The numbers paint a grim picture; around the world there are over 40 million victims of modern slavery of which 70% are women, while about 20% are minors.
To highlight the plight of those enslaved and exploited men, women and children, Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ, Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will preside over a prayer vigil on Saturday evening at the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua in Rome.
Speaking to Vatican News’ Francesca Sabatinelli ahead of the Vigil, Cardinal Czerny said that February 8 was a day where everyone is invited to come together to pray for a “renewal and our strengthening in our struggle against human trafficking.”
“We need each other’s help and we need especially God’s help to open our eyes to what’s going on around us and also what’s going on far away, so that those who are caught up in human trafficking can be liberated; can be rehabilitated and can begin to live a life anew in a dignified and human way.”
February 8 also marks the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita and the Cardinal invited people to pray for her intercession “for all those who are caught up in human trafficking.” “We pray for the conversion of those who are perpetrating it and we give thanks for the members of our Church especially the Sisters who are leading the ministry in favour of those who are suffering from human trafficking”, he said.
As part of the lineup of events this weekend, there will be a march on Sunday, entitled "Together against trafficking" which will start at 10 am from Castel Sant'Angelo and end in St. Peter's Square at 12 noon local time.
The events are being co-ordinated by Talitha Kum, the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking.
A social media initiative has also been launched, supported by the hashtag #PrayAgainstTrafficking.
Pope Francis established the World Day in 2015, encouraging "those who are committed to helping enslaved, exploited men, women and children, [...] to be the voice of these brothers and sisters of ours, humiliated in their dignity".
In his prayer intention for the month of February 2020, Pope Francis calls the entire world to hear the cries of migrants, many of whom are victims of criminal human trafficking.
“We pray that the cries of our migrant brothers and sisters, victims of criminal human smuggling and human trafficking, may be heard and considered", he says.