Archive of June 12, 2013

Scottish adoption agency celebrates despite closure threat

Glasgow, Scotland, Jun 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Friends of the St. Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society gathered at Glasgow’s cathedral on June 9 to commemorate its years of service and to support the society’s adoption agency against the threat of forced closure.

Ronnie Convery, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Glasgow, Scotland, said there was “a mood of celebration” at the annual Mass and reception at St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

“Of course this year there is a storm cloud on the horizon, namely the threat from secularists to try to have the agency closed down,” Convery told CNA June 11.

“That galvanizes people, they feel bad that the service they have enjoyed from St. Margaret’s – and which they know to be professional, caring and supportive – may be threatened.”

Hundreds of people, including many children, gathered at the cathedral June 9. The society has placed hundreds of babies and children with adoptive families since its founding in 1955.

Convery said the annual event has become “a real celebration for families who have adopted children through St. Margaret’s.”

“The word which comes to mind is ‘family’ – what we see each year at this Mass is the ‘St. Margaret’s family’ coming together to thank God and to enjoy each other’s company at the follow up buffet.”

However, this year’s celebration came at a time when the society’s future is uncertain.

In March, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator affirmed a previous decision that the society cannot follow its policy of placing children only with a married mother and father, in accord with Catholic teaching. The regulator said this policy has a negative impact on cohabiting and same-sex couples.

Almost all religious adoption agencies in the U.K. have already been forced to shut down or disaffiliate from their church sponsors due to anti-discrimination laws.

Convery said attendees at the Sunday celebration were determined “to do all possible to save St. Margaret’s from going the way of other Catholic agencies in this country.”

Brian McGuigan, a member of the society’s board, said the society’s managing council is “intent on fighting this at every available opportunity.

“Saint Margaret’s origins and identity are inseparable from the Catholic Church and her values and moral teaching in respect to marriage and the family,” he said in a June 7 statement.

“The ultimate irony is that apparently in the name of tolerance, societies such as Saint Margaret’s are no longer to be tolerated. The reality is that the issue is not one about equality or diversity, but about freedom of religion and belief,” he said.

The society has said that it will seek to overturn the charity regulator’s ruling.

St. Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society is still continuing with plans to move to a new home in Glasgow’s Newton Place to open a new family center and offer more family services.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow praised the society as “a treasure of the Church in Scotland.”

“It does nothing but good work for children and families of all faiths and none,” he said on June 7. “The whole Church is united in support for its work and we hope that common sense will prevail, and it will be allowed to continue to serve children in Scotland who need loving families.”

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Opponents charge Calif. abuse bill targets Catholic schools

Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Critics say a proposed Calif. bill lifting the statute of limitations on some child sex abuse lawsuits threatens the Catholic Church and its schools, failing to allow suits for similar abuse in public schools.

“The bill itself is just unfair on its face,” Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the California Catholic Conference, told CNA June 11.

“Legislation is supposed to protect victims. The only thing (this bill) does is eliminate the statute of limitations for a year and revive a lot of old claims, but it only does so against private organizations.”

Eckery said private schools, organizations like the YMCA, and Catholic dioceses and schools are “concerned about the fact that they’re being singled out.”

The legislation, S.B. 131, passed in the state Senate May 29 by a vote of 21-10. It now heads to the California House of Representatives.

The bill would change the statute of limitations for suits against private schools and private employers who failed to take action against sexual abuse by employees or volunteers. The bill would allow alleged victims younger than 31 to sue employers of abusers and the present age limit for alleged victims is 26 years old.

However, the bill also provides a one-year window for victims older than the age limit to sue alleged negligent employers. This could result in many new lawsuits concerning allegations dismissed after 2003, when the statute of limitations was previously suspended.

That suspension resulted in almost 1,000 claims against the Catholic Church in California, with legal awards totaling to $1.2 billion. Some of these claims dated back to the 1950s.

Eckery said that these claims were paid through insurance policies and sale of property and other assets.

“That insurance coverage doesn’t exist anymore. Most Catholic dioceses aren’t covered anymore. They self-insure, by and large,” he said.

“If there were claims that were resurrected for a third time, you can find situations where dioceses might be forced to close schools. In the case of one of our dioceses, the Diocese of Stockton, they’re worried they might have to file for bankruptcy.”

The proposed law does not apply to public schools or other government agencies that may have been negligent towards abuse allegations.

Bill Donohue of the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights was critical of these exemptions.

“People are concerned about the welfare of children, and they should be,” Donohue told CNA / EWTN News June 10. “Therefore, it shouldn’t matter who the abuser is. It shouldn’t make a difference whether it’s a priest, or a postman, or a rabbi or a public school teacher.”

In a June 6 letter to the California Assembly, Donohue said that thousands of allegations of sex abuse in the California public schools are made annually, with action taken in about 800 cases each year.

He pointed to a Los Angeles Unified School District report that found the district often did not notify a teacher credentialing commission when required and sometimes did not report cases in a timely manner.

Donohue asked whether the legislature intends “to cripple the Catholic schools and the great work that the Catholic organizations do, simply because they want to revisit somebody who may have been abused back when JFK was president.”

The bill would allow lawsuits against alleged abusers from victims less than 43 years old. However, it would not suspend the statute of limitations for claims against individual perpetrators of abuse.

Eckery particularly objected to this provision. “The bill is written so poorly that it doesn’t revive claims against the actual perpetrator,” he said.

“Even if the actual perpetrator has gone to prison and served jail time, but the statute of limitations has run out, the statute of limitations is lifted against his or her employer, but not against the actual perpetrator.” He added that the legislation would give a plaintiff three chances to sue the Church.

Eckery also said the earlier opportunities for the lawsuits helped address the “need for justice” and to bring attention to abuse “so we could fix it.”

“But I think that an unlimited statute of limitations is unfair, because how do you defend yourself?” he said.

“If a claim is 30, 40, 50 years old, all the people who have firsthand knowledge are gone or retired. All of the paperwork is gone, in storage or otherwise destroyed.”

“In this current climate, how could you possibly defend yourself against these kinds of lawsuits?”

He noted that the statute of limitations allows for evidence to be evaluated by a judge and jury. “The passage of time makes that virtually impossible,” he said.

Eckery’s concerns were echoed in a May 31 Wall Street Journal editorial which said the statutes of limitations “protect defendants from miscarriages of justice.”

“Plaintiffs’ attorneys who claim to be seeking justice for victims are merely seeking to line their own pockets by exploiting public sympathies for victims of horrific abuses,” the Wall Street Journal said.

“The ultimate victims of this legal shakedown will be nonprofits in California and the people they serve.”

Other opponents of the bill include the California Association of Private School Organizations, the California State Alliance of YMCAs, the California Police Activities league, the California Council of Nonprofit Organization, and other religious organizations and private schools, the Los Angeles archdiocese’s newspaper The Tidings reports.

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Bishop laments student's nude protest as intolerant

Pittsburgh, Pa., Jun 12, 2013 (CNA) - Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh voiced dismay over the lack of respect shown to religious beliefs when a local college student publicly dressed up as a Pope, though nude from the waist-down.

On April 18, Katherine O'Connor – a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh – participated in a campus parade, passing out condoms while dressed from the waist-up as a pontiff, but otherwise naked.

She has since been charged with indecent exposure by university police.

After receiving complaints about the incident, Bishop Zubik commented about the case, noting the absence of tolerance and respect O'Connor showed for the Catholic faithful.

“Bishop Zubik's concern had been all the time the lack of respect for the religious belief of others in this,” Robert Lockwood, communications director for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, told CNA June 11.

“Bishop Zubik was never raising issues of what civil authority should or should not do, because it's never been his intention that her future be impaired in any way; what he was raising was the issue of public disrespect for the religious views of others.”

Carnegie Mellon had failed to take action on the incident until Bishop Zubik raised concern over it. O'Connor's charges for indecent exposure will be dropped if she completes 80 hours of community service by Oct. 21.

Father Ronald Lengwin, a spokesman for the archdiocese, has indicated that it is Bishop Zubik's hope that the community service “can also be a learning experience for her.”

O'Connor's act was part of the Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby, an on-campus parade sponsored by Carnegie Mellon's College of Fine Arts.
She attends Carnegie Mellon after having gone to Catholic schools – namely, the nearly $20,000 per year Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, a girls' prep school in Villanova, Pa. The school's mission includes inspiring its students to “live the prophetic nature of the gospel, with a passion for justice and love for the poor.”

The Center on Central, a “home for creative arts” in Paoli, Pa., has taken pains to make a statement on O'Connor, who once had a summer job there.

“Ms. O’Connor presented last year as a candidate with strong credentials in art and in working with children,” reads the statement from the business. “The Center on Central offers the opinion that people do have the freedom to make choices in their lives, and those choices sometimes lead to consequences – both positive and negative…we wish Ms. O’Connor the best in her future choices.”

Both Paoli and Villanova are located in the Philadelphia Main Line, an affluent and exclusive part of the Philadelphia suburban area. O'Connor is an art student at Carnegie Mellon, and is reportedly a sophomore.

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Cardinal Burke backs pro-life legislative efforts

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Just three days before a Vatican pro-life summit, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke urged people to actively resist efforts to pass anti-life legislation, because “many strong forces are at work.”

“Catholics should be involved in various groups, which are organized to influence legislation so that it can respect the dignity of human life,” Cardinal Burke told CNA in an exclusive June 11 interview.

“They should make it a point to be in contact with their legislators and with others who are responsible for their local and national political life in order to promote the cause of life,” he said.

He also called on everyone, especially faithful Catholics, to “be alert and awake against the forces of death” and give “strong witness” to the dignity of human life.

“In all of these democratic countries, the people have a voice, and if they insist on this, the government will have to change,” said Cardinal Burke.

“But if the people do not insist and if there is not a strong teaching by Church leaders and a strong support for the good lay faithful who are leading the pro-life movement, then the Church is failing,” he added.

Cardinal Burke, who is the head of the Church’s highest court – the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – will give the keynote speech in English on June 15 for a weekend pro-life gathering at the Vatican.

The “Evangelium vitae” (Gospel of Life) weekend is being organized by the Vatican as part of the celebrations for the Year of Faith.

It will include talks in different languages based on Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium vitae,” which he wrote to defend the dignity of life at all stages.

Thousands of pilgrims will also take part in Eucharistic Adoration, a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Peter and a candlelit procession down Via della Conciliazione to affirm their stance against abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and same-sex “marriage.”

Cardinal Burke emphasized, “it is important that good Catholics enter into politics to influence a change in the direction in which a number of nations are going, which is very anti life and anti family.”

He also spoke about the growing European pressure for Poland and Ireland to legalize abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

“The Church has a very critical role to play in Ireland and Poland,” he stated.

“I can’t believe that the people of Poland and Ireland, once they understand what is happening, will not stand up in defense of human life.”

“The important thing is that the citizens be well informed about what is happening, which is against the most fundamental moral truth, and that they be encouraged to resist,” the cardinal said.

He believes there are “many strong forces at work, which are not open to life, for many reasons, including the so-called agents of death, who have made of abortion an industry.”

“They want to eliminate those that are weak and feeble because they are no longer so-called useful to society,” he said. “It is a completely totalitarian view of human life.”

Cardinal Burke believes that although those forces “are great,” there are also “many good people.”

“They understand that if there is no respect for human life, then all of society is reduced to violence and death and society destroys itself,” said the Vatican’s Supreme Court head.

And that makes Blessed John Paul II’s call in “Evangelium vitae” for conscientious objection by the people who know and understand the moral law necessary, he said.

“The attacks on human life are more true today than ever,” the cardinal alerted.

“What Blessed John Paul II urges in order to establish a civilization of love and life is also more timely than ever.”

“He was prophetic in many aspects but especially regarding human life because having suffered himself so many attacks on human life in his homeland during the Nazis, he was especially sensitive,” he said.

The culture of life is not just Catholic, Cardinal Burke emphasized, but is “written in the hearts of everyone.”

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Pope targets longing for past, 'adolescent progressivism'

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The progress of the Church can be hindered by the dual temptations of wanting to remain in the past and “adolescent progressivism,” Pope Francis said.

The danger of a progressive approach to the Holy Spirit is that believers becomes “like teenagers who in their enthusiasm want to have everything, and in the end? You slip up…” he said at the June 12 morning Mass.

“It’s like when the road is covered in ice and the car slips and go off track ... This is the other temptation at the moment! We, at this moment in the history of the Church, we cannot go backwards or go off the track!” the Pope stressed.

The track the Church must follow, he said during his homily, “is that of freedom in the Holy Spirit that makes us free, in continuous discernment of God's will to move forward on this path... .”

Pope Francis’ homily was inspired by today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 5:17, where Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.”

Christ brought the new law of the Spirit, the Pope noted, calling it the “road to maturity” for the Church.   

“Part of the law’s journey to maturity, which comes with preaching Jesus, always involves fear; fear of the freedom that the Spirit gives us.

This freedom of the Spirit requires embarking on “a path of continuous discernment to do the will of God” and this can frighten us, the Holy Father observed.

He warned that the fear that comes with this way “brings two temptations with it.”

The first, is to “go backwards” to say that, “it’s possible up to this point, but impossible beyond this point” which ends up becoming “let’s stay here.”

It’s a fear that “it is better to play it safe.”

To illustrate his point, Pope Francis told a story about a superior general who spent years compiling a list of rules for his religious in the 1930s.

Then he traveled to Rome to meet a Benedictine abbot, who told him that his efforts “had killed his congregation’s charism,” “he had killed its freedom” since “this charism bears fruit in freedom and he had stopped the charism.”

“This is the temptation to go backwards, because we are ‘safer’ going back: but total security is in the Holy Spirit that brings you forward….”

This way of living “does not give us that human security,” the Pope noted.

“We cannot control the Holy Spirit: that is the problem! This is a temptation,” he explained.

The second temptation that comes with relying on the Holy Spirit’s guidance is to engage in “adolescent progressivism,” which ends up sending things off-track.

The temptation, Pope Francis said, lies in seeing a culture and “not detaching ourselves from it.”

“We take the values of this culture a little bit from here, a little bit from there ... They want to make this law? Alright, let’s go ahead and make this law. Let’s broaden the boundaries here a little.”

“In the end, let me tell you, this is not true progress,” he stated.

The Mass was concelebrated by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, as well as priests, religious and lay staff from the dicastery.

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Pope calls for end to 'plague' of child labor

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis has launched an appeal against child labor, calling it an “deplorable phenomenon" during his Wednesday general audience.

“It is my heartfelt hope that the international community will initiate still more effective measures in addressing this authentic plague,” said Pope Francis on June 12.

“Listen, it is a deplorable phenomenon which is constantly increasing, especially in poor countries,” he told thousands gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.

He made his comments on the World Day Against Child Labor, a day created by the United Nation’s International Labor Organization.

The organization states in its “decent work agenda” that it has “gender equality as a crosscutting objective.”

But the organization’s report released June 12 focused more on domestic work for children than on illegal employment of children.

The report stated around 10.5 million children worldwide work in homes and some have conditions “similar to slavery.”

Pope Francis exclaimed, “woe to those who stifle them in their joyful enthusiasm of hope!”

“A serene childhood allows children to look with confidence towards life and tomorrow,” the Pope said on a hot, sunny day in Rome.

“All children must be able to play, study, pray and grow, in their families, this in a harmonic context, in love and serenity, but these people instead of playing are slaves, and this is a plague,” he affirmed.

The pontiff also stated, “this is their right and our duty.”

“There are millions of children, mostly girls, who are victims of this hidden form of exploitation that often involves abuse, mistreatment and discrimination,” Pope Francis said.

The organization created the World Day Against Child Labor in 2002 to prevent child labor “in economic and military fields.”

Its report added that over half of the children involved in domestic work are aged five to 14 and over 71 percent are girls, many of whom endure physical or sexual violence.

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'God is stronger,' Pope insists as he urges outreach

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis asked the tens of thousands of Catholics gathered in Saint Peter’s Square to overcome divisions and the fear of evangelizing by trusting that “God is stronger.”

“Just as I said, it is enough to open a newspaper and we see that around us there is the presence of evil, the Devil is at work,” he said at the June 12 general audience.

“But I would like to say in a loud voice God is stronger, Do you believe this, that God is stronger?” he asked the thousands of pilgrims.

He asked several times for them to repeat with him, “God is stronger!”

“And you know why he is stronger?” he asked. “Because he is the Lord, the only Lord, God is stronger!”

Pope Francis delivered his reflection on “the people of God” as part of a series on the Church as depicted in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

The Pope called on the crowd to make their lives “a light of Christ” to “bring the light of the Gospel to the whole world.”

“Let’s think of the Olympic Stadium in Rome or that of San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires,” he said.

“If on a dark night one person lights up a lamp, you can barely see it, but if each of over 70,000 spectators switches on his own light, the whole stadium lights up,” he remarked.

Pope Francis also urged the crowd not be close themselves off from the world around them.

“Jesus does not tell the Apostles and us to form an exclusive group, an elite group, Jesus says, ‘go and make disciples of all nations,’” he underscored.

“The Church’s doors must be open so that all may come and that we can go out of those doors and proclaim the Gospel,” he added.

The Pope also asked Catholics to be “yeast that ferments the dough, the salt that gives flavor and preserves from decay, and the light that brightens.”

The pontiff explained that the term means “God does not really belong to any people.”

He noted that the law of “the people of God” is “the law of love, love for God and love for our neighbor according to the new commandment that the Lord left us.”

“It is recognizing God as the only Lord of life and, at the same time, accepting the other as a true brother, overcoming divisions, rivalry, misunderstandings, selfishness,” said Pope Francis.

But according to him, the Church still has “far to go” to be able to live the law of love and we must ask God “to help us understand it.”

“When we see in the many wars between Christians in the newspapers or on TV, how can the people of God understand this?” he asked.

“Within the people of God there are so many wars and in neighborhoods, in workplaces, so many wars due to envy, jealousy!” the Pope remarked.

The pontiff underscored that even within the same family, there are “so many internal wars.”

He also spent time explaining how people become a part of “the people of God.” It is not through physical birth, he said, but through “a new birth.”

“It is through Baptism that we are introduced to this people, through faith in Christ, the gift of God which must be nurtured and tended to throughout our whole life,” the Pope taught.

The pontiff advised the pilgrims to ask themselves how they tend to the faith they have received and how they can make it grow.

The Pope then explained that the ultimate goal is full communion with the Lord.

“It’s to enter into his divine life where we will live the joy of his love without measure, that full joy,” he said.

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Latin American religious backtrack on Pope and gay lobby

Lima, Peru, Jun 12, 2013 (CNA) - In response to media flurry, the Latin American Confederation of Men and Women Religious (CLAR) released a statement on June 11 claiming that the assertion of a gay lobby at the Vatican “cannot be attributed with certainty to the Holy Father.”

The news that Pope Francis acknowledged the existence of a gay lobby at the Vatican was published on Monday by the left-leaning Chilean Catholic portal  “Reflexión y liberación” (Reflection and Liberation), claiming that it was an "exclusive" account of the private meeting between Pope Francis and the CLAR presidency, held on June 6.

According to “Reflexión y liberación,” Pope Francis told CLAR members that “there are holy people in the curia, truly, there are holy people. But there is also a current (stream) of corruption, there is one, it is true… there are words about a 'gay lobby,' and it is true, it is there… we have to see what can we do (about it).”

The same source claims that the Pope also said that “the reform of the Roman curia is something that almost all of us cardinals requested during the congregations previous to the conclave. I also did. I cannot personally make that reform, with these managerial issues... I am too unorganized; I have never been good at that. But the Cardinals of the committee will carry it out.”

According to the statement, CLAR “deeply regrets the publication of a text regarding the conversation held with the Holy Father Francis on June 6. The conversation developed upon the questions asked of the Pope by those present (at the meeting).”

The group added that “there was no recording made during the conversation but shortly after a summary was made based on the memories of the participants. This summary, which does not include the questions posed to the Holy Father, was intended at (helping) the personal memory of the participants and in no way for publication.”

Regarding the decision of “Reflexión y liberación” to publish the story, CLAR says that “in fact, no authorization was requested.”

“It is clear that, based on these facts, it cannot be attributed with certainty to the Holy Father, the specific expression contained in the text, but only in its general sense.”

CNA attempted to contact CLAR’s secretary general, Fr. Gabriel Naranjo Salazar, who is currently in Rome, as well as the group’s president, Sr. Mercedes Leticia Casas Sánchez, FSpS, but did not receive a response by publication deadlines.

“Reflexión y Liberación,” based in Santiago (Chile), issued a June 12 statement defending its decision to publish the text.

“A few days ago, our magazine received a summary of what was the meeting of Pope Francis and CLAR's directive,” it stated.

“We decided to publish it as a news story, without additional comments, just a brief introduction highlighting the importance of such meetings at the Holy See, not only for the Consecrated, but for all the People of God.”

It cited Matthew 10:27: “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.”

 Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, told CNA on June 11 that “(t)he meeting between the Holy Father and the presidency of CLAR was a meeting of a private nature.

“Therefore I have no comment to make about the content of the conversation,” he said.

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Report finds Catholic population growing in South Korea

Seoul, South Korea, Jun 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Recent statistics indicate that the Catholic population in South Korea has increased over the past year.

Last month, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea released a publication entitled Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2011.

The report, prepared by the Catholic Pastoral Institute of Korea, states that at the end of 2012, there were 5,361,369 Catholics in the country, an increase of 1.6 percent – or 84,959 individuals – over the last year.

This accounts for just over 10 percent of the total population. According to the report, these numbers have “slightly and consistently increased at a yearly average of
2 – 3 percent during the past 11 years.”

Just over half of South Korea’s Catholics live in the metropolitan areas of Seoul, Suwon, Incheon and Uijeongbu.

The number of parishes in 2012 was 1,664, an increase of 17 from the previous year, while the number of mission stations rose by three to a total of 796.

Despite these increases, however, the report found that the number of newly baptized persons in 2012 was 132,076, a decrease of 1.8 percent from the previous year. Of those baptized, 25,141 were infants, a decrease of 2.2 percent from the previous year.

The statistics document also found a decline in new ordinations to the priesthood in 2012. While 131 priests were ordained, this represented a 7.6 percent decrease from the previous year. The total number of clergy in South Korea was 4,788, including 34 bishops.

Furthermore, the report found that the number of seminarians decreased by three percent to reach 1,540.

Reception of the sacraments also declined in 2012. The number of Catholics receiving the Sacrament of Confession was just under 4.9 million, down by 4.6 percent from the year before.

The average rate for Sunday Mass attendance was 22.7 percent of the total Catholics in Korea, a decrease of 0.5 percent from the previous year. 

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Lawmaker calls for concrete action to fight modern slave trade

Washington D.C., Jun 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A U.S. congressman urged the international community to train transportation employees to identify and fight human trafficking situations, as well as to establish a hotline for trafficking victims.

“Combatting modern-day slavery is everybody’s business. We are all in this together,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) on June 10.

“Cooperation and coordination are key to mitigating – and someday ending – the cruelty of human trafficking,” he stated. “Best practices need to be shared and implemented to the widest extent possible.”

Smith delivered an address at an international conference on trafficking, held in Kiev, Ukraine, by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In addition to being the organization’s special representative on human trafficking issues, Smith is a senior member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee and chair of its subcommittee on global human rights. He also co-chairs the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

The congressman focused his address on the need to implement “best practices” to help identify and combat human trafficking throughout Europe and the world.

He specifically recommended situation training and awareness for flight attendants on airplanes.

“Flight attendants are in the unique position – especially on long flights – to observe a potential trafficking in progress and then call a trafficking hotline or inform the pilot to radio ahead so that the proper authorities intervene as they deplane,” he explained.

“The current-day risk to a trafficker of getting caught transporting a victim or victims is pathetically small. And they know it,” he said. “You and I have the ability to change that.”

The congressman added that these methods for flight attendants could, “with minimal modifications,” be altered for use by “bus drivers and station operators, train conductors, trucking associations, and other transportation industry professionals.”

In addition, he suggested the use of a single trafficking hotline for use by victims of human trafficking and those who suspect the illegal transport and use of persons.

Smith reflected on the work that has been done since he first introduced the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 1998. At the time, he explained, there were concerns in Congress and around the globe, largely due to misunderstandings in the nature of human trafficking.

“Today, much progress has been made,” he said. “Most countries in Europe – and many around the world – have enacted comprehensive laws to combat this preventable exploitation.”

But while faithful implementation of laws to decrease trafficking is important, legislation “is only a step,” he stressed.

“I hope you’ll agree that this ‘best practice’ training initiative must be included, be prominent, and thoroughly implemented. Indeed, this effort requires almost no cost, just the will to do it,” he emphasized.

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