear Friends,

I am happy to greet you, the members of the Santa Marta Group, at the conclusion of your Conference, which is devoted this year to providing a worldwide perspective on human trafficking and modern slavery. 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.

It is my hope that these days of reflection and shared experiences have brought into clearer light the interplay between the global and local aspects of human trafficking.

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. God’s cry to Cain, found in the first pages of the Bible – “Where is your brother?” – challenges us to examine seriously the various forms of complicity by which society tolerates, and encourages, particularly with regard to the sex trade, the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 211).

Initiatives to combat human trafficking, while concretely aimed at dismantling criminal structures, must increasingly consider broader issues associated, for example, with the responsible use of technology and the communications media, to say nothing of exploring the ethical implications of models of economic growth that privilege profit over persons. I trust that your discussions in these days will also help to raise awareness of the growing need to support victims of these crimes by accompanying them on a path of reintegration into society and the recovery of their human dignity.

The Church is grateful for every effort made to bring the balm of God’s mercy to the suffering, for this also represents an essential step in the healing and renewal of society as a whole. Dear friends, with gratitude for your commitment and cooperation in this vital area, I offer my prayerful best wishes for your continued work.

Upon you and your families, and upon all those whom you serve, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of wisdom, strength and peace. And I ask you, please, to remember to pray for me.

COMMUNIQUE FROM SANTA MARTA GROUP

Law enforcement officers, Bishops, religious sisters and international organisations from across the world gathered in the Vatican for the fifth Santa Marta Group conference to update and share good practice in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.

This year’s conference focused on regional realities with tailored solutions to human trafficking in each continent. With input from every continent, each region discussed their experiences, both the successes and challenges they face, with growing collaboration identified as a priority in neighbouring countries where the challenges are similar.

Education and economic opportunity is the focus on the supply side from countries of origin and the need for a strong legal framework, accountability and active citizenship on the demand side in countries of destination. While there are significant similarities in approaches to combating human trafficking across regions, the need for local action was emphasised, recognising the significant levels of internal trafficking taking place.

The conference also featured contributions from international agencies, introducing the role of the private sector and the importance of transparency in supply chains. Practical ways to address difficult to track human trafficking, such as slavery within seafaring, were also discussed.

A challenge to the group was to increase their accountability through greater transparency with the media, both on work done and long term strategy. An example was shared from the UK, where Church and Law Enforcement partnered with a media outlet (the Evening Standard) to raise awareness of human trafficking, investigate cases of modern slavery and propose solutions through a round table chaired by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

Cardinal Nichols, President of the Santa Marta Group, in his address to Pope Francis, drew attention to the need to always remember the victim at the centre of this evil crime; the enslaved person who demands our action in combating trafficking. Cardinal Nichols said:

“Our Santa Marta Group meeting has been a hard look at one of the dark faces of globalisation: the scourge of human trafficking and modern slavery. In contrast, Holy Father, we thank you for the many ways in which you make visible the truly human face of our world. Constantly in your actions and words, you remind us that the well-being of the human person must always be at the centre of every endeavour.”

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