Religious Form Network Against Human Trafficking
We denounce human trafficking as a crime that represents a grave offense against the dignity of the person, and a serious violation of human rights.
VATICAN CITY (Zenit) - Human trafficking is a new form of poverty that requires the attention of the Church, affirmed a member of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Augustinian Father Eusebio Hernández Sola affirmed this today in a press conference in the Holy See regarding an upcoming congress on the theme of "Female Religious in Network against Trafficking in Persons."
The gathering will take place in Rome starting Monday and ending Thursday, and is being organized by the International Union of Superiors General and the International Organization for Migration.
It aims to evaluate the content of the final declaration of the first congress, which took place in 2007, and to put together a plan of action for the future.
The declaration affirmed, "We denounce human trafficking as a crime that represents a grave offense against the dignity of the person, and a serious violation of human rights."
The commitment to work against this crime arose in the 2001 plenary assembly of the superiors general union, which represents around a million of members of Catholic religious congregations worldwide.
Father Sola affirmed that "the problem of human trafficking represents a new form of slavery of the twenty-first century, one that offends the dignity and freedom of many women and minors, but also of youths and adult men, most of them from poor countries."
"These new forms of poverty," he said, "remind us that religious life is, by vocation, called to play a prophetic role in society and the Church today."
The priest stated, "A new conception of charity must carry consecrated life to the new frontiers of evangelization, and to the new forms of poverty, among the most serious of which is the loss of personal dignity."
Salesian Sister Bernadette Sangma, one of the congress organizers, stated that the awareness of human trafficking has recently increased to such an extent that some congregations "have adopted the struggle against trafficking as part of their capitular deliberations, making it an obligatory mandate for members of their congregation."
She noted that this also includes a "number of male orders."
Sister Sangma continued: "Given the complexity of the factors involved in human trafficking, networking in this field is not an option but a necessity if we hope to make any kind of strategic commitment.
"The criminal bands that prey on women and children are highly organized and linked to one another, from one part of the world to the other.
"Only through a networking strategy which includes the victims' countries of origin, of transit and of destination, will it be possible to implement measures to prevent the weakest and most vulnerable people from becoming human merchandise."
The secretary general of the union of general superiors, Sister Victoria Gonzales de Castejon of the Society of the Sacred Heart, reflected on her group's last six years of collaboration with the migration organization.
These years, she said, have been "an opportunity to put the intentions of the union into real effect, and to increase the scope of our actions aimed at contrasting human trafficking."
She continued: "What emerges clearly from the work that has been achieved is the richness and complementarity in exchanges and collaboration between two organizations that represent public and the private aspects -- lay people and female religious -- in the common cause of defending the lives of people who live in situations of poverty and marginalization."
Stefano Volpicelli of the migration organization reported that although there are no precise numbers, it is estimated that every year, millions of people become victims of human trafficking.
He noted some 2.5 million victims in 2007, including 500,000 in Europe.
Father Sola underlined the need to work preventatively, to educate youth, "in school and in the parishes, to build in them the value of respect for persons, whose dignity can never be" made a commodity.
"Reprimanding and punishing will be useless," he said, "if the conscience is not educated in true human and Christian values."
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