On the eve of the World Cup on Saturday about 1,000 people gathered in Pretoria to pray for an end to human trafficking. The Catholic Archbishop of Johannesburg said trafficking was a “degrading form of modern slavery” which Christians should oppose.
Among the invited guests were Advocate Malebo Kotu-Rammopo from the National Prosecution Authority and Colin Wrafter, who is the Ambassador of Ireland to South Africa.
Archbishop of Johannesburg Buti Tlhagale called on the South African government to root out “this form of corruption and slavery” in his homily at a Mass to pray for an end to trafficking. He said politicians’ neglect of such violence “strongly suggests complicity.”
An estimated 40,000 sex workers and prostitutes will be imported to South Africa during the World Cup, the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) reports.
While the World Cup was “highly admirable in itself,” Archbishop Tlhagale said in his homily, the event can bring out “the worst” in some human beings.
“Men and women without integrity, see an opportunity to make a fortune by selling children and women for sexual pleasures of men who probably care less about the games themselves.”
“Human Trafficking is intrinsically evil,” the archbishop declared. “What kind of civilization permits the destruction of life in the womb, imports millions of condoms from Civilized Britain for the world Cup event? …What kind of a civilization can tolerate forcing children and women into selling sex? If this is a civilization at all, then it is a decadent civilization.”
The prelate charged that the government has not lived up to its slogan “People First,” because not the vulnerable but politicians and dignitaries come first in the country.
“It is sheer hypocrisy to claim to protect all people and yet only a few enjoy exceptional protection,” he added. “The nobility of a society will be judged by how it protects its vulnerable children and women, instead of displaying its security machinery for the world to see by protecting the elite.”
“We each have a responsibility to resist and to campaign tirelessly against such evil practices," he continued, calling on Christians to combat “this dangerous and degrading form of modern slavery.”
A bill to prosecute perpetrators of trafficking and to assist its victims has been discussed in South Africa for many years.
At the end of the Mass, Advocate Malebo spoke on behalf of the government, reporting that the bill was being discussed. He expressed hope that the passage of the bill would be the last phase.
Sr. Melanie O’Connor, coordinator of the Counter Trafficking in Persons Office of the SACBC also warned parents against leaving children unprotected in shopping malls, on playgrounds and in other venues.
She informed the congregation that South Africa is recognized as a “hot spot” for human trafficking, adding that women recruiters are becoming more prominent.
While for two years the SACBC has advanced awareness efforts to try to protect potential victims of trafficking, this year its message is being spread widely.
"But there is still a lot to do," Sr. O'Connor commented, noting that Pope Benedict XVI has declared May a month of prayer against human trafficking.