By Lisa Zengarini
On the occasion of today’s World Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, celebrated this year on the theme “An Economy without Human Trafficking”, the Latin American and Caribbean Church Network CLAMOR on Migration, Refugees and Human Trafficking has launched a new continental campaign with the slogan “Life Is Not a Commodity on Sale”.
World Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Trafficking in Persons
On February 8 of each year Catholics all over the world are encouraged to host or attend prayer services to create greater awareness about this on-going phenomenon. The date has been designated because it marks the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, the Sudanese slave girl who became a saint in 2000 and a universal symbol of the Church’s commitment against slavery. The theme chosen for 2021 highlights that one of the main causes of human trafficking is the dominant economic model of our time, the limits of which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CLAMOR campaign was presented on Sunday during an on-line prayer event in which participants reminded that Jesus calls on us to change all forms of commercialization of human life for His abundant life. Opening the event was Archbishop Jorge Eduardo Lozano, General Secretary of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), who termed human trafficking as a "crime" that "shames us as human beings” and a tragedy that “shows us what level of vileness we can reach”
The face of a Samaritan Church
The Argentinian Archbishop also recalled the difficulties faced by victims who manage to free themselves from traffickers to recover their trauma: “Many of them out of shame don’t go back to their families or villages”, he noted. He therefore pointed out that the new campaign and CLAMOR’s work show the “face of a Samaritan Church approaching people with the heart of a mother and kneeling down to their unconsolable suffering”
On his part, Mexican Archbishop Gustavo Rodríguez Vega, president of CLAMOR, noted that, although there are many institutions and people inside and outside the Church who are sensitive to this modern plague, many other people ignore it or remain indifferent. He therefore emphasized that CLAMOR's campaign must "create awareness on the current reality of human trafficking" which he said “has never really finished”, also pointing that corrupt authorities too have a lot to answer for.
Stop impunity for this crime
Also present at the on-line event was Sister Liliana Franco, president of the Latin American Conference of Religious (CLAR), who insisted on the urgent need to "humanize relationships, purifying them of all forms of utilitarianism and violence". We must pray to "stop impunity for this crime, break the complicit silence and strengthen the aid networks", she stresses.
Venezuelan Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala, president of the Caritas network in Latin America and the Caribbean, noted that one of the problems today is that "everything is measured in terms of power and possession, which are used not for sharing, but to exclude and act with violence so that individuals, societies and peoples can be more and more dominated". He therefore stressed the urgent need to recognize and care for our neighbour as a brother or sister, especially in this time of Covid-19, as “we are either all saved together or no one is saved”, he said quoting Pope Francis’ words.
Economy of Communion
Referring to the theme of this World Day against Human Trafficking, all participants in the event noted that the present neoliberal economic system, which prioritizes economic profit over human rights and creates a culture of violence, is one of the root causes of human trafficking. This is why they called for an "Economy of Communion" which cares for human rights and puts human beings first. All Christians – they said - should endeavour to overcome "inequality, discrimination and an economy that kills”, following the example of the Good Samaritan. According to the CLAMOR Network, if the world is to put an end to human trafficking, it needs to fight the commercialization and exploitation of people and the "culture of waste" and to encourage an alternative "economy of encounter" that protects human dignity and promotes integral human development.