By Lydia O’Kane
Empowering a New Generation to Fight Modern Slavery: That was the title of an event that took place on Thursday in Rome, organized by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), together with the Irish and US embassies to the Holy See.
Startling statistics show that between 20 and 40 million people are estimated to be trapped in modern slavery today. It is also a trade that is hard to stamp out because it earns global profits that exceed 150 billion US dollars a year for the traffickers.
Thursday’s Symposium was focused on harnessing the potential of the younger generation in the fight against this shocking crime.
Among the participants were Talitha Kum International Coordinator, Sister Gabriella Bottani and Sr. Imelda Poole, IBVM, President of RENATE, a network of women religious combatting human trafficking. Sr. Poole is also the recipient of the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Hero Award which is given by the U.S. State Department.
Dynamism of new generation
“The topic is very close to my heart”, said the Loreto Sister, taking part in a panel discussion on Tuesday at the UISG Headquarters in Rome. “I feel we have a very special new generation emerging that is quite unique.”
“When we talk about empowering the new generation to work with us on mission to eliminate the world of this heinous crime… maybe we need them to empower us,” she said.
Giving an example of this empowerment by the younger generation, Sr Poole recalled seeing for herself the work being done by social centres in Calcutta, India, to train young people in leadership skills so they could look out for, and protect one another from the scourge of being trafficked.
In another example, she recounted how a girl of thirteen at a Loreto school in England went to her teacher asking why the school was not more engaged on the issue of human trafficking. Sr Poole said, “she became the mover and shaker in that school” which is still dynamically working against human trafficking.
Trafficking product of broken system
In an interview with Vatican Radio, the Loreto Sister underlined that “the young generation are the future.” “I think they are aware of the need to clean up our planet; clean up all our systems in order that they themselves can have a happier and better future for their families. So I think they are much more aware and alert of the issues.”
Sr Poole described Thursday’s Symposium as “vital,” adding that it was a “listening process” bringing together people with different experiences and cultures “with the understanding that trafficking is a product of a broken systemic situation in the world.”
Asked if governments are doing enough to combat modern slavery, the Loreto Sister said there is a “massive problem about goodwill,” adding that many nations are not confronting issues like migration and asylum. She went on to say that there is a “growth in nationalism and a protection of ‘their own,’ which just cannot be when you look at the present reality of our world.”
Hope for the future
With so many people being trafficked in the world, Sr Poole said that she only sees a light at the end of the tunnel when she thinks that “the world will come together not just about saving the planet but will actually look at the fact that you cannot have an ecological revolution, in terms of care for our common earth and the planet itself, without actually addressing the human race.”