Trafficking in human beings is a phenomenon that is not talked about easily. It is a crime that happens in secret, and to report it demands great courage on the part of the victims, who can be men or boys, women or girls. The victims may be educated or uneducated but the one factor that is common to all is vulnerability.
We see many reasons: the lack of social safety nets, dysfunctional families, economic poverty, patriarchal cultures, political instability and war, natural disasters, criminal activity, immigration status, violence and neglect within the family, and lack of education. The trafficker is driven by the craving for power and control, by greed and by the desire for easy money, influenced by consumerism. The main challenge faced by those of us who work against this form of slavery today is to confront moral behaviour and cultural values. There is a need to try to bring about societal change so that those on the margins of society are included and empowered, experience self-esteem, are aware of their human dignity and know their human rights. Society has broken down when it does not protect its most vulnerable members.
The networks of women Religious working in this field have grown and multiplied. They are now in every continent, in every country of the world. The International Union of Superiors General (UISG) in Rome declared many years ago that the issue of trafficking in human persons needed to be at the forefront of mission for all congregations of female Religious. Now women Religious are working directly with the victims: in shelters; reaching out to them in poverty-ridden remote regions; working to support victims on the streets. We work with those vulnerable to domestic violence, whose families are shattered, leaving many children on the streets, trying to empower the vulnerable and encourage men and women to be economically independent.
For Religious, it is the work of God to walk alongside the victim and to expose the evil. Pope Francis says many things about this crime and perhaps we all need to reflect on his words from Evangelii Gaudium: “I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry, ‘Where is your brother?’ (Genesis 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour.
“Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity.”
Learn more at Imelda Poole’s The Tablet article: Let’s not look the other way.