Francis Calls Human Trafficking a “Crime Against Humanity”

Conference on Combating Human Trafficking Draws to a Close Today

VATICAN CITY, April 10, 2014 (Zenit.org) – “This is a conference – an important conference – but it is also a sign: it is a sign of the Church and a sign of men and women of good will who want to cry out, ‘Enough!.’” These were the words emphasized by Pope Francis this morning when he addressed those present at the Second International Conference ‘Combating Human Trafficking: Church and Law Enforcement in Partnership.’ The two-day conference came to a close today.

This morning at 11:15 in Paul VI Hall in the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke to the conference participants. He immediately thanked those who organized it, in particular Cardinal Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, and the the bishops conference of England and Wales. He also thanked the Pontifical Council for Social Sciences for hosting it. He recognized the conference as the second of its kind held at the Vatican and its role “in promoting united efforts against human trafficking.”

“Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ,” he said. “It is a crime against humanity. The very fact of our being here to combine our efforts means that we want our strategies and areas of expertise to be accompanied and reinforced by the mercy of the Gospel, by closeness to the men and women who are victims of this crime.”

Pope Francis contrasted the two groups primarily present. He first pointed out the law enforcement authorities “primarily responsible for combating this tragic reality by a vigorous application of the law.” Next, he honed in on the second group, which includes humanitarian and social workers, whose task, he said, “is to provide victims with welcome, human warmth and the possibility of building a new life.”

The Holy Father emphasized that “These are two different approaches, but they can and must go together. To dialogue and exchange views on the basis of these two complementary approaches is quite important. Conferences such as this are extremely helpful, and, I would say, much needed.” He also noted that this is evident due to the fact that they are already reconvening a year since their last conference on this subject.

Declaration

At the conclusion of the conference, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi held a press conference at the Holy See press office. Participants included Cardinal Nichols, who was president of the conference on human trafficking, Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, metropolitan commissioner in London, Sister Aurelia Agredano Pérez, Vice Generale of her congregation, the Order of the Sisters of Adoration, Slaves of the Blessed Sacrament and of Charity in Spain, along with other members of law enforcement. 

At the close of the Rome ‘Human Trafficking and Slavery Conference of 2014,’ a declaration of commitment was published in a communique by the Holy See. It said that on today, April 10th, in the Vatican, senior law enforcement officials and Catholic Church representatives had met to plan ways of combating this human trafficking and slavery problem.

The declaration noted that the Holy Father has endorsed the conference and has said: “‘I exhort the international community to adopt an even more unanimous and effective strategy against human trafficking, so that in every part of the world, men and women may no longer be used as a means to an end, a’nd that their inviolable dignity may always be respected.'”

The declaration also discussed the commitment of senior law enforcement officials within the international community to “to eradicate the scourge of this serious criminal activity, which abuses vulnerable people. This conference is part, of a process where we work together on the international stage to develop strategies in prevention, pastoral care and re-integration, placing the victim at the centre of all we do.”

The last part of the declaration discussed the officials’ vow to “make a personal commitment to developing partnerships with the Church and civil society to bring to justice those who are responsible for these horrendous crimes and to alleviate the suffering of the victims.” 

The press conference also underscored that Pope Francis had met with four victims prior to giving his earlier discourse. The panelists also mentioned initiatives they hope will combat the problem. They highlighted that another conference will take place in London in November and emphasized a concrete step being taken to help victims. Cardinal Nichols mentioned a “hub” that will be set up in London as a sanctuary for trafficking victims.

Cardinal Nichols provided a key takeaway regarding this global issue. He said, “Less than 1% of human trafficking victims are being rescued.” He, along with all those invested in this cause, hope to increase this percentage through the efforts being made.

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