By Larissa I. López

Every year, on July 30, the United Nations Organizations observes the World Day against Human Trafficking, a crime and grave violation of Human Rights.

According to the UN, every year thousands of men, women, and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. Virtually all the countries of the world are affected by trafficking, either as the country of origin, of transit, or of the victims’ destiny.

Victims of Trafficking

The UN also states that, as a minimum, human trafficking is used for sexual exploitation, forced labor, forced begging, forced marriage, the sale of children as child soldiers but also to extract their organs.

According to the data, women constitute 49% of the total victims, and girls 23%. Sexual exploitation is the most common form of exploitation (59%), followed by forced labor (34%). The majority of victims of trafficking are victims within their countries’ borders. The victims of trafficking abroad are taken to the richest countries.

Relief Figures

This year, on World Day against Human Trafficking, the UN has focused on emphasizing the efforts of the personnel fighting on the front line against human trafficking. They are individuals working in different aspects: to identify, support, advise, and seek justice for the victims of trafficking and challenge the impunity of the traffickers.

The UN also stresses the essential role of these relief figures, which has become even more important during the coronavirus crisis, particularly because the imposed restrictions have made their work even more difficult.

In order to contribute to the proliferation of the positive testimony of these workers, the UN invites to join the conversation and uses the hashtags #Findela Trata [EndofTrafficking] and #Trata dePersonas[HumanTrafficking] on all digital platforms.

Caritas Internationalis’ Appeal

For his part, given this World Day and this time of the spread of COVID-19, the Secretary-General of Caritas Internationalis, Aloysiius John, laments this worrying reality and affirms that the concentration of attention and efforts in the emergency caused by the virus “should not hinder us from taking care of the people most prone to exploitation, by offering them “safety nets” and “material, medical, legal and psychological support” to “accompany them in difficulties.”

Therefore, Caritas Internationalis has appealed to governments to pay more attention to the “collateral damages of the global pandemic, especially to migrants and informal workers, who are now more exposed to trafficking.”

Pope Francis against Trafficking

The Holy Father labels human trafficking “an ignoble activity, a shame for our societies that call themselves civilized. As the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano points out, in an article entitled “Pope Francis’ Teaching against Human Trafficking,” since occupying the Petrine See, the Pope has strongly denounced this scourge, describing it as “the greatest slavery of this 21st century and making it one of the recurrent subjects of his teachings.

According to the Vatican newspaper, for the Pope, this scourge is a crime against humanity that, in his words, “concerns all countries, including the most developed, and it affects the most vulnerable people: women, girls, boys and girls, the handicapped, the poor, those coming from situations of family and social disintegration.

Priority in Pastoral Agendas

To seal his original “vocation” of service to the excluded, the Pontiff has not failed to call the Church, stressing to other religious leaders, to rulers, and to the International Community the need to put the subject among the priorities of their pastoral agenda.

Thus, for example, in a note written and sent by the Pontiff in August 2013, the year his pontificate began, to the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and of Social Sciences, his compatriot Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, he requested specifically “that it would be good to address human trafficking and modern slavery.”

Since then, the Pontiff has made numerous appeals in addresses, homilies, and documents, including concrete initiatives. Such is the case, for instance, of the creation in 2014 of the Saint Martha Group, a global alliance of Police Chiefs, Bishops and Religious Communities, as well as the establishment of the World Day of Prayer and Reflection, observed every year on February 8, in memory of Saint Josephine Bakhita, a nun native of Sudan, who was sold as a slave when she was a child.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester

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