This morning at the Vatican's press office, organizers announced a forthcoming congress on the theme: “Female Religious in Network against Trafficking of Persons.” The congress will focus on fighting and preventing human trafficking, a phenomenon that has been described as “a new form of slavery of the twenty-first century.”
The conference is being put together by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), an international forum allowing congregations of religious women within the Church to dialogue, collaborate, and support each other.
“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” said Fr. Hernandez Sola, bureau chief at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Because religious are called to bring Christ to the impoverished, Fr. Sola said that these “new forms of poverty remind us that religious life is, by vocation, called to play a prophetic role in society and the Church today.
“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,” he asserted.
“Networking in this field is not an option but a necessity if we hope to make any kind of strategic commitment,” said Sr. Bernadette Sangma, explaining that the factors involved in human trafficking are very complex.
“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,” she explained.
Taking on these trafficking rings requires 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,” Sr. Sangma said.
Human trafficking is a global problem today, affecting both wealthy and poor countries. It is believed that hundreds of thousands of victims are annually trafficked across international borders worldwide.
Some victims are sold into slavery by their families, while others are deceived by false offers of employment. Still others are forcibly kidnapped or abducted. Once they are transported to their new location, victims are subjected to sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, or other forced work.