By Chiara Colotti & Linda Bordoni
Talitha Kum’s General Assembly takes place from 21 to 27 September. It sees the participation of 86 delegates from 48 different nations and aims to present the work the sisters are doing in different countries and discuss how to implement new strategies in the fight against human trafficking and slavery.
A special award will be given to 10 sisters who in recent years have distinguished themselves for their commitment to the cause and have been instrumental in supporting anti-trafficking networks in different countries
Talitha Kum is a project of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), in collaboration with the Union of Superiors General (USG).
Pope Francis has repeatedly decried the trafficking of persons as an open wound on the body of contemporary society and called for action to stamp it out and sustain the victims.
It’s a phenomenon that currently affects at least 40 million vulnerable people, 70% of whom are women and children.
One of the participants in Talitha Kum’s General Assembly is Australian Sister Angela Reed. She told Vatican News that in order to stamp out trafficking a there is a series of preventive measures to be implemented.
Sister Reed explained that one of the first things to be done in the fight against human trafficking is to pinpoint and address the root causes that make a person vulnerable to be trafficked.
“We need to address vulnerabilities right from the time a child is born,” she said, pointing to the fact that right from the beginning of life, “There are certain conditions that must be present.”
“We must ensure that everybody has safe and adequate housing, we should ensure that every child has access to education, that they are part of a community and not left in isolation; we have to make sure there is decent work available in the future of young women so that they are not vulnerable to sexual trafficking,” she said.
Sister Reed said that on a global level there are structural changes that must be made to our economic, political systems and social systems to ensure that young women, and all vulnerable people, are no longer vulnerable to trafficking.
Sister Reed is also a member of Mercy International Association (MIA), an office with an agenda that positions itself as a change maker for global justice, not only at the United Nations, but through its work in local communities, nations and regions throughout the world.
She expressed her belief that, also thanks to UN structures and documents, we have a very good human rights framework.
“If we use the human rights framework more often, then we could ensure that human rights are not violated from a very young age, ” she said, noting that “if you look at the experience of a trafficked person, in most instances their human rights have been violated prior to trafficking; when they are trafficked; and then after they are trafficked”.
She decried the fact that often, although “we have the mechanisms, we don’t always use them”.
She noted that states are signatories of these mechanisms and that there is an agreed agenda, but said “we need to call upon the mechanisms more readily”.
Sister Reed said MIA has made available an advocacy guide which contains instructions on how to use those human rights mechanisms. She said it also shows how human rights violations occur over a lifetime, and calls on states and institutions to upholding the inherent dignity of trafficked persons.
The fact that Pope Francis has named human trafficking as one of the greatest disasters of our time, Sister Reed said, “is an affirmation of our call as Catholics, as Christians, as men and women of all religious faiths, to address this scourge on humanity”.
“It is a human rights violation, it’s an issue of violation of a person’s inherent dignity,” she continued, noting that at the core of our Gospel teaching is the fact that every person is made in the image and likeness of God.
So, she concluded “every person should have the freedom to be and experience who they are, and be free from violence and from discrimination, from stigmatization and to being confined to oppressive economic situations”.