The title of this reflection is a direct quote from Saint Josephine Bakhita, a courageous woman of faith who suffered brutality for years at the hands of her captors who enslaved her, who stole her from her loving family in the Sudan when she was just a child of somewhere around seven or nine. The terrors she suffered caused her to forget her name. She would eventually break free and become a Cannosian Sister in Italy. She died in 1947. Thousands came to pay their respects. She was officially recognized as a saint in 2000.
Watch this 3 minute video to learn more:
A group of women religious asked Pope Francis to raise greater awareness in the church about the issue of trafficking by establishing a worldwide day of prayer. When Pope Francis asked them for a suitable date, they suggested February 8th, the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita. This year, 2018, is the 4th worldwide day of prayer. It is a day to pray for an end to the scourge of human trafficking.
We know this: Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery—a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and held against his will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom. Polaris Project
Take the month of February or the next 28 days if you read this later, to pray daily for eight minutes for an end to human trafficking. Pray for the victims, the survivors, the traffickers, the legislators, the doctors in hospitals. Pray that corporations have fair trade supply chains. Pray for the runaway kids. Pray for the raising of awareness. Of course, you might say you’ve been praying for years and you will continue beyond 28 days! Do this anyway, consciously, deliberately in union with people around the globe. Put a notice in your local church bulletin. Invite a family member to pray. Send the links in this little article to others. Ask Saint Bakhita and others like Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth to be allies in the transformative ending to human trafficking. Cover the world in prayer. It will generate action.
Bakhita found peace in God. Through prayer she found God’s love and she lived that peace and love, even after suffering brutality. United in deep prayer, we will know God’s peace. Prayer and peace will provide sustenance and will lead to greater clarity in knowing the actions that each of us and all of us must take to end human trafficking.
Forced to Seek Safety in a Foreign Land: The Plight of Those on the Move
By Jean Schafer SDS
As we think of the Holy Family during the Advent/Christmas season, we often forget their need to flee their homeland shortly after the birth of their child, Jesus, because of a very jealous King Herod. Herod was considered an acceptable leader of his day: bringing Judea into the Roman Empire; copying the architecture and political styles of Greece; stabilizing the economy; reducing taxes; building trade; building the port city of Caesarea and that of Samaria. Yet, in jealousy, Herod had already killed his wife and two of his three sons. His brother narrowly escaped the same fate. Herod feared the announcement of a newly-born ‘King Jesus,’ as a threat to his power and position. This threat he determined had to be eliminated. What followed was the slaughter of Holy Innocents!
“When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’
“When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.’” Matt. 2: 13-18
Today people continue to flee political repression and open conflict. Studies show our world is witnessing the highest levels of human displacement on record: •1,200 people are forcibly displaced per hour per day; • 65.6 million have been forced from their homes; • 22.5 million are refugees (half under the age of 18) with 55% from the countries of Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan; • 10 million people are stateless and have been denied a nationality; * 460,000 live in the dangerous Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, the largest in the world; • 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims, a stateless people, are fleeing repression in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. Since August 2017 600,000 have arrived on foot and in boats into Bangladesh at a rate of 20,000 a day.
“For 4 days, I hid myself in the forest. Then, we tried to walk to the border. I was so scared,” says Rajida Begum, a 30-year-old mother who fled her village with neighbors when she was 9 months pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl under a piece of plastic sheeting in the middle of a rice paddy 5 days after arriving in Bangladesh. As she cradled her newborn baby, she looked relieved: “When I saw that she was healthy, I was so happy. I gave thanks to God.”
Abdul Rahman, 21, who lost his wife – shot by the Burmese army, now is the sole caregiver for his 4-month-old daughter. “The baby won’t stop crying. I’m asking lactating mothers to help with feeding her, but I’m so worried. I don’t know if she will survive. We have no food. We have nothing at all,” he said.
Refugees are men, women and children fleeing war, persecution and political upheaval who have been forced to cross borders to seek safety in another country. Most eventually go home when it is safe (as did the Holy Family); some stay in temporary refugee settlements; and a tiny fraction resettle in a third country, such as the U.S.
Refugees face innumerable dangers as they travel and as they attempt to find a place to live until they can return home. According to the United Nations, human trafficking and the exploitation by criminal gangs are intimately linked to the plight of vulnerable people running from political conflicts. While trafficking for sexual exploitation might be the first type of trafficking people think of, trafficking actually takes diverse forms in conflict situations. Children suffer a high percentage of the abuse, both in sexual exploitation and in labor-related settings.
Let us reflect on some of the contemporary situations of our refugee brothers and sisters, fleeing in fear, as did the Holy Family:
The Islamic State conflict has increased the vulnerability of groups like the Yazidi and the Kurds. Yazidi women are forced into what is called chattel slavery. They are bought and sold as property; forced to act as domestic servants, sex slaves, or wives of militants. Yazidi men and boys are forced to become militants and even suicide bombers. Now girls from the West are lured into ISIL-controlled territory by ‘boy friends,’ using methods similar to those used by online traffickers.
The Syrian conflict has produced thousands of refugees. Trafficked Syrian children are forced to work excessively long hours in abusive situations or are held for ransom until their families pay to have them released.
Boko Haram in West Africa enslaves people in areas they control. Women and girls are forced to marry militants, while boys are forced to become suicide bombers. Children are forced to beg in order to raise funds for the Boko Haram forces.
Congolese militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo force artisanal miners to search for tantalum, gold, diamonds, tin, and other minerals to make money to support the war effort. Children are trafficked and indoctrinated into the militias. A U.N. University report estimates that there are around 30,000 child soldiers in the DRC.
Criminal gangs operating in the refugee camps atCalais and Dunkirk, France have sexually exploited youth traveling alone or forced them to commit crimes in exchange for transportation to the UK. Many children are forced to work along the migration route to finance their journey north.
The Balkan Route—popular with Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees—runs from Turkey into Greece, Bulgaria, and north toward Germany. Children along the route were not only assaulted but also illegally and forcefully deported after they were arrested. Of the children treated by Doctors Without Borders, just over 75% were assaulted by either Serbian state police or border force officials, while 8% were hurt by traffickers. Most had visible signs of mistreatment, including knife and razor blade cuts, scars from severe beatings, and symptoms of dehydration and food deprivation.
Italian authorities discovered an organ trafficking ring involving traffickers from Libya and Eritrea, who charged migrants an up-front fee to get them from Africa to Italy. If migrants could not immediately pay the fee, they were given the option to pay once they arrived in Italy. Upon arrival, however, they were either exploited for forced labor, or their organs were harvested and then trafficked elsewhere.
Pope Francis Calls on People of Good Faith Are Called to Respond:
Pope Francis has spoken often on behalf of vulnerable migrants and refugees:
“It is necessary to respond to the globalization of migration with the globalization of charity and cooperation, in such a way as to make the conditions for migrants more humane.”
Pope Francis — Message for the 2015 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, September 3, 2014
“There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.” Pope Francis — Laudato Si #25, June 18, 2015
Pope Francis has made numerous appeals to promote the culture of encounter in an effort to combat the culture of indifference in the world today. It means seeing through the eyes of others rather than turning a blind eye. “Not just to see but to look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by, but to stop. And don’t just say ‘what a shame, poor people,’ but allow ourselves to be moved by pity.” – Pope Francis.
Learn more of the reality migrants and refugees face. à Rededicate our efforts to live out Catholic Social Teaching. à Join the ‘Share the Journey’ Campaign.’
On September 27, 2017 Pope Francis launched ‘Share the Journey,’ a two-year campaign to share the plight of the millions of migrant and refugee families who are seeking safety and a decent life. As people of faith, we see these people as our neighbors — our brothers and sisters.
The ‘Share the Journey‘ campaign, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities and the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the U.S. highlights Catholic teaching on migration and reaffirms the Church’s commitment to assistant our migrant brothers and sisters who have fled their homeland seeking safety.
Pray often for refugees and migrants and for those who advocate for them
Prayer for Migrant Families
Good and gracious God,
we thank you for the gift of families.
We are grateful for all of the joy and love they bring into our lives,
and we ask that you provide special protection for all families,
particularly those who face hardships as they move in search of a better life.
Show mercy to those who travel in danger,
and lead them to a place of safety and peace.
Comfort those who are alone and afraid
because their families have been torn apart
by violence and injustice.
As we reflect upon the difficult journey that
the Holy Family faced as refugees in Egypt, help us
to remember the suffering of all migrant families.
Through the intercession of Mary our Mother, and
St. Joseph the Worker, her spouse, we pray that
all migrants may be reunited with their loved ones
and find the meaningful work they seek.
Open our hearts so that we may provide hospitality
for all who come in search of refuge.
Give us the courage to welcome every stranger
as Christ in our midst.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen.
Remember that the Holy Family was once a refugee family in a foreign land.
In Jesus’ time, would we have found room in our home for the Holy Family?
Today can we find room in our hearts for refugees and respond to their needs in some meaningful way?
‘Flight into Egypt’ 1923 by Henry Ossawa Tanner, American, Pittsburgh, PA 1859–1937 ParisTanner’s painting depicts the Holy Family’s clandestine evasion of King Herod’s assassins, which was Tanner’s favorite biblical story. It expresses his sensitivity to issues of personal freedom, escape from persecution, and migrations of African-Americans from the South to the North. The painting, which reveals a concern for human emotions and an awareness of the mystical meanings of biblical narratives, also manifests Tanner’s affiliation with contemporary symbolism and the religious revival that occurred in response to challenges of the modern era.
ROME – Pope Francis’s right hand man on migration is calling for legal and secure channels to guarantee that tomorrow’s migratory movements aren’t marked by the “travesty” of human trafficking. He also urged nations to recognize the “forces of demand,” such as labor below minimum national standards that makes human trafficking “very profitable.”
Jesuit Father Michael Czerny said that the migration process often begins with “high hopes and expectations” for a better future, but that since “regular and affordable routes are generally not available, many migrants employ smugglers.”
Traffickers, he said, can “easily take advantage of the desperation of migrants and asylum seekers,” after which they end up in an irregular or undocumented status, which puts them at further risk of being exploited and enslaved.
Czerny – handpicked by Pope Francis to be Undersecretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development – was speaking at a United Nations’ Fifth Thematic Session on the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration on Monday.
The topic of the session is: “Smuggling of migrants, trafficking in persons and contemporary forms of slavery, including appropriate identification, protection and assistance to migrants and trafficking victims.”
To read the full story by Inés San Martín on CRUX: Click Here
(Vatican Radio) Pope Franciscalled for increased efforts to end human trafficking on Sunday. The Holy Father’s appeal came in remarks following the Angelus prayer with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square, on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, sponsored by the United Nations.
“Each year,” said Pope Francis, “thousands of men, women and children are innocent victims of sexual and organ trafficking, and it seems that we are so accustomed to seeing it as a normal thing.”
To read the full story and listen to the report from Vatican Radio: Click Here
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Msgr. Janusz Urbańczyk, has addressed three separate panels at the “17th Alliance against Trafficking in Persons Conference”.
The focus of the conference is on trafficking in children and is taking place in Vienna.
Msgr. Urbańczyk addressed the panels on “Human Trafficking Threats for Children in Crisis”, “Towards Effective Child Protection Systems to Fight Human Trafficking”, and “Looking forward: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation”.
At the heart of the Holy See’s message was a call to view the current migration crisis as a “crisis of humanity”.
“The Holy See wishes to reiterate once again that the current crisis of migrant and refugee flow is primarily, in the words of Pope Francis, a crisis of humanity. As such, it is vital that all actors recognise that above all ‘Migrants are not a danger, they are in danger’”.
Msgr. Urbańczyk also urged enhanced cooperation between governments and non-governmental organizations, as well as with members of the private sector.
“It is of great urgency to strengthen cooperation and coordination with NGOs that work in the areas of concern and know the context of poverty and vulnerability where situations of exploitation very often arise. It is also opportune to cooperate with the private sector, in particular with national and local companies, as well as with multinationals, so that they may adopt rigorous and law-abiding behavior.”
Pope Francis on Monday sent a message to the conference: click here to see it.
Please find below the three separate statements:
STATEMENT BY MSGR. JANUSZ URBAŃCZYK, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE HOLY SEE, AT THE 17TH ALLIANCE AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS CONFERENCE “TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS AND THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD”
To read the full story on Vatican Radio: Click Here
“The trade in human beings, a modern form of slavery, … violates the God-given dignity of so many of our brothers and sisters and constitutes a true crime against humanity.” —Pope Francis
You may not see the problem, but it’s there. It’s estimated there are more than 21 million human trafficking victims worldwide. This is not something that only occurs in dark alleys in the far corners of the Earth, though. It’s happening around the world every day.
“They are hidden from view. You don’t recognize them in the back kitchens, shops, gas stations and in hospitality. They are also tucked away in fields. They don’t come out and ask for help. It’s a different kind of slavery than long ago,” says Dr. Lucy Steinitz, Catholic Relief Services senior technical advisor for protection. “They are not in shackles or on plantations. People are coerced into harsh employment under horrible conditions, and then have no freedom to leave. They are beaten, violated and told they are worthless—that no one else wants them anymore.”
Here are 7 facts about human trafficking you may not know, plus 3 ways you can help.
The real definition of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion. It’s important to note, though, that human trafficking can include, but does not require, movement. You can be a victim of human trafficking in your hometown. At the heart of human trafficking is the traffickers’ goal of exploitation and enslavement.
Exploitation covers more than you think.
Sexual exploitation and forced labor are the most commonly identified forms of human trafficking. More than half of the victims are female. Many other forms of exploitation are often thought to be under-reported. These include domestic servitude and forced marriage; organ removal; and the exploitation of children in begging, the sex trade and warfare.
Causes of trafficking: It’s complicated.
The causes of human trafficking are complex and interlinked, and include economic, social and political factors. Poverty alone does necessarily create vulnerability to trafficking, but when combined with other factors, these can lead to a higher risk for being trafficked. Some of those other factors include: corruption, civil unrest, a weak government, lack of access to education or jobs, family disruption or dysfunction, lack of human rights, or economic disruptions.
It’s a lucrative industry.
Along with illegal arms and drug trafficking, human trafficking is one of the largest international crime industries in the world. A report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) says forced labor generates $150 billion in illegal profits per year. Two-thirds of that money came from commercial sexual exploitation, while the rest is from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture, child labor and related activities.
To read the full story by Rebekah Kates Lemke on Catholic Relief Services: Click Here
\Statement on the occasion of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking
On the occasion of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, 8 February, Caritas Europa casts the spotlight on the global tragedy of trafficking in human beings. This scourge affects millions people in the world and generates billions of euros for criminal groups.
“I was 12 when a friend of the family visited my parents. She said that she knew people in Paris who were about to be parents and they were looking for a teenager who could take care of the baby. They promised that I will be paid and receive an education. I felt I was dreaming. I was on my way to France to study,” told Olivia, who was trafficked and abused as a domestic slave for 9 years in Paris.
Caritas organisations from across Europe work daily with victims of trafficking like Olivia. But neither Caritas nor civil society alone can seriously challenge the global indifference that feeds trafficking in human beings. Caritas Europa thus calls on European states and the European Union to fully ratify and implement the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. And to do their outmost to tackle the root causes of trafficking.
To read the full story from Caritas Europa: Click Here
Vatican City – Nearly 80 doctors, law enforcement and health officials from around the world vowed to fulfill the directive of Pope Francis to combat human trafficking and organ trafficking in all their condemnable forms.
After a conference on organ trafficking at the Vatican, participants signed this week a statement agreeing to unite in fighting the crime of organ trafficking, submitting 11 proposals for implementation by healthcare and law enforcement professionals around the world.
The creation of the statement was one of the main objectives of the Summit on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Participants in the summit gave reports on the issue and how it is currently being combated in their respective countries.
“We the undersigned pledge our commitment to combat these illicit and immoral practices,” the statement, published Feb. 9, reads.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only about 10 percent – or 120,000 – of the estimated 1 million organ transplants needed are performed each year. This data was presented to Pope Francis in 2014, and is an example of the demand for organs creating, in large part, the drive for illegal trafficking.
To read the full story by CNA/EWTN News on Manila Bulletin: Click Here
(Vatican Radio) On Monday, Pope Francis spoke out against human trafficking, in an address to members of RENATE: Religious in Europe Networking against trafficking and exploitation).
The group is in Rome for their 2ndEuropean Assembly, which took place on Sunday. The theme of this year’s assembly was “Ending Trafficking Begins with Us.”
In his address to members of the group, Pope Francis once again denounced “the trade in human beings” as “a modern form of slavery, which violates the God-given dignity of so many of our brothers and sisters, and constitutes a true crime against humanity.” He acknowledged that much has been accomplished in educating the public about human trafficking, but said “much more needs to be done on the level of raising public consciousness” and in coordinating the various efforts of those engaged in fighting against trafficking in human persons.
The Holy Father commended the work of RENATE in raising public awareness about the extent of “this scourge which especially affects women and children.” He especially praised them for their “faithful witness to the Gospel of mercy, as demonstrated in [their] commitment to the recovery and rehabilitation of victims.” The Pope made special mention of the work of women in accompanying other women and children in the process of recovery.
To read the full story and listen to the program on Vatican Radio: Click Here
Vatican City, 19 July 2016 – Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer at the United Nations, gave a speech on 13 July dedicated to the elimination of trafficking in children and young people, in the context of the current debate in the assembly on this theme.
“The Holy See has long spoken out against the evil of human trafficking, forced labour and all forms of modern slavery. And through the dedicated work of so many Catholic religious institutes, national and diocesan programs, and groups of faithful the Catholic Church has sought to fight to address its various causes, care for those it victimises, wake people up to the scourge, and work with anyone and everyone to try to eliminate it”.
He went on to note that Pope Francis had dedicated his Message for World Day of Peace 2015 to this theme, making it a priority of international diplomacy for the Holy See. He has spoken about it to newly accredited diplomats, to international religious leaders, to an alliance of international police chiefs and Church leaders, to social scientists and scholars, to mayors from across the globe, to judges and to various conferences throughout the world. “He hasn’t merely been talking”, the nuncio added. “He has been taking action, catalysing the Holy See’s hosting conferences, spearheading the 2014 Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery and willed the creation of the Santa Marta Group, named after his residence in the Vatican, which brings together Catholic leaders and international law enforcement officials to battle this scourge”.
The Holy Father’s essential message is that human trafficking is an “open wound on the body of contemporary society”, “a crime against humanity”, and an “atrocious scourge that is occurring in many of our own neighbourhoods”. “When he was here at the UN last September, he called for concrete steps and immediate measures for … putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of … human trafficking, … the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, [and] slave labour, including prostitution, stressing, ‘We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges'”. Archbishop Auza emphasised that to this end, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was an important sign of hope, insofar as it focused, in three different targets, on the world’s attention and commitment to confronting this plague.
To read the full bulletin from The Holy See Press Office: Click Here