Cardinal highlights human trafficking and women's issues at synod

Briefing in Holy See Press Daniel Ibanez 14 Press Briefing during the Synod of Bishops, Vatican City, Oct. 23, 2018. / CNA

Women in Burma are working to end human trafficking, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon said Tuesday. The cardinal called the issue a big problem for the country and one which shifts focus from other conversations on women at the synod on young people, faith, and vocations.

Burma is also known as Myanmar, a name which the U.S. government and many pro-democracy activists oppose, because they say it was illegally imposed on the country by its military dictatorship.

“The situation of the young people here in Europe and in Asia is quite different. In Myanmar, the women, with the help of some religious congregations and the Church, are focusing especially on how to save the young girls and women from human trafficking,” Bo said during a press conference Oct. 23.

The Burmese cardinal said that his homeland sees high levels of human trafficking into Thailand and China, and that China’s “one child policy” had created a demand for the illegal trade in women and girls.

In addition to highlighting the “practical level” aid the Church was working to provide to at-risk women, Bo also noted other serious issues faced by young people in his country like poverty, drug use, and a lack of education.

At the same press conference, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila said he had noticed the synod assembly has been “especially sensitive to listening to the feminine voice.” His comments came in response to a question about the extent to which women were allowed to participate in the synodal sessions, running from Oct. 3-28.

Tagle said the testimonies inside the synod hall from young women auditors, young women religious, and women experts have given “a much-needed expansion of horizon.”

“When we talk about diversity, it’s not only about cultures but also about the different voice of women,” he said.

The Bishop of Dolisie in the Republic of Congo, Bienvenu Manamika Bafouakouahou, said that though synod themes have not been “Euro-centric” in and of themselves, for him, coming from Africa, there are “some aspects that do not affect us directly.”

He mentioned the ongoing debate about the use of so-called LGBT language in Church document as an example. He said this topic is being addressed in Africa, but “it is not a priority right now” the way it is in Europe.

Cardinal Tagle said he does not think the discussions have been too Western-focused, though every language “has its own terminology.”

Asked whether the recently reformed procedures had proven effective, Tagle said that questions about synodal processes had been “a burning question” at the end of every synod.

The Filipino cardinal said in the past Benedict XVI had tried to make the process more concise, holding a synod assembly for only two weeks, instead of the 25 days of the current meeting. Tagle recalled that at the end of the sessions people said they had to rush, and that it was not enough time. “But now there are three weeks and people say it’s too long,” he said with a laugh.

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