Australians Called to Pray, Fast and Act on Human Trafficking

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
5 Feb 2016

Investigators believe $32 billion is being earned every year by unscrupulous criminals running human trafficking networks, and two out of every three victims are women.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life (BCPL) and Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) are calling for a day of prayer, reflection and action against human trafficking on the feast of St Josephine Bakhita on this coming Monday, 8 February 2016.

The Chair of the BCPL is Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Bishop Terry Brady.

"In marking the Bakhita Day of prayer and fasting in this Year of Mercy, Australia's Catholics should be mindful of Pope Francis' challenge to us to stop human trafficking. We can all commit to learning more about human trafficking. We can commit to helping victims of human trafficking. And we can commit to tackling the systems that enable human trafficking to flourish", Bishop Brady said.

The feast of St Josephine Bakhita has been chosen because St Bakhita herself experienced kidnapping and slavery in both Sudan and Italy.  In her home country of Sudan, St Bakhita was kidnapped by slave traders at the age of seven.  She was forced to walk almost 1000 kilometres barefoot and was bought and sold twice during that journey. 

The UN says 2.4 million people across the globe are victims of human trafficking at any one time, and 80 percent of them are being exploited as sexual slaves.

Over the next twelve years, Bakhita was sold and resold another three times, and endured beatings and scars so severe that she could not recall her own name.

Following her delivery to freedom St Bakhita dedicated her life to sharing her story and to supporting the poor and suffering. She eventually became a Canossian Sister, living a life of prayer and service for fifty years. She died on 8 February 1947 and was canonised in 2000.
ACRATH president, Sister Anne Tormey rsm spoke of the need for prayer, learning, action and advocacy for those being trafficked as human slaves.

"Our prayer on this day becomes one of lamentation for the millions of women, children and men trafficked across the globe for human slavery. This day can be an opportunity to learn about trafficking locally and globally, to pray for the victims of human trafficking and for an end to slavery, to commit to buying Fairtrade products where possible and to advocate for legislation to protect victims of human trafficking", she said.

St Josephine Bakhita was herself a victim of trafficking

"Despite many efforts to end human trafficking internationally, women, men and children today are deprived of their freedom and forced to suffer in conditions of exploitation and slavery. There is a compelling need to put an end to trafficking in human beings."
The BCPL and ACRATH are calling for a fourfold commitment to prevention, victim protection, the legal prosecution of perpetrators, and partnerships for change; these require a global effort on the part of various sectors of society.
A recent initiative in this respect was the recent announcement by the Consumer Goods Forum in conjunction with last month's Global Foundation roundtable on the global economy, held in Rome.

In his keynote address to this presentation, Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat of the Economy also announced the Vatican's commitment to slavery-proofing its supply chain.  He said, "I am pleased to confirm that the Vatican itself will commit to slavery-proofing its own supply chains and I hope that today's announcement will serve as encouragement for others to follow suit."

Sr Anne Tormey rsm (left), President of ACRATH

Pope Francis addressed the issue of human trafficking in his recent encyclical, Laudato Si'.  He said, "it is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted" (Laudato si', 91).

"Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings," the Holy Father added.