Sisters Stand Up Against Human Trafficking

Posted by Nyambura Michael Mungai

In Africa.

Nigerian nuns are celebrating the realization of their dream to set up a home for rescued victims of human trafficking, a worsening evil in the country and West Africa in general.

The dream came true on July 11, 2007 when the Women Resource Centre was opened.

The home is a generous donation from the Italian bishop’s conference. It was built and supervised by Fr. Vincenzo Marrone and other Salesian Missionaries in Akure/Ibadan. Caritas Italiana bought the land upon which the shelter is built. The Dutch Foundation of Religious against Trafficking in Women (SRTV), Missio Aachen and many other groups gave generous donations.

The idea to do something about the vice came to mind after the nuns came face to face with the reality of Nigerian girls involved in prostitution in Europe. In 1999 the nuns formed the Committee for the Support of the Dignity of Women (COSUDOW) to address more concretely the issue of sexual abuse of Nigerian girls in Italy.

The nuns say Benin City is the worst-hit area of trafficking in Nigeria.

At the opening ceremony on July 11, the Holy Mass was presided over by Archbishop Felix Alaba Job of Ibadan who is also president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria.

In America.

Excerpt from an article by Ed Langlois in The Catholic Sentinel, July 12, 2010.

Jessica Richardson stood before a crowd of 325, most of them nuns, and explained her years in Portland’s thriving sex trade.

“I have been a slave, but today I am free,” Richardson told a Saturday downtown rally organized by Catholic women religious.

In strong terms, the sisters and local political leaders called for an end to human trafficking — the use of people as property.

Holy Names Sister Susan Maloney said the rally carries on her congregation’s tradition of education and serving social justice. It was the Holy Names Sisters who founded St. Mary’s Academy in Portland more than 150 years ago.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. has teamed up with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to help victims of trafficking and boost enforcement. The bill would provide money for shelter, food, education and job training and would train police.

“This issue is not partisan,” said Wyden, who fired up the crowd with a sermon-like talk. “Today, Oregon comes together to shake up and wake up the United States Congress about finally combatting human trafficking. From the streets of Oregon to the dark alleys of Europe and Asia, we will not rest.”

The Vatican

JUNE 15, 2009

Benedict XVI is lauding the commitment made by women religious to put a stop to human trafficking and rebuild the lives of those victimized by this phenomenon.

The Pope affirmed his support for the initiative in a telegram signed by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The papal message was sent to a four-day international conference being held in Rome on what various congregations of women religious are doing to oppose human trafficking. The conference began today.

The Holy Father contended that it is important to bring about “a renewed awareness of the inestimable value of life and an ever more courageous commitment to the defense of human rights and the overcoming of every type of abuse.”

The Pontiff expressed his “deeply-felt appreciation for the laudable initiative” that has gathered together not only religious and experts, but also members of the International Organization for Migration.

Prophetic role

For his part, the recently named president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, Archbishop Antonio Vegliò, inaugurated the working sessions by expressing his “admiration for the work [already] done.”

The archbishop underlined the dramatic reality of human trafficking; L’Osservatore Romano reported him saying that data he has received indicate the phenomenon could be much more widespread than what is reported, victimizing as many as 4 million people across the globe.

In the Friday press conference presenting the conference, it was reported that 2.5 million people are affected by trafficking, which is a $150 billion business — money that goes in the pockets of those who control the markets of prostitution, trafficking in organs, and forms of slavery that predominantly affect women and children.

In this context, Archbishop Vegliò affirmed, the Church has a role that is “not only important, but also prophetic.”

He said that before all else, it is important to “know the factors that encourage and especially attract prostitution, and the strategies used by recruiters, traffickers, intermediaries and those who abuse the victims.”

Then, in the commitment made by the religious to combat human trafficking, the Vatican official affirmed that personal and spiritual formation is needed, so that they know how to deal with difficult and broken lives that need to be reconstructed.

Out of the dark

Archbishop Vegliò also highlighted the importance of collaboration and interchanging information.

“Many women religious are already doing excellent work in this area,” he said. “You have to know about this [work] and share it more thoroughly at the national and global level.”

To overcome human trafficking, information is decisive, the archbishop affirmed. He suggested “working with the press to ensure adequate information about this grave problem. The more hidden it remains, the longer it will endure.”

Archbishop Vegliò assured that his dicastery is ready to offer all the support possible to help the religious in their efforts. But he also asked to be privy to the information sharing since, “we also have the need to know and share the ways in which this is proceeding so that we can also contribute to this grand undertaking.”

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