By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis on Monday, sent a video message on the occasion of the 7th International Day of Prayer and Reflection against Trafficking in Persons.
“I address all of you who work against human trafficking and who are spiritually united today on this World Day of Prayer, which also has a specific intention: 'An Economy without Human Trafficking',” said the Pope.
Recalling that 8 February is the liturgical memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita - a slave girl who became a saint and a universal symbol of the Church’s commitment against slavery - Pope Francis also extended his message to “all people of goodwill who pray, engage, study and reflect on the fight against human trafficking,” especially to those who, like St. Bakhita, “have experienced the tragedy of trafficking in their own lives.”
A day of reflection and prayer
Pope Francis, highlighting the significance of the World Day, said that it helps us to “remember this tragedy and encourages us not to stop praying and fighting together” as reflection and awareness should always be accompanied by concrete gestures that open paths to social emancipation.
The aim, the Pope stressed, “is for every enslaved person to return to being a free agent of his or her own life and to take an active part in the construction of the common good.”
During the Day of Prayer, Pope Francis further emphasized the need to pray to support victims of trafficking and those who accompany the process of integration and social rehabilitation, adding also, that we need to pray that “we may learn to approach with humanity and courage those who have been marked by so much pain and despair, keeping hope alive.”
“Prayer enables us to be beacons, capable of discerning and making choices oriented towards good,” said the Pope. “Prayer touches the heart and impels us to concrete actions, to innovative courageous actions, able to take risks, trusting in the power of God.”
In this regard, the Pope expressed joy in noting that several moments of prayer organized for the occasion this year have an interreligious character, including one held in Asia.
The International Committee of the World Day, coordinated by Talitha Kum (the network of consecrated life against trafficking in persons of the International Union of Superiors General, as well as other partners, organized an online Marathon of Prayer from 10 am to 5 pm CET as part of the activities to mark the occasion. They hope, through this 7th International Day of Prayer and Reflection against Trafficking in Persons, to invite all "to multiply and promote new economic experiences that oppose all forms of exploitation."
Speaking further on St. Bakhita, Pope Francis explained that her liturgical memorial is a strong reminder of the dimensions of faith and prayer because “her witness always resonates, alive and relevant” and it is a call to “place trafficked persons, their families, their communities at the center.”
“Saint Bakhita reminds us that they are the protagonists of this day, and that we are all at their service,” the Pope said.
An economy of care
Pope Francis went on to reflect on some ideas for reflection and action for an “Economy without Human Trafficking,” noting also that other insights can be found in a message addressed to the participants at the “Economy of Francis” event held on 21 November 2020.
First, the Pope said that an economy without human trafficking is an “economy of care.” Care, he explained, is “taking care of people and nature, offering products and services for the growth of the common good.” An economy of care is also one that “cares for work, creating employment opportunities that do not exploit workers through degrading working conditions and grueling hours.”
At the same time, continued Pope Francis, an economy of care means an economy of solidarity, working for a solidity that is combined with solidarity. He added that solidarity, when well administered, gives rise to a more secure and sound social construction.
However, the Pope notes that in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated conditions of labor exploitation, the loss of jobs has adversely affected many victims of trafficking who are in the process of rehabilitation and social reintegration.
“At a time when everything seems to disintegrate and lose consistency, it is good for us to appeal to the ‘solidity’ both of the consciousness that we are responsible for the fragility of others as we strive to build a common future,” he said.
An economy that promotes justice
Another character of an economy without human trafficking is one with “market rules that promote justice and not exclusive special interests,” Pope Francis said.
Trafficking in persons, he explained, “finds fertile ground in the approach of neo-liberal capitalism and the deregulation of markets aimed at maximizing without ethical limits, without social limits and without environmental limits.”
If we follow this logic, the Pope warned, “there is only the calculation of advantages and disadvantages”: choices will be made not based on ethical criteria but by pandering to dominant interests, often cloaked by a humanitarian or ecological veneer. They will not be made by considering people, as people would be just one of the numbers to be exploited.
A courageous economy
Also central to the creation of an economy without human trafficking is courage – not in the sense of recklessness or risking operations in search of risky gains, but rather, “the courage of patient construction,” of planning that does not only consider short term gain, but also medium- and long-term fruits, and, above all, people. It is also the courage “to combine legitimate profit with the promotion of employment and decent working conditions.”
Pope Francis further emphasized the need for courage to strengthen an economy in a long-lasting, solid way, especially in the face of severe crises, such as the current one, which leads to the proliferation of trafficking in persons.
Concluding his message, Pope Francis invited the faithful to pray, invoking the intercession of Saint Bakhita, “for every person who is a victim of trafficking at this moment”.