By Robin Gomes
The Holy See is calling for greater action in order to respond adequately to the growing global phenomenon of human trafficking.
The Vatican Secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin made the call on Thursday in New York in an address during a breakfast meeting organized by the Group of Friends United Against Human Trafficking. The event took place on the sidelines of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Noting that some 41 million men, women, boys and girls are victims of human trafficking, he described it as one of the darkest and most revolting realities in the world today.
In the words of Pope Francis, trafficking is “an open wound on the body of contemporary society,” a “crime against humanity,” and an “atrocious scourge that is present throughout the world on a broad scale.”
The cardinal, who is heading the Holy See delegation to the General Assembly, admitted that progress has been made against the scourge through international protocols, action plans and other initiatives. But, much more needs to be done because international “mobilization has not been comparable in size to that of metastasizing cancer of human trafficking”, and the number of those enslaved keeps growing.
He recalled Pope Francis’s address to the UN General Assembly in 2015, where he said that solemn commitments are not enough. We must ensure that our efforts are truly effective in the struggle against human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labor, including prostitution, and other evils.
Tackling factors of trafficking
By way of preventive action, the Vatican's top official spoke about addressing issues that drive human trafficking, such as the social, economic, cultural, political factors that make people vulnerable. He also spoke about formulating comprehensive policies and programmes, and developing educational and awareness-raising campaigns.
Armed conflicts, forced migration and cultural and ethical factors, such as avarice, pornography and prostitution, he said, increase the demand for exploiting human beings.
Protecting and assisting victims
Stressing that the victims of human trafficking are not silent partners or criminals, the Vatican official called for greater action in protecting and assisting them. Greater effort, he said, is needed in liberating, healing and rehabilitating victims to a normal, productive and autonomous life.
Cardinal Parolin also called for more action in prosecuting the traffickers, saying, despite adequate legal instruments in place, there are very few convictions and most traffickers still operate with impunity.
Cardinal Parolin called for better promotion of partnerships among various sectors of society and the international community to eradicate trafficking and rehabilitate survivors. In this regard, he particularly mentioned two worldwide partnerships within the Catholic Church.
The Santa Marta Group is an international alliance of police chiefs and bishops against human trafficking, and Talitha Kum is a network of Catholic religious sisters fighting the scourge across the world.
Besides, the Vatican, earlier this year, published some “Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking” to guide the Catholic Church action across the globe in the fight against the scourge.
“The only adequate response to the global phenomenon of human trafficking,” Cardinal Parolin said, “is a worldwide mobilization of fraternity, solidarity, and commitment capable of remedying the globalization of indifference in which human trafficking thrives.”